Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo said after Saturday’s win over Wyoming that the Rams are still a team with a lot of warts. The biggest one of all? Penalties. Plain and simple.
On a day when CSU was able to (mostly) eliminate its turnovers and create a few of its own, the lone blemish in the Rams’ 26-7 win over rival Wyoming came in the penalty category, where CSU racked up 10 flags, totaling 101 yards. One brought back a 75-yard touchdown run on a reverse by Deionte Gaines, and another cost the Rams 47 yards after a dandy of a punt return by Joe Hansley.
The Rams won handily, thanks in part to their defense and running game, but the second half of Saturday’s one-sided beatdown looked more like a WWE wrestling match than a football game. Center Jake Bennett had one of the more notable penalties when he body slammed a Wyoming defender to the turf after a play. He wasn’t the only guilty party, and the Rams weren’t alone in shooting themselves in the foot, as the Cowboys committed nine penalties of their own, including three in a row by cornerback Robert Priestly.
But for a team fighting to stay in contention for a bowl game, the Rams must avoid simple, silly mistakes that can and will cost them against better competition.
“I felt that if we didn’t turn the ball over, we could control the line of scrimmage and win the ball game,” CSU head coach Mike Bobo said. “I thought we did that, but the penalties are definitely a concern and I’ve got to go back and look at them.”
CSU was able to avoid any penalties or turnovers in the first quarter, which may have been the first time all season that has happened. But the Rams continually shot themselves in the foot with penalties in the second quarter, including the two that brought back Gaines’ touchdown and Hansley’s punt return. In that quarter alone, CSU totaled five penalties for 52 yards.
“It was very frustrating,” quarterback Nick Stevens said. “And one came on like a 70- or 80-yard run, I think. It’s just something that we need to cut down on and focus. We did a good job today of taking care of the ball and creating turnovers on defense, but we just need to have the complete effort on everyone’s part to get those penalties down. I think we had some stupid penalties, but we just have to be smart. This is a big rivalry game, and even though it gets chippy, we just have to play within ourselves and understand that any penalties we have are ultimately going to hurt our team.”
CSU came into Saturday’s game ranked 120th out of 128 FBS teams in penalty yards per game, and after Saturday, that number will likely go up. But the Rams insist if they can eliminate the turnovers like they did Saturday, they can do the same with penalties for the rest of this season.
“That’s the only frustrating thing from this game,” linebacker Deonte Clyburn said. “We’re a better team than that, and we’re a smarter team than that, so that’s one thing we’re probably going to harp on a lot this week and try to improve.”
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.