To say that the Colorado State defense has to rebound from their performance on Friday night during the Rocky Mountain Showdown would be an understatement.
For much of the night on Friday, the Colorado Buffaloes moved at will against the Ram defense to the tune of 44 points and 578 yards of offense.
This week brings the University of Texas-San Antonio into Hughes stadium. The expectation from the CSU coaches and players is that the Roadrunners will come in looking to employ plenty of concepts that CU ran so well against the CSU defense Friday night.
“You know that if something has hurt you, offenses are gonna see it,” CSU head coach Mike Bobo said. “They are going to put it in the gameplan and you have to have an answer for it.”
“I know they are watching that CU film right now thinking, ‘oh they couldn’t stop it this past week and we are gonna try and do it again,’” added Defensive lineman Jakob Buys.
As far as how long Buys expects UTSA to run those concepts against the CSU defense, “Until we stop it,” he said.
UTSA certainly has the tools in place to run a fast-paced offense like the one that dismantled the Rams in week-one. Senior running back Jarveon Williams returns fresh off a 1,000-yard campaign a season ago, and quarterback Dalton Sturm has the ability to hurt a defense with his arm or legs.
“This week is definitely going to be about the fundamentals,” safety Jake Schlager said. “He’s a good quarterback. He can throw the ball and he can definitely run the ball. (He is) a really good dual-threat quarterback and it just comes down to fundamentals.”
Return to the basics was a common theme from the defensive staff and players as they look to rebound off of Friday’s performance. They believe they hurt themselves as much as CU hurt them. If they want to stop UTSA, they have to fix themselves first.
“You have to correct your mistakes and your alignment and then you have to get ready for what they (UTSA) have shown on tape,” Bobo said. “At the end of the day, you still have base rules, base alignments and base assignments, rules we have been working on since the first day of camp. We got to get off blocks, we have to get pressure and we have to win one-on-one battles.”
CU killed the Rams on the boundary last week; partly due to missed assignments, partly due to timid play. And when the Buffaloes gashed the defense on the ground, it was usually because a defensive lineman gave up their gap.
In short, the defense as a whole needs to be more aggressive while maintaining discipline. One came without the other far too often on Friday night.
The first step to fixing the defense might be returning to the basics, but defensive coordinator Marty English is also searching for playmakers.
Unhappy with his cornerback play, English said that Kevin Nutt Jr has an excellent chance to start this week, while young safety Demontrie Taylor will see a bigger role after he showed an aggressive playing style last game.
English was particularly disappointed with the play out of his linebacker group. Sure linebacker Kevin Davis recorded a career-high 19 tackles, but injured linebacker Deonte Clyburn was quick to step up in a defensive meeting and say that it was unacceptable that one player should have to do that much because his teammates are not producing.
This week, English is moving Patrick Elsenbast into the middle linebacker spot to see if he can come in and compete with Josh Watson and earn a spot in the rotation. English needs somebody to step up and produce besides Davis.
At the end of the day, English needs his defense to correct their fundamental mistakes and correct them fast, especially with a team coming to town aiming to exploit them just like CU did. If the Rams can’t learn from last Friday’s performance, they will find themselves in a very undesirable hole come Saturday evening.
“There’s probably a lot more pressure now, zero and two is absolutely something you don’t want to do,” linebacker Kevin Davis said. “So there is pressure for us as a younger group (and) as a defense to really step up and make stops this week.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5