Sitting at 5-4 overall and 3-2 in the Mountain West, Colorado State is in position to make their fourth consecutive bowl appearance.
CSU is one game ahead of where they were in 2015, as nine games in the Rams were 4-5 a year ago.
While the difference in record is not very eye-catching, the difference in turnover margin is.
Nine games into the 2015 season, CSU had turned the ball over 23 times. This year, CSU has cut that number down more than half, having turned the ball over just 10 times.
The turnover margin itself is even, as CSU has forced just 10 turnovers, but for head coach Mike Bobo, even has never looked better.
“I’ve never been as happy to be zero in my life,” Bobo said while he knocked on wood, trying not to jinx the turnover success the Rams have had.
A zero turnover margin has the Rams tied for 62nd in the nation in the category. At this point last season, the team held a negative nine margin.
Turnovers plagued CSU a season ago, and the emphasis the team has placed on taking care of the football is playing a major role in why the team is on track to reach a fourth consecutive bowl game.
In the past four games, CSU holds a 3-1 record and has turned the ball over just one time via a Michael Gallup fumble in a 42-23 win over UNLV.
“It has been a big emphasis,” Bobo said. “I thought it cost us several football games last year, our inability to create or hold onto the ball in football games. It was a big emphasis in the offseason, spring ball, it was a big emphasis this fall camp.”
What does Bobo credit the turnaround to?
The coach says that the team has begun to understand the offense as a whole a lot better than they did last year. The result is four games without committing a turnover — something that happened just at this point in 2015 — and only four interceptions on the year.
“Offensively, I think just understanding what we’re doing better as a whole,” Bobo said. “Not just the quarterback position, everybody understanding schematically. Run game, pass game, it has eliminated some of the turnovers.”
Offensive coordinator Will Friend shared the head coach’s thoughts on the subject.
“I think guys have a better understanding of everything we’re trying to do which has helped,” Friend said. “We’ve stressed it. You can’t stress it any more than we have. I think we’ve done a good job with our guys; the quarterbacks have done a good job protecting it and not forcing it in situations. Protection has been halfway decent, those things are the reason why. “
The cutdown on turnovers has the Rams’ offense operating a much higher level as opposed to the beginning of the year.
Over the past four games, the CSU offense is averaging 449.5 yards and 33.25 points per game with just the one turnover. In the team’s first five games, they averaged 1.8 turnovers per game while putting up 23.6 points and 394.4 yards per game.
While CSU has cut down dramatically on turnovers of their own, the team has forced just 10, two less than nine games in last year. That is a number that coach Bobo wants to see increase, but the team’s turnover margin is a favorable five to one in the past four games, a margin they never accomplished last season.
“We still have to do a better job of creating more turnovers, but we have got five in the last four games, which is great,” Bobo said. “When you get more turnovers, when you start to understand what you’re doing defensively, you get more hats to the ball. We’re starting to play better defensively collectively as a group. Hopefully, that will generate some more turnovers.
“The big message last night to the staff was, we’ve got to really not lax on the turnovers. We’ve got to create them and we’ve got to protect the ball if we want to finish strong this month. We’ve got to win the turnover ratio in the next three games to have a chance in my opinion.”
Colorado State will travel to Colorado Springs to take on the Air Force Falcons (6-3, 2-3 MW) Nov. 12 at 8:15 p.m. MT at Falcon Stadium.
Collegian sports editor Chad Deutschman can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChadDeutschman