Zahlmann: The more things change for CSU, the more they stay the same

Luke Zahlmann

Same story, different season for Colorado State football.

The Rams possessed a defense that ranked in the bottom third for rushing and passing allowed last season, and despite the turnover of both coaching and personnel, the team looked the same in their game against Hawaii Aug. 25. The Rams allowed 279 total yards in the first half alone, a mark that was accounted for mainly by quarterback Cole McDonald of the Rainbow Warriors (232).

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In their first game under new defensive coordinator John Jancek, the Rams were unable to impede McDonald in his first start at the collegiate level. Multiple chunk plays in the air, as well as multiple well-executed shovel passes gutted the Rams early and often in the contest.

A microcosm of the first half, the Rams allowed Hawaii to drive 46 yards in under two minutes to extend their lead to 16 going into the half. The drive was clinched on a six-yard quarterback run to the right side in which McDonald went untouched, raising his hands in celebration well before the end zone.

A Heisman pose would have been appropriate for the redshirt sophomore as the Rams defense enabled the newcomer to have his way without reproach.

“We got no pressure on the quarterback at all,” coach Mike Bobo said. “They never really were out of rhythm all night, I don’t think we got em’ in any kind of lost-yardage plays.”

The team appeared to be unprepared for the attack put forth by the visitors throughout much of the opening half and the contest as a whole. Multiple missed assignments, including several wide receivers in the depths of their zone, left the Rams grasping for answers against a team that put up a mere 22.8 points a game last season, albeit with a far more experienced signal caller.

On top of the unpreparedness, the Rams added undisciplined to their resumé with 12 penalties for a total of 120 yards.

McDonald finished the game with 514 total yards and five total touchdowns. The explosion came without the aid of a single receiver that had reached the 1,000-yard plateau in their career. The Warriors as a whole put up over 600 yards of total offense with 43 points to show for it. They finished seven for seven in the red zone and two for two on fourth down to boot.

Hawaii was able to mitigate the home-field advantage as well as the recorded attendance of 31,007 for the opening day matchup as they turned to crickets midway through the third quarter as the crowd had already seen enough.

Despite a late comeback effort courtesy of newly-minted starting quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels who threw for a Rams single-game record 537 yards, the Rams secondary continued making mistakes. The backs allowed multiple receivers to trot down the field without resistance while the safeties, once thought to be a strength that would help hide the lack of cornerback depth, were unable to mitigate the bleeding.

“We came in too cocky as a defense,” safety Jordan Fogal said. “We haven’t proven anything. It’s been all talk.”

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Reminders pasted on the wall and locker rooms of the defensive players through the offseason went unheeded. A travesty that held the team back from truly competing last year reared its ugly head once again.

Though the season is young for the Rams, the tale is already written if significant improvement from the defense does not occur, the results from last season can be copy and pasted. 

Collegian Sports Director Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.