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Scout team pivotal in CSU’s preparation for New Mexico’s option offense

Guys running out
The Colorado State football team runs out of the tunnel at the beginning of the Rams 44-42 Homecoming win over Nevada. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

After surviving an unlikely test from Nevada on Saturday, the Colorado State football team turns its attention to an option offense in New Mexico.

The Lobos are one of two teams in the Mountain West to utilize the unique style of offense. For CSU, that means implementing a different scheme on defense to prepare for the nuances of the offense.

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Having played against New Mexico and similar option-style offense Air Force for the last two years, head coach Mike Bobo is aware of the intricacies the option presents.

“When you play an option team, it’s assignment,” Bobo said. “You’ve got to be worried about the dive back, you’ve got to worry about the quarterback, you’ve got to worry about the pitch back, and then you’ve got assignments when they like to throw the ball over your head. It’s not keying on trying to stop one guy.”

This week in particular, the scout team will be more crucial than usual. The Rams have not faced an option offense since last year’s game against New Mexico in which they surrendered 285 yards rushing. Though that was certainly an uptick from the 485 yards they allowed on the ground against Air Force’s option the week prior, there is still room for improvement.

Enter scout team. In addition to preparing for the opponent, these players prepare as the opponent. In doing so, active players will better understand what to expect come Friday in Albuquerque.

Freshman quarterback Justice McCoy may be the most pivotal part of that preparation. Rated as the No. 22 dual-threat quarterback of the 2017 class by 247Sports, McCoy has the rushing ability to prepare the defense for the option.

“You’re never going to be able to effectively do exactly what they do as fast as they do, but we’re hoping we can get a really good look at that,” Bobo said. “Justice McCoy will play quarterback for (the scout team), we’ve got enough scholarship backs that will rotate down there that will hopefully give us some good looks.”

As if preparing for the option isn’t hard enough, the Rams will be forced to do so on a short week of practice. With the game being held Friday night, both teams will have one less day of preparation.

That presents another conundrum for the Rams in the way they chose to prepare. Rather than a normal routine in which the team does not have a physical practice until Tuesday, that will come one day earlier, limiting the time players have to heal their bodies from a game that ended Sunday morning.  

“We’ve got to be smart (in practice) with it,” Bobo said. “But at the same time, we’ve got to line up and go against their looks offensively and defensively at a fast tempo.”

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During the victory over Nevada, CSU was constantly beaten on long, explosive plays through the air. Those happened due to a lack of discipline and technique, Bobo said.

Though New Mexico is less likely to beat the Rams through the air, they are still plenty capable of chunk rushing plays. It’s an area of focus Bobo emphasized with his team on Sunday.

“I told our team yesterday we’ve got to be more disciplined in our technique,” Bobo said. “Last week it was in the passing game and some of our coverages. This week it’s going to be in the run-game. It’s still about discipline…Put your eyes in the right spot.”

The Rams will be telecast on ESPN2 for the second week in a row. Kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. at Dreamstyle Stadium.

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

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