Adjustments to run game help struggling CSU offense

Chad Deutschman

When your team ranks dead last in the country in quarterback completion percentage, the offense tends to struggle.

Colorado State (1-1) is that team sitting at the bottom of the list, completing only 38.5 percent of their passes. Nick Stevens is 6-20, Faton Bauta is 12-26, and Collin Hill is 2-6. That’s not very good.

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There are two positives Colorado State can take away from their offensive performance two weeks into the season. They split the first two games despite the offensive woes, and they can run the football.

Redshirt junior Dalyn Dawkins has been productive in his playing time, carrying the ball 29 times for 156 yards and one touchdown. While it may be a small sample size, Dawkins’ 5.4 yards per carry this season is the highest of his career.

The team as a whole, ranks 57th in the nation rushing, averaging 191 yards per game. Having ran the ball 82 times thus far, the teams’ 4.7 yards per carry ranks as 61st best in the nation.

These numbers may not pop of the page, but when the offense is averaging 3.3 yards per pass attempt, the team will take what they can get.

Colorado State’s passing game, or lack there of, has forced them to adjust their offense until the quarterback situation settles down.

“We haven’t thrown the ball they way we expect to throw the ball here,” CSU head coach Mike Bobo said. “Especially when you’ve been run oriented. You’re trying to be balanced, and you’re under center, and you’ve got a run game, then you’ve got to complete a high percentage of passes and we haven’t done that. We have got to improve on that.”

Until the offense can improve upon an abysmal passing game, the team will continue to rely on players like Dawkins, like sophomore Izzy Matthews to move the ball for the offense.

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Colorado State University's Izzy Matthews (35) and Jake Bennett (77) celebrate Matthews' second quarter touchdown during the game against UTSA on Saturday afternoon at Hughes Stadium. Photo credit: Forrest Czarnecki

The only problem with that game plan is that neither Dawkins nor Matthews are totally healthy.

“I am (able to move the ball with running backs), but (Dalyn) Dawkins is a little banged up, he had to come out of the game the other day. Izzy Matthews is banged up, he’s not 100 percent yet. But I have Marvin Kinsey coming in there in spells,” Bobo said. “If you look at the game the other day, Detrich Clark has 30-40 yards rushing, Faton (Bauta) has 30-40 yards rushing, (Anthony) Hawkins has eight yards rushing. It’s not just the running backs, we’re finding other ways to move the ball and run the ball. “

With the quarterbacks struggling so much, Bobo has adjusted his offense to get the ball into the hands of the Rams’ skill position players with end-around plays and reverses. In week two against UTSA, the team ran seven such plays with success. Wide receivers Detrich Clark, Michael Gallup and Anthony Hawkins each had run plays called for them, gaining a combined 48 yards on six carries.

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The team will continue to implement packages for these skill position players as long as they have to, according to Bobo.

“Now we just got to find some ways to complete a pass, and then consistently improve in our running game,” Bobo said. “I said it at the beginning, you’re gonna need all these running backs, especially when you run the ball. Guys have a tendency to get banged up, and we gotta see who’s healthy this week and we’ll roll them out there and they will get the chance to carry the ball.”

Having to change the offensive game plan due to quarterback incompetence has given Bobo — although he’d prefer it come from different reasons — to play more people.

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Anthony Hawkins (14) carried the ball two times against UTSA for 8 yards. Photo credit: Javon Harris

The team has created packages individually designed to get the ball into Clark’s, Hawkins’ and Gallup’s hands.

“We’ve probably played more people, more personnel groups than I ever have because we’ve had a lot of different packages,” Bobo said. “That’s just where we are right now because we’ve got a lot of new guys playing that don’t understand everything so we’re giving them small packages to be able to try to execute.”

Getting the ball to playmakers is always a good idea, but the team doesn’t want to sacrifice the base offense to do so. There is a balance that the team needs to find.

“You’re gonna look at the tape and look at what you think you can do offensively, and then you’re gonna look at your personnel and you’re gonna say ‘ok, these guys got to touch the ball,’” Bobo said. “It is easy when a guy is playing tailback to get him the ball, but when you’ve got skill guys, sometimes you’ve got to come up with some packages to let them touch the football. But you don’t want to do so much that you can’t execute your base offense. Right now our execution of our base offense is struggling a little bit so we’re trying to find some creative ways to run the ball.”

Bobo said he doesn’t know who the starting quarterback will be against the University of Northern Colorado on Sept. 17, but regardless of whom that is, the offense will continue to run the ball.

They just don’t want to have to run the ball so much, according to offensive coordinator Will Friend.

“It’s hard to go try to run it 50 times and be successful,” Friend said.

Collegian sports editor Chad Deutschman can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ChadDeutschman