Highlights provided by CTV Sports
Not since a 63-0 win over the University of Hawaii on Oct. 4, 1997 had the Colorado State Rams held an opponent scoreless over an entire football game.
That all changed on Saturday when the Rams shut down and shut out the Fresno State Bulldogs en route to a 37-0 victory at Hughes Stadium.
Though CSU has flirted with shutouts this season, playing four shutout halves heading into Saturday’s game, for the first time this season, the defense put two halves together.
“I knew it had been for awhile,” safety Jake Schlager said of the shutout streak. “We had gotten shutouts in halves and quarters and what not but too come out and play all four quarters and have a shutout, that speaks for itself and speaks a lot about this team.”
The Bulldogs had not done a lot of things right up to Saturday’s matchup with the Colorado State Rams, but they had shown the ability to move the ball, especially through the air. On Saturday, the CSU defense kept that Bulldog offense almost completely lifeless and listless.
“I can’t say enough about our football team today and how they played, especially our defense,” coach Mike Bobo said. “A shutout is unbelievable. I think that’s six halves of football this year when we have played shutout football. In today’s time of football it’s hard to shut people out.”
In a dominant first half defensive performance, reminiscent of the Rams effort on that side of the ball in their last game against UNLV when CSU lead 35-0 at half. Fresno State went three-and-out on their first three possessions, and It took the bulldogs until 11:45 left in the second quarter to gain their first first-down of the game.
But unlike against UNLV when the Rams gave up 23 second half points, there would be no post-half letdown this time around.
“There was no excuse to come not out feeling good, feeling fresh and hot,” Schlager said about the defense’s mindset going into the second half. “We emphasized that we needed to start quick and we did exactly that. In previous games we have that shutout in the first half and you come out and give up a big play on the first drive and everything kind of start to settles down.”
And the shutout was completely a collective effort. Plenty of Rams made plays when they had they chance to make them. Like freshman Arjay Jean who picked up 1.5 sacks on the day and put consistent pressure on fresno quarterback Zach Kline, or linebacker Deshon Mayes who set the defensive tone with a clutch fourth-down forcing tackle on Fresno’s first drive of the game.
For Kline, who came in for starter Chason Virgil after the Bulldog’s first drive, it was a tough day in the pocket.
CSU’s young secondary played lights out for much of the game, as Kline was often left searching for an open target as the pocket collapsed around him. In that pocket, Kline never looked comfortable. He was under duress early and often, as the CSU defensive front camped out in the Fresno backfield. The Rams finished the game with five sacks, 10 tackles-for-loss and six quarterback hurries.
The defense had to bow their neck three different times in the second half as the Bulldogs threatened the shutout, but the Rams came up with three different fourth-down stops throughout the half to maintain the goose egg.
The second fourth-down stop came with Fresno facing fourth-and-four from the CSU 41 in the fourth quarter, when cornerback and former wide receiver Jordon Vaden caught his first pass of the year for CSU, when he picked off Kline to end the drive.
The final attempt came on Fresno’s last drive of the game, when roughing the passer and pass interference penalties helped move the ball all the way down to the CSU 10-yard line. But a Toby McBride sack backed up the Bulldogs, and three stops later, the shutout was sealed.
The sealing effort came mostly from second and third string players who played high snap counts in the second half with CSU holding the big lead.
“It was great that we got some young guys in there defensively who haven’t played a lot and to go out there and play,” Bobo said. “For them to get the shutout, not our starters, says a lot about our coaching staff getting everybody ready to play.”
Schlager admitted that he got a little nervous with the backups out on the field and the Bulldogs driving, but in the end, he had faith in his guys to finish what the starters began.
“It was good to see that they were able to bow their necks and stop them on fourth down,” Schlager said. “That was awesome.”
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5