Two weeks into the 2017 football season the general feeling around Colorado State is that this team is for real. Expectations were high prior to the season and they were elevated when the Rams dismantled Oregon State at home on Aug. 26.
CSU is coming off of a hard fought loss to Colorado, something that would normally be considered a dark cloud to loom over the team for the rest of the season. However, this squad has a different feel to them.
After getting jobbed by the officials in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, head coach Mike Bobo made no excuses about the poor officiating. Neither did any of the seven players that talked to the media after the bitter loss.
Instead, they put things into perspective. They talked about the offense’s shortcomings in the game and admitted that the situation was unfortunate, but cannot complain about things that are out of their of control such as the officiating.
The act of self control was one of many instances where the Rams players have displayed maturity this fall. Junior running back Izzy Matthews points to familiarity within the system and knowing what the coaching staff expects of them.
“When you really think about it, everyone basically restarted in Bobo’s first year (2015),” Matthews said. “Basically everyone restarts as freshman. Maybe not physically, but mentally and with their understanding of the offense, that’s what it is. So we’ve been developing the standard on offense and the standard for the team. You’re really going to see that start to come into fruition this season.”
He also singled out the leadership of senior quarterback Nick Stevens, who has come into the 2017 season just as hot as he finished the 2016 season. Stevens has thrown for at least 300 yards in both of CSU’s games this season, throwing three touchdowns and three interceptions during that span.
More important than his stat line, the poise Stevens has displayed through two games has been been indicative of a quarterback that has had to battle his entire career. After being named the starter in the offseason, Stevens grabbed the job by the horns and has not let go of the reigns.
“I thought that it was a huge thing for our offense,” Matthews said. “We declared our starter four or five weeks before the season started. In years past, we were doing it close to game week, which I think can really mess with people.”
“Nick has really been able to come into his own as a leader,” Matthews continued. “Just as someone that can control the offense, can control the team and is someone that everyone looks up to. It’s really a testament to him after everything he’s been through. To finally step into this role and lead the team how he does.”
The players are not the only ones satisfied with the veteran quarterback’s play either. Bobo praised Stevens Tuesday for his performance through the first two weeks of the season, calling his performance against the Beavers “exceptional.”
Quick not to bloat his quarterback’s ego, Bobo admitted that Stevens has gotten away with some poor throws at times and his receivers have stepped up immensely this season as well. Overall, Stevens has been a player that is suited to lead this team to victory though.
“You’re not going to be perfect every play, but overall he’s shown some toughness through the first two games. He’s shown the ability to keep us in ballgames with his arm,” Bobo said.
Between the end of last season and the start of the 2017 campaign, it has become clear that Stevens can undoubtedly lead this team where it needs to be. Barring an injury or dramatic shift in his performance, it should be Stevens that takes every meaningful snap for the remainder of the season.
Bobo has often said that he wants sophomore quarterback Collin Hill to continue preparing as the starter, and in practice he definitely should. Given how well Stevens is playing though, it would be crazy to waste Hill’s eligibility this season by having him see the field on game day. Stevens has earned the right to lead the team this season and the Rams can save their young gun for the future.
CSU has the weapons at the offensive skill positions to compete for the Mountain West. Stevens’ maturity and stable presence under center is what the team needs to help guide them there.
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.