MINNEAPOLIS- During Monday’s press conference, Colorado State offensive coordinator Will Friend called the University of Minnesota defense the best defense he has seen in his time at CSU.
In Saturday’s 31-24 loss to Minnesota, the CSU offense was able to challenge the Minnesota defense and almost do enough for the team to win the game.
Freshman quarterback Collin Hill made his second career start in a much different environment against a much different team than he faced last week. He had his rough moments, but he showed that he has the ability to make plays in any game, against any opponent.
Hill finished the game 15-30 passing for 182-yards and a touchdown with one interception, and he picked up 28 opportunistic yards on the ground.
“You never hit every pass,” Bobo said. “(Hill) is going to be a little bit sick in the stomach when he watches the film of some guys that he had (open), but I believe he kept us in the game with the ability to push the ball down the field.”
It was almost a miracle that Hill finished the game at all. With a little over six minutes remaining in the first half, Hill was blasted by Minnesota freshman defensive end Tai-yon Devers, who recorded his third sack and third forced-fumble of the season on the play.
Hill’s helmet and the ball went flying as Minnesota recovered the fumble, but Hill got back up and continued to lead the offense.
The play would have been enough to rattle any quarterback, but coach Mike Bobo said Hill continually displayed poise throughout the game, and especially after the hit.
“There was never a look in his eye that he was scared of what was going on,” Bobo said. “I did not see a quarterback that had a deer in the headlights look like what do I do.”
Hill’s other mistake came on the team’s second drive of the game as the Rams were nearing the Minnesota red zone. Minnesota safety Damarius Travis picked off Hill, who overshot receiver Marcus Wilson badly on the play.
The two turnovers would end up costing the Rams as they led to 10 Minnesota points, but Hill and the offense never overreacted to a bad play.
The Rams rushed for 158 yards on a defense with an excellent front seven, that had given up just 99 yards per game on the ground prior to Saturday.
“The strength of their team to me is their front four and their linebackers,” Bobo said. “They have a lot of athletic linebackers that can run,” adding that defensive tackle Steve Richardson, “is one of the best players that we played against in the last two years.”
On the team’s first scoring drive on Saturday, the Rams carved up the Minnesota defense on a six play, 75-yard drive, all of them coming on the ground, that was punctuated by a Marvin Kinsey 18-yard touchdown run.
Izzy Matthews looked to finally be getting back into form, running seven times for 48-yards, and freshman Kinsey again made his presence felt, rushing for 43 yards to go along with the touchdown.
Senior quarterback Faton Bauta was able to come in and spell Hill while effectively running the read-option offense to the tune of 35-yards on six carries. Bauta did not attempt a pass, but his impact in the running game certainly kept the Gophers off balance when he lined up in the backfield.
Juco transfer wide receiver Detrich Clark did not catch a pass, but the utility player was used all over the field for CSU. He scored a touchdown from the quarterback position on a 2-yard run in the third quarter and finished the game with seven carries for 30 yards.
In all, four CSU players ran for more than 30 yards.
it was the offensive newcomers that led the charge. Hill, Clark, Kinsey and wide receiver Michael Gallup — who led the team in receiving with 53 yards on six catches with a touchdown — carried the offense on Saturday.
“Detrich Clark, Kinsey, Gallup, those guys are going to try and make plays,” Bobo said. “We have to get more guys who are trying to make plays.”
The young guys made plays, but if this CSU offense wants to keep progressing it has to be a more collective effort when it comes to making the big plays that can win a game.
It was not a perfect game, but the offense did do enough for this team to have a chance to win on Saturday, and the emergence of the young players has to show some promise for the future of this CSU offense.
Moving forward into conference play, the offense is certainly in a better place than it was three weeks ago against the University of Colorado.
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5