Coming out of Saturday’s 38-17 loss to the University of Wyoming, it was evident that coach Mike Bobo and the Colorado State Rams are still looking for playmakers.
After the game, Bobo harped on the fact that Wyoming was able to make game changing plays, while the Rams were not.
“At the end of the day, you have to make a play in a ball game offensively or defensively to get momentum and we are not getting it done,” Bobo said.
It did not matter that the Rams out gained the Cowboys, or that freshman quarterback Collin Hill threw for the most yards in his young career. Production does not always lead to winning games.
“The opportunity is there to make a play,” offensive coordinator Will Friend said. “(We had) a lot of good things on offense but when it really mattered we didn’t make those plays. When the phone rings you have to answer it as a player.”
The search for players who are going to answer that phone has been a continuous process since spring camp opened up, and from this team’s performance, it is clear that search is still ongoing.
“You have to make those plays, and what we are going to do is keep putting ourselves in position to make those plays,” Bobo said. “We have to find the right guys that are going to make those plays.”
During Monday’s press conference, Bobo went down the list of almost every position group on his football team, outlining just how many different players had played at each position throughout this season.
Whether it’s a continually rotating offensive line, a starting linebacker corp that has featured six different players, or the plethora of wide receivers the Rams have thrown out on the field, the team is still looking for that winning combination.
The search starts in practice, and both Bobo and Friend said they have to start doing a better job of “rewarding” players who perform well in practice on a given week by giving them opportunities in the game.
“If you are not getting the job done somebody else needs to be in there,” Friend said. “(We have to) make sure that guys who practice well are the ones who get to play and get their opportunity. The way you practice is gonna be the way you play.”
Take senior offensive lineman Nick Callender for example, who on Saturday, made his first start since week one of the season.
“Nick Callender practiced well last week,” Friend said. We started Nick because he practiced well. Nick played the best too. That’s kind of the way it works”
And that search has led the coaching staff to turn more and more to the young players on their roster. All told, a combined 13 true freshmen and juco transfers have played snaps for this football team in 2016.
Four of those, Hill, running back Marvin Kinsey, and receivers Detrich Clark and Michael Gallup, have been some of the primary offensive play makers for this team this year.
That contributor number should only be expected to climb. During Monday’s press conference, Bobo said that freshman defensive back Robert Awunganyi and freshman linebacker Arjay Jean should play a bigger role going forward. Freshman safety Jamal Hicks, who burned his red shirt on special teams last week, is another player who Bobo said might play a bigger role.
And freshman offensive lineman Jeff Taylor and freshman running back Rashaad Boddie, are both being “evaluated,” and could join the rotations at their respective positions that have yet to be set this season.
“A guy that’s sticks out to me is Robert Awunangyi,” Bobo said after Tuesday’s practice. “He is fast, he competes. He is a little bit on the small side right now… but I really like where he is at. Arjay Jean continues to impress, (Rashaad) Boddie had some nice runs today. Jeff Taylor is a guy that stuck out yesterday.”
Bobo added on Tuesday that Awunganyi would have been in the mix against Wyoming if he had not gotten a concussion during last week’s practice, while Taylor might already be in the offensive line rotation had he not missed time to injury during fall camp.
There are a lot of young players this team is counting on, and some more that may find themselves in the mix as the play maker search continues. But Bobo had a quick answer when asked if he was reluctant about playing a lot of young players, and burning some red shirts along the way.
“Well, we are 2-3.” Bobo said. “It’s not like we are 5-0 or 4-1. We are not where we want to be defensively in stopping people, we are not where we want to be offensively as far as execution. In my mind we have to find guys that can get the job done.”
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5