Utah State’s ball-hawking defense will test Nick Stevens, CSU offense

Colin Barnard

For the first time in his tenure as Colorado State’s head coach, Mike Bobo is 1-0 in conference play. 

Quarterback Nick Stevens (7) rolls out looking for an open wide receiver down the field.
Quarterback Nick Stevens (7) rolls out looking for an open wide receiver down the field. (Photo courtesy of CSU Athletics)

The Rams defeated Hawaii in emphatic fashion on Saturday night to begin Mountain West play with a victory. This marks the first time since 2011 that the Rams won their first conference game of the season.

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CSU now turns its attention to a Utah State team that leads the nation in turnovers forced. Following a dominating victory over BYU in which they forced seven turnovers in the game, the Aggies pace all of college football with 16 turnovers on the season.

Meanwhile, The Rams have turned the ball over more frequently than desired. After throwing for five interceptions all of last year, quarterback Nick Stevens has already thrown six in 2017. CSU has also coughed up the ball an additional three times on the ground. Though taking care of the football is necessary every week, Bobo recognizes that doing so against Utah State is that much more important.

“We work ball security every week, so it will be a point of emphasis,” Bobo said. “They create havoc on defense because of the different looks. Sometimes it causes a little bit of confusion at quarterback, and if you’re a step slow throwing the ball, they’re making breaks in the secondary and getting some interceptions…And they’re creating turnovers through fumbles because they’re getting a lot of hats to the ball and playing aggressive.”

Against Hawaii, CSU was lackadaisical with the ball on multiple occasions. Punt returner and wide receiver Olabisi Johnson muffed a punt that he ended up recovering. Wide receiver Detrich Clark nearly fumbled the ball before crossing the goal line on his second touchdown. 

Olabisi Johnson runs the ball
Wide Receiver Olabisi Johnson catches a pass during a week 2 matchup with Colorado. (Jack Starkebaum | Collegian)

While neither miscue ended up costing the Rams, those plays are something Bobo wants his receivers to focus on. In turn, wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted plans to stress the importance of ball security in the week of practice leading up to Utah State.

“Coach Whitted has added to his individual (drills) this week of having more ball security,” Bobo said. “That’s a point of emphasis for them, that we have to protect the ball. We’ve got to protect the ball on the road. Cannot turn the ball over.”

The opening week win gives CSU the ability to control its own destiny in the Mountain West. That is something that cannot be said about the team in years past as they were forced to claw their way back in the conference after slow starts to the conference slate.

However, the fact that they left Hawaii with a victory does not change the game plan for Bobo’s Rams in the slightest. CSU is one of four teams in the Mountain Division who won its first game of MW play. Bobo realizes he cannot let the team’s performance in Week 1 affect their mindset going forward.

“You control your own destiny, but so does Utah State,” Bobo said. “The goal is still the same goal. We don’t need help from anybody. We control our own destiny so our message will be the same…The message doesn’t have to change because of handling our business week 1.”

CSU will look to remain undefeated in conference play as they travel to Logan, Utah on Saturday, Oct. 7. The game will kick off at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised on AT&T Sports Net.

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Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at sports@collegian or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.