Colorado State returns to Fort Collins riding a seven-game winning streak to take on Hawaii on Military Day at Hughes Stadium. Here are some of the key match ups for the Rams in a potential trap game.
CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson vs. Hawaii third-down defense
Grayson’s mobility has been hampered by what appeared to be a groin injury, so the senior will need to be even more efficient in the pocket to keep the chains moving. The Rams post a 50.4 percent conversion rate on third down, which is sixth in the nation and on pace to be the best in school history. Grayson has completed 65.7 percent of his passes on third down, but Hawaii could chip away at that number. The Rainbow Warriors have allowed teams to convert a mere 33.3 percent of third downs, which is second best in the conference and tied for 20th in the nation.
CSU receiving corp vs. Hawaii secondary
CSU might be without the nation’s leading receiver Rashard Higgins due to injury, so the Rams might need to rely on their other tall, athletic receivers to line up on the outside. Xavier Williams will see his workload increase, and Elroy Masters and Jordon Vaden might be utilized as well. Hawaii allows just 224.3 pass yards per game (4th in MW) and has a good open field tackler in defensive back Taz Stevenson who leads the team with 74 tackles (58 solo). CSU receivers will need to make things happen after the catch if they are without a playmaker like Higgins.
CSU running backs vs. Hawaii run defense
CSU has relied on a one-two punch in their backfield with Dee Hart and Treyous Jarrells, with the occasional clean-up hook of Jasen Oden. All three have battled minor injuries this season, but Hart looked to be at full strength last week scoring four touchdowns. Kennedy Tulimasealii leads Hawaii with 7.5 tackles for a loss (10th in MW) and will look to stop Hart’s momentum. With CSU’s star quarterback and receiver banged up, expect the Rams to keep pounding it on the ground against a Hawaii team that allows 174.2 rushing yards per game.
CSU Special Teams vs. Hawaii P/PR Scott Harding
It’s not every day that you get to play someone from Brisbane, Australia that punts and returns punts, but Harding is that guy. He ranks N0. 2 in the nation with 61 punts and he’s led the Rainbow Warriors to be a great punt coverage team, only allowing 9.3 yards per punt return. The Rams will need to find ways to give their punt returners more space, but they’ll have to keep their wits about them on special teams. Harding’s unique punting style has led to six turnovers on special teams, something CSU is surely susceptible to.
CSU Cornerbacks vs. Hawaii QB Ikaika Woolsey
The Rams’ passing defense hasn’t exactly been stellar in recent weeks. Last week, they allowed San Jose State’s Joe Gray to throw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, and the week before that they allowed Wyoming quarterback Colby Kirkegaard to throw for 335 yards and two touchdowns. But when Hawaii and sophomore quarterback Ikaika Woolsey comes to town this weekend, the CSU secondary may be able to get back to their ball-hawking ways. Woolsey has completed just over half of his passes (50.8 percent) and has seven interceptions on the season, including two picks in last week’s loss to Utah State.
CSU Defensive Line vs. Hawaii Running Game
On offense, Hawaii will turn to their ground game first, and when they do the ball will most likely be in the hands of sophomore running back Steven Lakalaka. He has 152 carries this season, and has produced 616 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams have allowed a mediocre 174 rushing yards per game, but if they can apply gap pressure and shut down the Rainbow Warrior running game, they’ll have to turn to the passing game and it’ll be a very long day for Ikaika Woolsey.
Collegian Sports Reporters Emmett McCarthy and Steven Jacobs can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @emccarthy22 and @steven_jacobs_.