Colorado State is one win away from a bowl game for the fourth straight year. A lot of that has to do with Nick Stevens.
Stevens threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns on 18-23 passing in Saturday’s 37-0 romping over Fresno State. He got the offense rolling early, ending drives with points in all but two possessions before being replaced by Faton Bauta when the game was out of hand late in the third quarter.
“I think it was definitely efficient for me, this game,” Stevens said. “I’m happy again to have no turnovers… I made a couple of mistakes, but for the most part it was pretty good. I did a good job taking care of the ball, and that’s the biggest thing.”
In the three games since returning to the starting role, Stevens is completing 68 percent of his passes for 663 yards and six touchdowns. The most impressive part? No turnovers.
Stevens has this CSU football team playing the best it has all season and run an offense that has averaged 39.5 points the past two games, all while not turning the ball over.
Coming back from a benching and performing the way he has epitomizes the character that is under the helmet. On a list of things responsible for the way the team has played since the second half against Utah State, Stevens’ leadership belongs at the top.
“I’ve seen Nick grow in the leadership role of holding guys accountable,” head coach Mike Bobo said after Saturday’s win over Fresno State. “At certain times this past week I can hear him call a guy out for what he’s supposed to do, or call Michael Gallup out, (saying) that’s not what I’m expecting here, this what I want. That’s what you’ve got to have. It’s got to come from the players and Nick’s doing a great job of that.”
Stevens was handed the keys to the offense to start the season and quickly drove it into a ditch. Fast-forward eight weeks, and it’s like week one never happened. Credit No. 7 for that.
Stevens looks and acts like a different quarterback than week one. The games against Boise State and UNLV were glimpses of a different Stevens, the Fresno State game proved it.
The numbers for Stevens don’t jump off the page. He isn’t throwing for 400 yards and five touchdowns every game, but what he is doing has been effective and just what CSU needed.
“He’s the one dishing the ball, he’s the one telling everyone where to go, and like today there was one route I had and I had clearly ran the wrong route and he jumped on me real quick and after that we didn’t have anymore mess-ups,” wide receiver Michael Gallup said on Stevens’ leadership. “It is good to know that he is back there almost being a coach on the field.”
Having to sit out for four games was the best thing to that could have happened for Stevens this season.
He used that time to re-invent his role on the team. No longer is he just the quarterback; he is now the unquestioned leader holding people accountable, making sure things get done the way they need to.
“Not playing gave me the opportunity to kind of take over a different role and that kind of carried over,” Stevens said. “Some of the stuff I was doing at that point, corrections and stuff like that, holding people accountable to when I got back out on the field, I think it’s helped out a lot.”
Bobo has said it all year: Leadership needs to come from the players and not the coach. Since returning as the starter, Stevens has accepted that role.
“You better be ready when you come to the ball park to play us because we’re going to be a physical brand,” Bobo said. “And then it all goes through Nick Stevens … he’s done a great job of that the last two weeks.”
Nick Stevens is not a flashy player. He won’t dazzle you with incredible arm strength. He won’t make your jaw drop with athleticism. He doesn’t need to.
What Nick Stevens needs to be for Colorado State is exactly what he is, a leader.
Collegian sports editor Chad Deutschman can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChadDeutschman