Colorado State’s defense had heard all week about how good Wyoming running back Brian Hill was. The sophomore came into Saturday’s game as the second-leading rusher in the country with 1,262 rushing yards.
But CSU finally took head coach Mike Bobo’s words to heart: less talk, more action.
In a put up or shut up type of game against their bitter archrivals, the Rams completely dominated the line of scrimmage, holding the Cowboys to just 130 rushing yards, 56 of which came in the fourth quarter when the game was well in hand. Wyoming’s only points of the game came late in the fourth quarter when Hill scampered in from four yards out, ruining the Rams attempt at their first shutout since 1997. A couple of CSU’s defensive starters, including safety Kevin Pierre-Louis, admitted to asking the coaching staff if they could play out the game, but were replaced midway through the fourth quarter by the second-string defense.
“(We wanted it) so bad,” safety Trent Matthews said of the shutout. “But you know what? A win is a win and I’m fine with that.”
Matthews was the catalyst of the Rams’ swarming defense, recovering two fumbles and making an acrobatic interception near midfield at the beginning of the fourth quarter. CSU came into Saturday’s game ranked 126th (out of 128 teams) in the FBS in turnover margin, and had only won the turnover battle twice this season. Along with Matthews’ recoveries and interception, linebacker Kiel Robinson forced a fumble with just under four minutes to go in the second quarter when he came untouched off of the left end and crushed Wyoming quarterback Nick Smith from the blindside.
“The coaches the last two weeks have been preaching about causing turnovers in practice, and we’ve been able to get a lot of them in practice. I think just having the coaches preach to us about it and make us understand the importance of getting those turnovers kind of made the difference.”
Previously, the Rams have struggled mightily against teams that ran outside zone and stretch plays, with the latest example coming last week against Donnel Pumphrey and San Diego State. But Saturday, the Rams were able to set the edge early and often, and linebackers Kevin Davis, Deonte Clyburn and the aforementioned Robinson roamed freely to make tackles, often for loss. On the day, the Rams finished with six tackles for loss, totaling -28 yards.
The fact that CSU was able to keep the Bronze Boot for the third year in a row was satisfying, players said after the game. But for the defense, it was even sweeter doing it in such dominant fashion.
“He (Brian Hill) is one of the best rushers in the country, and we came in with a mindset that we were going to attack him before he attacked us, and that’s what we did today.”
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.