The Colorado State football team lost its third consecutive game to Colorado Friday night in what was a closely contested match between in-state rivals. Contrary to what CSU has experienced in previous years, the Rams defense put the team in a position to win the game, but the offense was unable to capitalize.
Throughout the evening, the defense consistently responded to controversy by stopping an explosive CU offense. After allowing 17 points early, the Rams shut out the Buffs for the remainder of the contest, including the entire second half.
For head coach Mike Bobo, the resolve that his defense has shown throughout the first two games of the 2017 season is reason for optimism.
“I know what we have, I know that we’ve got a good football team,” Bobo said. “I love the mentality of our defense. The fighter’s mentality that we’ve been talking about, to keep answering the bell the whole game. I thought they’ve done that for two games. I thought we played better this week defensively than last week, there was improvement.”
The attitude coming out on defense was different from the get-go. The Rams forced a three-and-out during CU’s first drive and ended it with an emphatic sack from defensive lineman Jakob Buys. They continued to apply pressure throughout the evening, leading to opportunities in the secondary.
One of six seniors who started on defense Friday night, Buys attributes some of the defensive success this season to the amount of experience within the unit.
“It’s the maturity level,” Buys said. “Our defense was flying to the ball. We all love each other…we’re playing for each other out there. Our maturity level has risen so much since last year, we’re just a completely different team.”
Considering the Rams only recorded one sack and rarely applied pressure to Oregon State during last week’s victory, increased pressure was a focus leading up to the game. It showed on Friday night, as the Rams notched five sacks and applied pressure throughout.
“The difference was getting the quarterback out of the pocket,” senior cornerback Kevin Nutt said. “We knew that if we rattled him up a little bit, he’s going to make some mistakes. That was the main thing going into this game was make him get out of the pocket, make him uncomfortable.”
The plan worked for the defense, as CU quarterback Steven Montez scrambled around the pocket all night, having to avoid incoming pressure. In two instances, it resulted in interceptions from Nutt. During his first pick of the game, Nutt jumped Montez’ pass and wrestled the ball away from a CU receiver in the second quarter.
He then opened the fourth quarter with another interception in the end zone to help keep the Rams within striking distance. The progression he has shown to this point in the season is something that Bobo noticed.
“He’s gotten tougher mentally,” Bobo said. “He’s done a really good job of being a student of the game. I probably see him in the offices more than anybody on our football team, constantly trying to study tape and improve. He’s been a leader with his play…he’s a good teammate, he’s going to be dependable and he’s going to do his job.”
The Rams will attempt to carry over the defensive momentum into next Saturday’s game against Abilene Christian. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 9 in the on-campus stadium.