There were a lot of question marks about the Colorado State football team as they went into Alumni Stadium to face the Boston College Eagles, but after their defense tightened up and their offense finally found balance, the Rams left Alumni Stadium with a better idea of who they are and an impressive 24-21 victory.
Since the start of preseason camp, Rams head coach Jim McElwain has said that balance is the most important thing for his offense. Even after the Rocky Mountain Showdown when CSU running backs torched Colorado for 266 rushing yards, McElwain wasn’t pleased with his team’s lopsided numbers. Although the CSU offense started slow in Chestnut Hill against Boston College, they finally showed McElwain the balance he’s been searching for.
The Rams finished with 430 total yards of offense (269 passing, 161 rushing) and quarterback Garrett Grayson completed 28 for 42 passes to go with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The offense started very slow, which can be partly attributed to the offensive line getting adjusted. Left tackle Ty Sambrailo returned from injury this week and center Kevin O’Brien filled in for the injured Jake Bennett. Early on, they struggled to protect Grayson, who threw two early interceptions in the game, one of them being picked off in the end zone on a pass to Rashard Higgins. But with 1:31 left in the second quarter, Grayson and the offense finally gathered some momentum and scored on a 21-yard pass to Higgins to make the score 14-7.
Aside from the late second quarter touchdown, it was truly a tale of two halves for the Rams offense. They couldn’t get much done on the ground or in the air in the first half, but after halftime, CSU got the ball and immediately began a 10-play, 82 yard drive that ended with a determined 6-yard rushing touchdown by Treyous Jarrells to tie the score at 14-14. Suddenly, the quarterback, running backs, receivers and offensive line all seemed to be on the same page. Dee Hart and Rashard Higgins began to shred the Eagles defense, and it started to look like the Boston College squad that showed up to this game wasn’t the same team that upset then-No. 9 USC two weeks ago.
Hart finished with nine carries for 116 yards and Higgins finished with nine receptions for 98 yards. Behind the balanced attack of Grayson handing the ball off to Hart or passing the ball to Higgins, the Rams scored 10 unanswered points and stunned the Boston College team and their fans.
It wasn’t easy, though. Grayson was being bullied and beat up the whole game, and could be seen grimacing in pain in between plays in the second half. It’s partly due to a Boston College defense that was expected to be able to get to the quarterback, but also to Grayson for staying upright in the pocket and delivering check-downs and long passes with rushers closing in on him. By taking some of the hard hits that he took, Grayson put the Rams in a position to score points and win the game.
The unsung hero of the victory is surely the defense. Stopping the rush was among the team’s top priorities, and although they allowed 239 rushing yards, it was nearly 100 yards less than Boston College has averaged this season. With the exception of a big 52-yard run by Eagles running back Jon Hilliman, the Boston College power rushing scheme was slowed considerably. Eagles quarterback Tyler Murphy was forced to make more plays with his arm as well as employing the read option to maintain drives and fool the Rams defense. The read option seemed to be effective against the Rams defense — something coaches will look at in the next week — but the Eagles didn’t seem to be committed to using it throughout the game. An interception by Rams’ cornerback Bernard Blake and a big tackle near the goal line by linebacker Max Morgan highlighted a very good overall performance by the Rams’ defense.
This win marks the first time since 2002 that CSU has won a game in the eastern United States. It also could prove to be CSU’s most impressive win in years, given that Boston College is a tough ACC team that had its own sights set very high this season.
Collegian Sports Reporter Steven Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @steven_jacobs_.