Carta-Samuels poised for the limelight after backup career with Washington

Mack Beaulieu

K.J. Carta Samuels came into his first Colorado State season breaking records. Now, the graduate transfer will try and prove that four years in a power-5 program and one start has prepared him for the Rocky Mountain Showdown.

Of course, Carta-Samuels first start was not all sunshine. The Rams took an unexpected loss at home to the University of Hawaii, but there’s hope to be found in the fact that Carta-Samuels came out in the second half and responded like a pumped-up veteran.

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“He’s a grad transfer,” coach Mike Bobo said.  “I think he’s mature, I think he understands big-time college atmosphere. He wasn’t the starter at Washington, but heres a guy who’s been in big-time college environments. He’s been in the national championship playoffs… there’s something about being a part of, any type of, that big-time atmosphere that he understands.”

In the first half of the Aug. 25 game against Hawaii, his experience level was unclear to Rams’ fans. After driving down the field on their first possession, with the exception of a missed field goal, the Rams did not threaten again in the first half.

“It was awesome to start out quick,” Carta-Samuels said. “I wish we would’ve sustained, obviously, and kept that going each drive, but the second drive we hit some adversity with falling down and throwing a pick and stuff, but that happens in the game of football.”

In the second half, it was a much different story. Carta-Samuels was visibly fired up from the sidelines. It was the first real indication of confidence that Rams’ fans were able to witness from the quarterback, but Carta-Samuels had that confidence even after a lousy first half.

After halftime, the Rams came out and did to the Hawaii defense what everyone had expected them to do. Preston Williams, Olabisi Johnson, and the rest of the receiving core came up huge to help take off the impending pressure of being blown out in week one.

K.J. Carta -Samuels makes a run during a drill at practice on August 2. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

 

“He came in with a great mentality in that second half,” Johnson said. “He was fired up and I think guys really fed off of him. Sometimes you don’t see that from a quarterback, but he was getting emotional. In the first game and everything, so it was good to see.”

The second half culminated in Carta-Samuels setting the all-time single-game record for passing yards in school history (537). Along with the yardage, he accounted for five touchdowns and 25 yards rushing. 

Carta-Samuels seemed pleased with his second-half performance, but he still sees room for growth.

“(The) biggest thing I learned…,” Carta Samuels said. “We have playmakers, we can score quickly and we can score fast, which is awesome, but also sometimes that can be tough on the defense too… It’s awesome to have that ability to score whenever we want, but we also need to be consistent.”

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While Carta-Samuels is saying all the right things and certainly showed resilience in that first game, there’s no doubt that finally getting a start under his belt is extra reassurance for Bobo.

“It would worry me if he was starting this game without having a start,” Bobo said. “As far as playing in the showdown, there’s going to be pressure because you’re the quarterback, but you don’t need to put added pressure on yourself because of X number of people, and the fans, or because it’s this. At the end of the day, it’s ‘I gotta go play and I gotta go execute.’”

Carta Samuels isn’t sure if nerves played a role in the first half against Hawaii, as the Rams offense was kept off the field by long Hawaii drives, but either way, he expects to be calmer against the University of Colorado.

Carta-Samuels is speaking and acting like a veteran quarterback this week, but he doesn’t see a lack of excitement in his future. As Johnson alluded to, that could be a good thing.

“I think I’ll be a little bit calmer,” Carta Samuels said. “I can’t really tell if it’s nerve or excitement, you know? You’re just excited about the experience. I used to feel pretty nervous when I was younger, but I think with age and time it’s more excitement now…. I think if you don’t feel that, there might be something wrong with you.”

The Rams will seek to reverse course under the tutelage of Carta-Samuels under the lights in Denver, kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday. 

Mackenzie Beaulieu is a reporter for the collegian who can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on twitter @Macknz_James