The Colorado State Rams (5-5, 3-3 Mountain West) travel this weekend to take on New Mexico (6-4, 4-2 MW) at home where the Lobos are 4-1 this season.
At the beginning of the year this matchup might not have jumped off the schedule as one of major importance, but the Rams need to win at least one of their final two games to become bowl eligible and the task will certainly not come easily this Saturday.
New Mexico has been riding a hot streak as of late, defeating Utah State and Boise State the past two weeks. The Rams were defeated by those two teams earlier this season by a combined score of 74-28.
“We’ve got a bigger challenge this week in New Mexico,” head coach Mike Bobo said at Monday’s press conference. “On the road, a conference game, a talented football team that is very explosive offensively. … They might lead the conference in explosive plays.”
Colorado State’s defense has been plagued by giving up explosive plays this season and will need to key in on discipline once again this weekend.
“We’re going to give up some yards rushing, we can’t give up the big play,” Bobo said. “That has been our Achilles heel this year defensively is giving up big, explosive plays. And that’s how they’re winning ball games.”
On top of preventing explosive plays against an explosive New Mexico team, the Rams will also need to generate some of their own and put points on the board.
These plays do not have to always come through the air and star wide-out Rashard Higgins alone, as Bobo has pointed out many times this season. Explosive plays can come on the ground and work to set up big plays in through the air.
The Rams need their offensive line to play physical and get nasty in the trenches against the Lobos to free up running backs Dalyn Dawkins and Jasen Oden Jr.
“They all have a mean streak to them and I think you need that in an offensive line,” CSU linebacker Deonte Clyburn said. “It toughens up the whole team really because when you come down in the trenches you’ve got to be ready to battle.”
As one of the Rams’ best tacklers, Clyburn knows a thing or two about bringing physicality and toughness to a game.
“Of course as a linebacking group you know everybody in there has an attitude. … We want to come out and show that we can hit, we can run, we can call things out even with a new scheme and a new defensive staff, and we can always bounce back no matter who is put at that linebacker position in our room,” Clyburn said.
One player who displays that same toughness at another position is Dawkins. The redshirt sophomore running back is listed generously at five foot nine, 175 pounds, but he can still deliver some punishment with the ball in his hands. Two weeks ago, he ran for 140 yards in the Border War. He followed that up on senior night, by rushing for 151 yards and catching one touchdown.
“He’s a guy that we enjoy blocking for upfront because he makes us look good,” offensive lineman Sam Carlson said. “… Dalyn is a guy who’s not afraid of contact by any means. He’ll go out there and deliver punishment and then at the same time he’ll give you a little shimmy-shake here and there. … He’s a great running back for sure.”
If the Rams get Dawkins and the ground unit going on Saturday then they will be in good shape, the key to opening up the offense for the Rams is balance. When they achieve that balance and put points on the board they have been successful. When the Rams score 30 points in a game, their season average, they are 4-0.
“We’ve put really the last couple of games on their (the running backs’) shoulders,” Bobo said. “Sometimes you can control a little bit more of how a game plays out running the ball. Sometimes the passing game, you can’t do it. … We put it on their shoulders the last two weeks and they’ve responded, and it’s going to continue to be on their shoulders.”
Collegian Football Reporter Geoff Huebner can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @Huebnermedia93.