Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo has been waiting for quarterback Nick Stevens to deliver a performance that would instill some faith in the passing game.
He got just that in the Rams’ much-needed 38-23 homecoming win over in-state rival Air Force to deliver the Ram-Falcon Trophy back to Fort Collins, Colorado. The Rams’ first conference win improves them to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the Mountain West, while Air Force falls to 3-3 (2-1 MW).
The sophomore quarterback never gave Bobo any reason to give backup Coleman Key a look like in past weeks. Stevens went 15-for-21 for 194 yards in the first half, and finished with 296 yards and three touchdowns on the day.
The Rams defense also played disciplined for the most part, limiting the Falcons’ triple-option to jabs and body shots while avoiding the knockout blow.
“It’s a game of patience when you play a team like Air Force,” Bobo said.
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CSU did its fair share of its own damage on the ground. Jasen Oden Jr. led the way, doing his best impression of a freight train en route to 89 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense set the tone, keying in on assignments and forcing a three-and-out on Air Force’s first series. CSU got on the board first when Nick Stevens connected with Steven Walker for a 23-yard touchdown.
The Falcons responded with fullback Shayne Davern taking the dive up the middle for a 60-yard touchdown. AFA’s extra point attempt was no good.
Next, it was receiver Joe Hansley getting in on the action with a 16-yard touchdown catch. Stevens spread the wealth all game as eight different receivers caught passes for CSU. Standout receiver Rashard Higgins had seven grabs for 74 yards.
AFA made it a one-point game on another rushing touchdown, but the turning point came shortly after. CSU responded with a crucial 90-yard drive late in the first half capped off by another Hansley touchdown to send the Rams into the break up 21-13.
“My dad always said ‘don’t depend on the undependable,'” Bobo said. “Well, Joe Hansley is dependable.”
CSU received the ball to start the second half, and Oden Jr. literally ran away with the game. The sophomore scored the next two touchdowns as CSU used its own rushing game to control with clock and pull away from the Falcons. Oden Jr. had 8.9 yards per carry on 11 touches.
AFA was able to move the ball better in the fourth quarter, but the outcome was never really in question. The Falcons’ triple-option offense had little success. Excluding Davern’s 60-yard dash in the first quarter, the Falcons were held to just 3.8 yards per carry on their other 55 rushing attempts.
Trent Matthews led the Rams with 13 total tackles. Deonte Clyburn followed with nine, and also recovered a fumble. Defensive back Tyree Simmons was the one who forced that fumble, and also had an interception.
With the season starting to slip away, the win could not have come at a better time for the Rams. They now head into their bye week at 3-4 and 1-2 in the MW, with most of their top conference opponents already out of the way.
CSU has next Saturday off, before picking back up on Oct. 31 when the Rams host San Diego State at Hughes Stadium.
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22.