In last Saturday’s 49-46 to Air Force, the Colorado State Rams gave up more rushing yards (485) than any team in the Mountain West conference this season.
CSU’s young defense had been gaining experience and improving, but the inexperience showed on Saturday, when an offensive with a completely different scheme took the field.
“I thought we would perform better in some places than what we they did and maybe they just weren’t capable which is a little bit disheartening,” defensive coordinator Marty English said. “But at the same time, (you) go back and look in the mirror, and I think we can be better. I think some of these guys know we can be better.”
The Rams have to be better in a hurry, as the New Mexico Lobos and the No. 1 rushing attack in the entire country come into Hughes Stadium this Saturday.
The Lobo’s run a similar triple-option scheme as Air Force, but they have their own spin to it, and more athletic running backs in the backfield.
If there is a positive coming out of the Air Force loss, it is that the Rams have plenty mistakes to look at and learn from before Saturday.
“What will help is that we will have a chance to see our mistakes that we had in this last ball game and tweak some stuff that we are doing,” coach Mike Bobo said.
Playing against an option offense is all about detailed discipline English said, and the Rams did not have enough of it on Saturday.
“We did not play as disciplined as we wanted to play and that showed when they ran all over us pretty much,” linebacker Kevin Davis said. “We understand that each guy has a certain job to do and you have to take care of your job. That’s the only way you are going to beat an option team.”
Both English and Bobo said that what happened on Saturday took them back to the beginning of the year when the inexperienced defense was slow to react, and they did not challenge or play as aggressively as they could have.
“I did not think we played fast defensively on Saturday,” Bobo said. “It looked like we were a little bit unsure. That happens when you play something you haven’t seen all year.”
“I think it was just something that we had not seen yet,” safety Jake Schlager said. “We went through practice all week and harped about how it is going to be much faster and different than practice but I don’t really think it hit the guys.”
And when the Rams did have their assignments down, they lost too many one-on-one battles.
But not all of it comes back to the players.
“You can use every scheme in the world you want, at some point you have to figure out what your guys can do and maybe what they can’t,” English said. “That’s our job to go back in the room and figure out who has to be where when you play these options teams and who is going to be best suited for you.”
Part of that reevaluation means trying different players in different spots, and doing what the coaches can to make sure the players are in the best position possible. Freshman safety Jamal Hicks was one of the guys who English said was aggressive on the perimeter on Saturday, and he should see more playing time this week.
Or athletic outsider linebackers like Arjay Jean and Bryan Ohene-Gyeni might be getting a second look to see if they can do a better job containing the quarterback.
The bounce back needs to come in a hurry with New Mexico coming to town, but the players and coaches are confident this defense has the ability to do that.
“Live and learn from it and just come back this week,” Schlager said. “(Now) we just kind of know what to expect now that we have already seen that. I think we will be able to adjust a lot better to it.”
“I anticipate that, I do,” English said. “We have to, there’s no other way about it. We will learn from last week to move into this week, there’s no doubt in my mind that we will do that. You can preach it, preach it, preach it, until they just experience it. And I don’t know how they are going to respond to it and now I do. Now I have a little better idea. It’s going to be something that we are all better at this week.”
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5