Following their best offensive performance of the season, the Rams are looking to keep momentum rolling as they prepare to enter conference play.
But that will have to wait.
The Rams have a bye this weekend before beginning preparation to play San Jose State Oct. 12 at Hughes Stadium.
Through the first five weeks of the season, quarterback Garrett Grayson has thrown for 1,141 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions, marking the first time he has thrown for over one thousand yards in his career as a Ram. Last year Grayson, who was injured against Air Force, threw for 946 yards and seven touchdowns in six games.
Head coach Jim McElwain has been happy with the progress he has seen from his quarterback. Focusing on the details, he said, has contributed to Grayson’s success.
“He’s not taking sacks, he’s not throwing it to the other team, he’s giving us an opportunity to be successful,” McElwain said.
If the players thought McElwain was big on sweating the details before, this week they’ve learned even more about what it means to pay attention to the small things.
“I had to get after them,” McElwain said following Tuesday’s practice. “We had about three or four guys that refused to be able to keep their shirts tucked in. That’s attention to detail and we have to understand that it all carries over. There’s some little things like that that we really need to focus on as we’re going through this bye week.”
That mind-set seems to be rubbing off on the rest of the team as well, and players have begun to echo their detail-oriented coach.
“What we took out of the UTEP film is we could have put up even more points than we did (and) had more yards than we did if we would have just focused on the details of little plays,” Grayson said.
According to Mac, focusing on the little things is even more important for a CSU team that sees a lot of yellow flags go against them.
The Rams are averaging nearly 30-yards per game more than their opponents in penalties, and have given up 352 total yards to opposing teams on 32 infractions through five games.
“What we do is we break them down: are they non-cause penalties, are they stupid penalties, are they hustle penalties, are they focus penalties,” he said. “Right now it really goes hand in hand with ‘are we willing to get out of our own way.’”
After a scrimmage on Thursday, the players will have the weekend to relax before diving into game planning for San Jose State.
“My expectation is they take care of their bodies,” McElwain said. “Let their minds kind of escape a little bit from the standpoint of the really heavy grind that starts as we go into conference season.”
McElwain said he will wait until next week to see if receivers Jordon Vaden and Charles Lovett will take the field for the first time this season. Lovett, the team’s leading receiver last season, said it has been difficult to watch from the sidelines.
“It hurts a lot to watch my team go to war and I can’t do anything about it,” Lovett said. “(I) just try to continue to do my leadership work on the sideline and just stay positive.”
After being carted off the field in Saturday’s win against UTEP, cornerback Bernard Blake said he is alright and practiced in full pads this week. McElwain said he feels good about where Blake is at but they will continue to monitor the situation.
Football Beat Reporter Katie O’Keefe can be reached at email@example.com.