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Colorado State finds recipe for success against UC-Davis

Colorado State receiver Elroy Masters, Jr. (88) heads for the endzone during Colorado State's 49-21 victory over UC-Davis on Saturday.
Colorado State receiver Elroy Masters, Jr. (88) heads for the endzone during Colorado State’s 49-21 victory over UC-Davis on Saturday.

After two weeks of trial-and-error, the Colorado State football team finally found the balance it was hunting for. The Rams were firing on all cylinders in Saturday’s 49-21 home opening win against UC Davis.

Head coach Jim McElwain has always emphasized his belief that a balanced offense wins games. But the Rams debuted more than just equality in the run and passing game. They finally had a stout defensive effort and a well-oiled offense playing in the same half.

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“I thought it was a complete team out there,” McElwain said at the postgame press conference. “We wanted to go out and dominate an opponent, and for the most part, I think we did that.”

In their game against Colorado as well as at Boise State, and in various games last season, the strength of one side was forced to overcompensate for its struggling counterpart. And as soon as the weak link got their wits about them, the situation would reverse and the cycle would resume. Rarely would the two work in tandem.

Saturday saw a team that finally came together, dominating the Aggies on both sides of the ball. The offense amassed 28 points in the first half – 21 in the opening quarter – while the defense staunchly held the Aggies to to just one touchdown across the first three quarters.

Despite a couple of momentary lapses – when the Aggie offense was able to move down the field for a couple of garbage-time scores – the overall defensive effort was dominant from both the front seven and the secondary.

“We want to be more consistent on offense and defense, and it’s always nice to see our offense firing off on all cylinders,” senior linebacker Aaron Davis said. “It picks us up as a defense. When they are doing well, we want to do well and have their backs like they have ours.”

The offense did more than just have the defenders backs. WIth 676 yards of total offense – second-most in program history, and seven touchdowns from four different players, Colorado State’s offense was absolutely prolific.

“We are starting to get the ball in the hands of some explosive playmakers,” McElwain said. “I believe we’ve got some good young ones, and we need to continue to do that.”

Rashard Higgins and Elroy Masters certainly fit the young, explosive, playmaker mold. Through three games, Higgins has 306 receiving yards and three touchdowns, 147 of those coming on Saturday alone. Masters had his breakthrough week against UC Davis, emerging as a reliable target for Grayson with five receptions for 112 yards including a 69-yarder that saw him come just two yards short of his first collegiate touchdown.

Grayson’s 425 yards and four touchdowns Saturday brought him closer to a series of CSU records – but he recognizes more than anybody what big, athletic receivers can do for any quarterback.

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“I joked with coach Mac about this – I wish he could have been here a few years earlier so I could have played with these guys my whole career. I’m leaving after this year and these guys are just getting started,” Grayson said of Colorado State’s receiving corps that consists of just one senior, one junior, two sophomores and four freshmen. “I’m beyond impressed with what those guys are doing. They make me look good, a lot better than I’d like to say I am.”

Collegian Sports Reporter Micky Rastrelli can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @c_rasta5.
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