The Colorado State Rams got their first victory on Saturday with a 23-14 win over the University of Texas-San Antonio. It was not a pretty win by any means, but the team will take it after the way this season opened up.
It was a much more confident CSU team that took the field on Saturday, especially the defense, but it was also a game that left a lot to be desired.
Let’s start with this inexperienced Ram defense. Week one saw this team torched by Sefo Liufau and the Colorado Buffaloes, but when the team needed them to step up on Saturday, they did, and then some.
The Rams shut down UTSA on all seven of their seven second-half possessions. With the anemic Ram offensive performance, particularly in the second half, this win rode squarely on the backs of the defense.
After UTSA scored a first drive touchdown, the defense settled in and held the Roadrunners to only 174 yards for the rest of the contest. The Rams’ front stuffed the UTSA rushing attack to the tune of negative-one rushing yards, and also sacked UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm six times in the game, five of which came in the second half alone.
Kevin Davis was again brilliant, following up his 19 tackle performance last week by recording three sacks to go along with six tackles on Saturday.
Field flipper and extended weapon of the defense, All-American punter Hayden Hunt, also had a big week for the Rams. Hunt’s seven punts on Saturday traveled 46.7 yards on average, and he downed five of them inside the UTSA 20-yard-line. For his performance, Hunt was named the Ray Guy punter of the week in Division-I college football.
Bobo said it best after the game when he bluntly stated that this team is inept at throwing the football right now.
Bauta finished the game 6-17 for 82 yards, and freshman Collin Hill, whom Bobo inserted simply to try and complete a pass went 2-6 for 26 yards. Combine that with last week’s combined quarterback performance, and it’s plain to see the root of this teams struggles so far as they are completing only 32.5 percent of their passes.
The Rams did race out to a 20-14 halftime lead, largely thanks to 193 yards on the ground in the first half as Dalyn Dawkins, Izzy Matthews and Faton Bauta finally showed some of the potential of this highly touted running game. But the offense shut down after halftime, as UTSA loaded the box and Dawkins sat out with a tight hamstring. The team gained only 61 yards in the second half.
The rushing performance certainly could have fit into the “good” portion, but the offense needs to show more consistency before further judgments are made.
It was not a perfect performance for the defense. For the second game in a row, the defense allowed a first drive touchdown, and they gave up ten receptions of ten-yards or further, but it was a promising performance from this young defense.
Junior defensive lineman Jakob Buys said that the defense started coming together as a unit in the second half, and the win gave the group plenty of confidence going forward. Confidence is good, and if this team can continue to put pressure on the quarterback and play aggressive defense, they should be able to make up for some of their other shortcomings on that side of the ball. Size being one of them.
As far as the starting quarterback and passing game outlook, Mike Bobo said it best at Monday’s game week press conference, “The bottom line is we can’t run our full compliment of offense with anybody right now.”
Moving forward, this team needs to establish some sort of threatening attack in the passing game. It does not have to be pretty, but the offense has to find a way to move the ball and take pressure off of the defense. If the Rams want to run the ball like they did in the first half on Saturday, they have to find a way to move the ball through the air so that teams can not continue to focus on shutting down the run so heavily.
If they can’t do that, a lot of the remaining games this season will take the form of the one on Saturday.
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5