Following Saturday’s blowout loss to Wyoming, senior wide receiver Robert Ruiz described the performance by saying the team got punched in the mouth. That might be stating it lightly.
The Rams got punched in the mouth, punched in the eye, and then the Cowboys kicked them when they were down, celebrating with the Bronze Boot on Colorado State’s home turf.
Wyoming dominated physically, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and rushing for a team total of 269 yards. The majority of the load was carried by running back Brian Hill, who rushed for 166 yards and ran through the Rams front seven with ease.
Along with 79 yards rushing from Pokes’ quarterback Josh Allen, CSU genuinely had no answer for the Wyoming ground attack. The Cowboys converted 12 of their 19 first downs on the ground and won the possession battle by five minutes, despite being outgained by the Rams in total yardage.
What was extremely alarming, is for the second consecutive week, the CSU defense failed to make routine tackles on a consistent basis. A defense that is as inexperienced as the CSU squad is will certainly be expected to have bumps along the road, especially with issues in communication and pre-snap adjustments, but one thing that will drive a coaching staff insane is missed tackles.
In a run-heavy conference like the Mountain West, this defense is going to have to make adjustments in a hurry. CSU still has to face the triple-option attacks of Air Force and New Mexico, along with arguably the top-two running backs in the conference in Jeremy McNichols (Boise State) and Donnel Pumphrey (San Diego State). If the Rams defend the rush against these opponents like they did in the Border War, CSU is not going to have much of a chance in any of those games.
Along with the defense, the offense needs to execute at a higher level. Despite racking up 481 yards of total offense Saturday night, the Rams were not able to capitalize in crucial moments of the game. The offense was able to move the ball and make some plays in the open field, but fell short in the red zone. In their three trips to the red zone, the CSU offense came away with just 10 points.
A pair of Colorado State turnovers led to 14 points for the Pokes and that was really the difference in the game. The offense definitely performed better than the defense, but the team really looked flat as whole, which says a lot about the state of the team.
Wearing new uniforms in front of a packed house, the Rams looked overwhelmed by the big moment, which is not an acceptable excuse five weeks into the season. It is clear that there is a lot of young talent, but they have a lot of maturing to do. When the lights have shined brightest, the Rams have struggled in 2016.
Whether it is a personnel issue or adjustments that need to be made by the coaching staff, something needs to change. Utah State will be an excellent test to see exactly what this young CSU team is made of and what adjustments are going to be made moving forward.
Utah State is always one of the elite physical programs in the Mountain West, and coming off a pair of conference losses to Air Force and Boise State, the Aggies are going to be hungry for a victory. That being said, Colorado State has a lot to play for themselves. Half way through the season, the Rams have a must-win game against Utah State Saturday.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael