In front of the Orange Out crowd, Colorado State football moved to 8-0 all-time in their Ag Day uniforms, handily defeating Abilene Christian 38-10 at the on-campus stadium Saturday.
Relying primarily on the arm of senior quarterback Nick Stevens, the Rams came out of the gate looking to beat the Wildcats through the air. Using a heavy dose of wide receivers Michael Gallup and Olabisi Johnson, Stevens was able to pick apart the ACU secondary at will.
“This defense really had us at wit’s end going into this game with what they were going to do,” head coach Mike Bobo said after the victory.
After consistently stacking eight to nine guys in the box against New Mexico last week, the Wildcats came out aggressive against the Rams as well. CSU responded by trying to beat the ACU defensive backs over the top.
By the end of the first half, Stevens had already totalled 236 yards through the air, completing 19-of-29 attempts in the process. When the final cannon sounded, Stevens (337) surpassed 300 yards passing for the third consecutive game and threw for three scores.
“They were kind of asking us to throw the football in the first half,” Bobo said. “They played a lot of single coverage and I really thought Nick (Stevens) was on during the first half… If people are going to play an eight or nine-man box, we’ve got to throw the ball.”
Gallup led all pass-catchers Saturday, finishing with 10 receptions for 103 yards and one touchdown. Coming in right behind him was Johnson, who finished with five receptions for 83 yards and a single score.
Early in the third quarter the Wildcats made things interesting when senior defensive end Bryson Gates blocked CSU freshman punter Ryan Stonehouse’s attempt and ACU safety Erik Huhn returned the ball 16 yards for the defensive touchdown. The Wildcats were not able to muster up much more offense than that though, as the Rams were able to stop ACU in every facet of their offense.
While the Rams relied primarily on the passing attack in the first 30 minutes of play, CSU was able to use its stable of running backs to wear down the defense in the second half. After combining for only 67 yards on the ground in the first half, the Rams running back trio of Dalyn Dawkins, Izzy Matthews and Rashaad Boddie ran all over the Wildcats in the second.
Looking to control the tempo and protect the lead, the Rams used their three-headed rushing attack to run down the clock in the second half, a strategy that worked well for them. In total, the Rams finished the game with 268 yards on the ground.
“We came in at halftime and talked about the fronts that they were giving us,” Bobo said. “We had four or five runs out of each formation and we just came to the line and called one if they gave us the look. If not, I kind of killed it from the sideline and called another run. I thought we executed the run-game much better in the second half.”
Much like the players and coaches anticipated coming into the game, ACU never stopped competing in the contest, adding ten points in the second half. CSU was ultimately able to close out the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent though.
After defeating ACU (0-2), the Rams (2-1) will close out the non-conference portion of their schedule with a road game at Alabama (2-0) on Saturday, Sept. 16. CSU last played in Tuscaloosa, Ala. in September of 2013, losing to the Crimson Tide 31-6.
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.