Colorado State hosts Tulsa in Ag Day showdown

Micky Rastrelli

Head coach Jim McElwain talks to players during last year's Ag Day victory over UTEP. The Rams will face Tulsa on Saturday in this year's edition of the game.
Head coach Jim McElwain talks to players during last year’s Ag Day victory over UTEP. The Rams will face Tulsa on Saturday in this year’s edition of the game.

During the tail end of last football season, in between the close of the regular season and the New Mexico Bowl game, the Rams had an opportunity to reflect. Coach Jim McElwain, who said he wasn’t satisfied even after the bowl victory, had a few things he wished had gone differently.

At the top of the list with the Rams loss to Colorado was the Tulsa game. Perhaps it was because the Rams were first on the scoreboard, heading into halftime with a 21-14 lead. Maybe it was because it should have been their rebound win after Colorado shut them down. Maybe because the game was tied with less than a minute remaining and Tulsa won by a field goal. Nonetheless, that was one of the Rams’ most heartbreaking losses in recent memory.

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Now, Colorado State has its chance for redemption at Hughes Stadium, hosting the Golden Hurricane for Saturday’s game that kicks off at 1:06 p.m. Mountain Time.

The Rams second home game is the annual Aggie Day game, or in McElwain’s words, when his team wears their “pumpkin-orange and alfalfa-green jerseys.” CSU wants to give Tulsa the full Hughes Orange-Out experience.

Quarterback Garrett Grayson even took to Instagram Thursday afternoon, posting a photo of himself and his teammates with a backdrop stating “Revenge on Tulsa.”

Whether or not the Rams will be able to get their revenge comes down to their ability to produce on offense. Here’s how the two teams match up on that side of the ball:

Running game

The Golden Hurricane has struggled with the run on both sides of the ball this season. They have allowed opponents to outrush them 873 yards to 542 and are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Sophomore James Flanders leads his team, amassing 246 yards on 51 carries and no touchdowns. On the other end of the spectrum sits Colorado State, whose run game has flourished. Led by Dee Hart (50 carries, 310 yards, two TD) and Treyous Jarrells (42 carries, 252 yards, three TDs), the Rams are average 170 rushing yards per game, with 680 on the year. Advantage: CSU

Quarterback battle

Senior Garrett Grayson has two years of experience and a couple hundred yards on Tulsa’s Dane Evans, but the sophomore is a force to be reckoned with. He has thrown for 1,145 yards and eight touchdowns this season, averaging 282 yards per game. In the Hurricane’s loss to Texas State, he helped erase a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, tying the game on a one-yard quarterback keeper. He has four receivers with at least 100 receiving yards, led by Keevan Lucas (37 receptions, 439 yards, five TDs). Still, Grayson’s experience and his own host of prolific young talent give him the edge come Saturday. Advantage: Even

What Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship has to say about the Rams:

“Pretty much their whole secondary and linebacker corps is back, so that matchup will be an interesting one for us. I think they throw the ball in a very efficient manner. Their quarterback is tough. If you watched the Boston College game he really got rocked. He got pounded and yet he kept stepping in there and in the fourth quarter making plays — very impressed with him. They’ve got a couple of running backs that they share time with that are pretty salty.

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As you look at them you notice that they are playing well, they are doing things very well. But, far and away, when you peel the layers back, there’s still a matchup issue and we did okay a year ago and we just have to go and find those same ones again this year.”

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