Coming into the 2016 season, the Colorado State Rams thought they had the pieces in place to start the season running on offense.
An experienced offensive line and returning running backs Dalyn Dawkins and Izzy Matthews were supposed to be the focal point of the Ram offense in 2016.
It did not start off quite as planned, as the running game struggled to find it’s footing consistently in the first half of the season. Now in November, the ground game is finding it’s groove just at the right time and doing so with a balanced stable of contributors.
The potential and balance of the ground game showed in the team’s 42-23 win over UNLV where the team picked up 228 yards on the ground, and three different tailbacks ran for more than 50 yards.
The workload in that game was spread pretty evenly between Dawkins (14 carries), Matthews (15 carries) and talented freshman Marvin Kinsey Jr (10 carries).
“I’d like to see it balanced I really would,” coach Mike Bobo said of his running back situation. “I think all three bring a different dynamic to our run game, but I’m still not opposed if one guy we feel like he is feeling it and running the way we want to run, for him getting the most carries that game. It’s not set in stone.”
Bobo said that the carries should remain fairly equal with his backs throughout the rest of the season, but he won’t hesitate to keep feeding the ball carrier with the hot hand.
Kinsey’s 10 carries against UNLV were by far the most he had in a game since the week four contest against Wyoming where he had a critical first half fumble.
But Kinsey’s ability has flashed in spurts this season, including the freshman’s 34-yard touchdown run in the UNLV game.
Bobo said the team tried to get Kinsey some more carries against UNLV because of the way the freshman back had been practicing, and to show the running back that they still trusted him to carry the football after his fumbles. His work payed off against UNLV.
“We will probably see as much of Marvin as we did last week or maybe a little more it’s how the game goes and the style of runs we are running,” Bobo said.
With Kinsey back in the equation, having to delegate carries between three talented backs is not a bad problem to have.
“I think it’s mainly just keeping fresh legs for one, and you get a different style runner each time,” Dawkins said about the trio of runners. “When you are wearing down a defense, they get used to one running back and then they have to adjust to another one, so that’s what is good (about it).”
And for a guy like Dawkins who wants the ball in his hand as much as possible to make big plays, having fresh legs, especially at this point in the season, comes second to none.
And just like last season, the Rams running game is coming together just at the right time.
I think it’s important that you are able to keep fresh backs,” offensive coordinator Will Friend said. “I think October and November you win with your running game and upfront.”
As fall shifts to winter, especially in Colorado, football games are won on the ground. The climate, and worn-down opposing defenders make offensive line and running back play pivotal in the later parts of the season.
Take last year for example, when the Rams reeled off four straight wins as November popped up on the calendar. In those four wins, the Rams averaged just over 258-yards per game rushing.
It’s a team that looks to be getting into position to have a similar kind of run on the ground this year, and for the team’s success in the closing month of the season, that kind of rushing production certainly increases those chances.
“Im hoping so,” Golditch said about having a strong month in the running game. “You never really know how you are going to play until it’s all said and done, but that’s definitely what we are trying to do, that’s what we are preparing for. It would be super cool to keep up with a 200-plus-yard game (average) throughout November. It’s going to be important because this is the time of the season when people are kind of beat up and as an offensive line we need to oppose our will on defenses.”
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5