Jasen Oden Jr. opened preseason camp as the No. 3 running back on the CSU depth chart behind Treyous Jarrells and Dalyn Dawkins. He was expected to mostly play on on short-yardage situations, but wasn’t thought to be an every down back.
Nick Stevens won the starting quarterback job after one week of camp, but was replaced by redshirt freshman Coleman Key in CSU’s 27-24 loss to Minnesota. Fans outside the program called for him to be replaced by Key permanently following last Saturday’s loss to Colorado.
Saturday night, the duo of Stevens and Oden Jr. carried Colorado State to a 33-31 road victory over Texas-San Antonio.
For the better part of the first three games of the 2015 season, it was CSU’s defense that kept the Rams afloat while the offense sputtered at times. But with the defense struggling — the Rams gave up a season-high 432 yards — Stevens and Oden Jr. responded, combining to account for all four of CSU’s touchdowns.
Stevens completed 15 of 28 passes, tossed three touchdowns, and most importantly, avoided any costly interceptions. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers, and was able to find All-American wide receiver Rashard Higgins four times for 91 yards and a touchdown.
“Whenever you spend so much time playing with one group of guys, your confidence only grows with them,” Stevens said. “Our chemistry and timing plays a huge factor in how this offense rolls, and I think we’re getting better every week.”
Oden, who took about 75 percent of the carries during Saturday’s game, was thrust into the workhorse role this week when sophomore Dalyn Dawkins hurt his hamstring and senior Treyous Jarrells left the team for undisclosed reasons. Oden’s previous career-high in yards was 90, in a win against Tulsa last year. With only true freshman Izzy Matthews behind him, Oden dominated the line of scrimmage, punishing UTSA defenders on each run. Late in the fourth quarter, Oden broke free for a 28-yard gain, essentially putting the Roadrunners away for good.
“Thirty carries, he did a great job,” CSU head coach Mike Bobo said of Oden. “He’s trained extremely hard, and I think a lot of that has to do with the competition at that position. (Dalyn) Dawkins, like I said last week, is the hardest worker in practice, but JO is on a lot of special teams, he’s one of our best pass protectors, and he just continued to work. Coming out of spring, it was a little bit of, ‘Who’s going to be the guy?’ I just said, ‘Hey, we’re going to need all of you this year.’ And from then on he bought in, and he had a great summer and an excellent fall camp, and it paid off tonight.”
Even star wide receiver Rashard Higgins took notice.
“JO ran the ball pretty tough, man,” Higgins said. “Words can’t explain how much love he has for the game, and he showed it today when he was running the ball.”
Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.