Following last Saturday’s scrimmage at Hughes Stadium Colorado State football coach Mike Bobo made it known that he wasn’t pleased with his defense’s performance during the 100-play scrimmage. It wasn’t their effort, but instead their knowledge of their assignments and their execution.
A week later, Bobo was the first one to praise that same unit after a stifling effort against a Rams offense that torched them the week before. Just two weeks from CSU’s season opener against Savannah State, the Rams’ defense pressured and frustrated CSU’s offense, in particular its two young quarterbacks.
Nick Stevens, who was named the starting quarterback for the season-opener against Savannah State on Sept. 5, finished the day 10 of 28 for 111 yards and three interceptions. Backup Coleman Key fared slightly better, finished 12 of 25 for 157 yards and one interception. The offense’s only touchdown came on a 3-yard touchdown pass from third-string quarterback Craig Leonard Jr. to redshirt freshman John Freismuth.
As a group last week, CSU’s quarterbacks finished 34-for-60 for 487 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Compare that to their stats a week later: 31-for-74, 368 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. And while Bobo didn’t hesitate to talk about his quarterbacks’ struggles, he also gave most of the credit to a defense that responded well all week after hearing an earful from Bobo and his defensive staff.
“The defense came to play today,” Bobo said after the scrimmage. “They were flying around, there were some licks passed, we created turnovers, affected the quarterback and basically got the offense out of their comfort zone. And offensively, we didn’t respond to adversity very well. It was kind of a tale of two scrimmages (this week and last week).”
Leading the way for the defense was emerging linebacker Josh Watson, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound redshirt freshman from Blue Springs, Missouri. Watson led the defense in both scrimmages, totaling eight tackles in each. He was followed by Kevin Pierre-Louis (6), and Cory James, Preston Hodges and Nick Januska with five apiece.
James notched three of CSU’s five sacks, while Hodges, Januska, freshman cornerbacker Braylin Scott and linebacker Tre Thomas each came down with an interception.
One of Bobo’s biggest challenges was leveled toward the team’s pass rush, which registered just one sack in the first scrimmage. They responded in a big way, totaling 11 quarterback hurries to go along with the five sacks mentioned above.
“There were a number of sacks, and a number of times where the ball was deflected and our quarterbacks were rushed having to throw things early and off their timing,” Bobo said. “They really disrupted the whole thing.”
Now, with less than 10 practices until the Sept. 5 game against Savannah State, Bobo and his staff will turn to the film room to break down where things went right for the defense and where they went wrong for the offense. Then, they’ll turn their attention to the task at hand – Savannah State.
Starting guard Fred Zerblis sat out the scrimmage with an injury sustained earlier in practice this week. Bobo said if it had been a game, Zerblis would have been in the starting lineup. Senior wideout Rashard Higgins participated in the scrimmage, catching two passes for 10 yards. Higgins has been held out of the majority of contact drills during fall camp, but Bobo said it’s important that he keep his conditioning level up to be ready for the season opener.
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.