CSU defense’s struggles against the run continue

Keegan Pope

(Keegan Pope/Collegian)

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LOGAN, Utah — For three weeks, Colorado State’s run defense was among the best in the country. Over the last two, they’ve been among the worst.

After giving up an average of 129 rushing yards in their first three outings, the Rams gave up 279 a week ago in a 33-31 victory over winless Texas-San Antonio, and 298 more in a 33-18 loss to Utah State Saturday night. A unit that seemed nearly impenetrable early in the season has been humbled and handled for consecutive weeks. This time though, they didn’t come away victorious.

Utah State quarterback Kent Myers escapes CSU defender Trent Matthews during Saturday's game at Maverik Stadium. (Photo Courtesy: The Utah Statesman)
Utah State quarterback Kent Myers escapes CSU defender Trent Matthews during Saturday’s game at Maverik Stadium. (Photo Courtesy: The Utah Statesman)

Utah State quarterback Kent Myers ran wild, totaling 191 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries, including runs of 34 and 26 yards on consecutive plays. By halftime, he had set the Utah State single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 124.  CSU otherwise limited the Aggies on the ground, holding the rest of USU’s ball carriers to 107 yards on 29 carries. But for the second week in a row, a read-option offense with a shifty quarterback gave the Rams fits. 

Sophomore linebacker Kiel Robinson said the Rams’ discipline isn’t what allowed the Aggies to gash them, but instead a lack of communication between defenders.

“We have to have our communication down much better, and just knowing our assignments,” Robinson said. “We can’t just lose contain, we have to know who has the quarterback, who has the pitch man and who has the zone read.” 

Under a new defensive staff, playing a new scheme, growing pains are expected. There will be times when players are out of position or miss an assignment, but head coach Mike Bobo said he doesn’t think that should be happening by the fifth week of the season. 

“You’ve got to be disciplined,” Bobo said. “I’ve got to look at the film to see for sure, but nobody should be running scot-free.” 

Myers only converted one third-down with his legs, but did pick up big gains to help the Aggies to shorter fourth-down conversions, or to flip the field position battle. On many of those runs, Colorado State had a chance to tackle him in the backfield for no gain or even a loss, but the Rams were unable to finish the tackle and Myers made them pay. 

Plays they made against Savannah State, Minnesota and Colorado just haven’t been made against UTSA and Utah State. Plain and simple. 

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“We’ve got to go back and look at the gameplan, see where we made mistakes and move on to the next one,” cornerback DeAndre Elliott said. 

Things don’t get any easier for Colorado State’s defense over the next two weeks, when the Rams face Boise State and Air Force. Broncos running back Jeremy McNichols ranks among the top of the FBS in touchdowns (10), and Air Force’s rushing offense ranks in the top-1o of the FBS, racking up more than 367 yards per game. 

Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.