Herz: Despite recording-setting performance, Carta-Samuels’ job is unsafe

Eddie Herz

Defeating Hawaii last week would have done much more for the Colorado State Rams than reverse a zero in the win column.

Earning a season-opening victory was obviously the most important thing for CSU last week.

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But it cannot go unnoticed that defeating the Rainbow Warriors last week would have completely changed the Rams’ current quarterback situation.

As anyone following CSU football knows, the starting job is graduate transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels’ to lose. Collin Hill will be cleared to play seemingly any day now and it definitely does not send a good message to Carta-Samuels, as far as his job concerns, that Hill is listed as a captain.

The moniker basically says that CSU is Hill’s team. Hill obviously won’t just immediately overtake Carta-Samuels once he is healthy. But, there will be a much shorter leash than necessary on Carta-Samuels once Hill is cleared.

Hill throws football
Colorado State Quarterback Collin Hill takes part in drills during Spring Practice on March 30. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

Carta-Samuels was aware of Hill’s potential when he transferred here though. Picking to come to Fort Collins from Washington was a bit of a risk considering this is Carta-Samuels’ final shot at being a consistent starter.

There is no denying that Hill has earned all of the respect he’s been given for grinding through multiple injuries since 2016. But, Carta-Samuels came to CSU to play. His audition to start the season should have solidified his role for the time being and given him some well-deserved room for error.

After all, the graduate transfer set the Colorado State single-game passing record in his first ever game as a Ram. It really doesn’t get better than that. In fact, besides the one interception, there essentially is not a way Carta-Samuels could have done more.

Colorado State Quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels makes a deep pass from the pocket during the fourth quarter of play against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. The Rams fell to the Warriors 43-34 at Canvas Stadium on August 25, 2018 in Fort Collins, CO. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

Astonishingly, Carta-Samuels threw four of his five touchdowns and 422 of his 537 passing yards in the second half, when it mattered most. He almost accomplished what would have arguably been the greatest comeback in program history. The reason the team failed was not his fault. CSU’s baffled defense is to blame there.

Carta-Samuels’ performance is being completely overshadowed by the fact that the Rams lost to a team in rebuild mode coming off of a 3-9 season. CSU also entered the game as 17-point favorites, making it a monumental upset.

Imagine if CSU’s defense was somewhat effective and the Rams came out on top like they should have. Every headline would be pointing to Carta-Samuels’ brilliant debut. Instead, the biggest storylines highlight the struggling state of Rams’ football.

If Hawaii missed the field goal attempt while leading 40-34 and then Carta-Samuels led the Rams on a game-winning drive, the signal caller would be in the spotlight and his job would be significantly safer.

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I am not saying Carta-Samuels would still be the starter even if he went out and consistently performed horribly from here on. But, Carta-Samuels would be given the benefit of the doubt much more than he will be now.

The sentiment is especially true if CSU keeps losing. The fans will demand change and pressure will be put on Bobo to make an attempt at fixing things.

At the end of the day, the better quarterback is the one who should play. I am sure Hill will get his shot sooner or later. It is just questionable that Carta-Samuels probably still feels like he has to prove himself after putting together the best performance under center in the 125-year program history.

K.J. Carta-Samuels high fives Collin Hill in between drills at practice on August 2. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

Looking at the quarterbacks whom Carta-Samuels passed on the CSU single-game passing list gives a sense of the unlikely situation the quarterback is in. All of which were consistent starters.

Carta-Samuels broke Scooter Molander’s previous record of 449 passing yards in a game, which was coincidentally set against Hawaii as well. Molander did so in the 1987 season, a season in which he also came to CSU as a transfer. Molander started 23 games in two seasons for the Rams.

Two of the guys close behind Carta-Samuels on the list are Garrett Grayson and Nick Stevens. And we all know that they were constant starters as well.

It’s odd to say that a loss can tarnish a prestigious individual record. Though Carta-Samuels will be remembered for what he did, he won’t be awarded appropriately.

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