Defense dominates final scrimmage of fall camp for Colorado State

Eddie Herz

Colorado State’s offense garnered the majority of the spotlight during CSU’s first fall scrimmage on Aug. 4. However, it was a different story in the second and final intersquad exhibition.

The Rams’ defense dominated on all levels during CSU’s scrimmage. Coach Mike Bobo’s “one” offense, who had no trouble moving the ball in the first scrimmage, failed to score a point in the second scrimmage.

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CSU’s defense forced a three-and-out in all three of the first-string offense’s drives during the first half. And besides forcing quick punts, the defense proved its capability of performing in high-stress situations during the second half.

To open the second half, K.J. Carta-Samuels began to drive the ball down field, appearing to put things together for the Rams offensively. However, junior safety Jordan Fogal eventually intercepted Carta-Samuels. 

Carta-Samuels and the ones later put together the best drive offensively of the scrimmage. In a one-minute drill, the Rams’ offense assembled a 10-play drive and landed on the eight yard line with about 11 seconds remaining. CSU’s defense prevailed and broke up a pass on each of the two final plays.

On the final play, Carta-Samuels delivered a throw to sophomore receiver Warren Jackson in the endzone. Jackson just about came down with the grab but freshman cornerback Rashad Ajayi made a play to win the game for the defense.

“It looked like Warren (Jackson) had it then the freshman Ajayi did what he’s really been doing all camp and played the hands and stripped the ball out,” Bobo said. “It might have been a catch for a split second but he knocked it out.”

Ajayi locked down a starting role for the Rams’ week one matchup against Hawaii. Defensive lineman Devin Philipps collected two tackles while also forcing a fumble and earning 0.5 sacks.

The individual performances were solid top to bottom defensively. After all, redshirt sophomore Anthony Giusti even led the Rams with seven tackles.

The defense demonstrated a significant turnaround since the first scrimmage. Bobo mentioned that they immediately addressed their concerns after the first scrimmage and went on to have an impressive week of practice.

“It was really good to see the defense rebound and play with a lot of energy,” Bobo said. “They were really into it. It was exciting to see.”

Though the defense took the cake, it is not as if the offense had nothing to be proud of.

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Collin Hill took the field for the Rams and actually earned a few more reps than expected. Hill was under center for one full drive with the “twos” before also running two redzone drills with the “threes”. Hill’s drive with the twos was five plays and was capped off with a 24-yard touchdown pass to freshman Nikko Hall.

Hill’s two red zone drills each resulted in touchdowns as well. Overall, Hill completed five of six passes and threw for 84 yards.

“It was good to see Collin Hill get some action today,” Bobo said. “I thought he threw the ball nice. He delivered the ball well.”

The defense took precautionary measures when Hill was on the field. Since Hill is still recovering from a torn ACL, no blitzes were ran on the quarterback. Instead, Hill was approached solely with a more conservative base defense.

Bobo was encouraged by what he saw from Hill. Though the defense did not come at Hill with very much pressure, there was still a four-man pass rush. Hill was still somewhat forced to make plays. 

That arises the question of whether or not Hill has an opportunity to be named the starter for week one. But, Bobo stressed that he is still taking his time with Hill.

“I don’t know the answer to Collin (Hill) yet,” Bobo said. “That’s something that we’ll sit down with the doctors and make the right decision.”

Justice McCoy once again demonstrated his ability to lead the Rams in the scrimmage. Though he fumbled a bad snap, McCoy put together a few lengthy drives. The first being a 10-play drive that resulted in a field goal. Later on, McCoy was on the field for an eight-play drive which also ended with a field goal.

Overall, McCoy threw for 103 yards and one touchdown. The redshirt freshman went eight for 17 through the air.

“After last scrimmage Justice (McCoy) has put himself in a position where you can trust him to put him in a game and I think he built on that trust this week,” Bobo said.

Receiving wise, Rams fans should be pleased that Preston Williams participated after missing the first scrimmage with a groin injury. Williams was double-teamed effectively and was unable to find the endzone. However, Williams led CSU in receiving with five catches for 56 yards. This included an 18-yard grab.

In addition, Hall has seemingly kicked things into a new gear after showcasing his talents in the first scrimmage. Besides the 24-yard touchdown, Hall later reeled in a 17-yard catch. The receiver has earned some playing time against Hawaii, at least on special teams.

“Nikko Hall quite frankly has been up and down all of camp,” Bobo said. “He’s struggled with drops, but the last three days hasn’t had a drop. He has knack to make some plays. He’s not the perfect route runner yet but he has made plays in the scrimmage situations. The special teams coaches love him. He’s doing a nice job.”

Collegian reporter Eddie Herz can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on twitter @Eddie_Herz.