CSU’s offense is coming together but still hopes for faster starts

Mack Beaulieu

Slow starts have plagued the Colorado State Rams to start the season, but there is still hope for a more productive starts as the inexperienced team starts to come together.

CU Football players tackle a CSU football player during the Rocky Mountain Showdown on Aug. 31. The Rams lost to the Buffs 45-13. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

The NCAA cited CSU as the most inexperienced team before the season kicked off, and while both sides of the ball have struggled, the offense has been less consistent overall. As a team, the Rams think it is starting to come together and hope that chemistry will help lead to faster starts and a more balanced offense.

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“Anytime you get a chance to get a quick start, it gives you a little bit of momentum,” Coach Mike Bobo said. “Anytime you can start fast it might put a little doubt in your opponent’s mind of what’s going on.”

The Rams have scored only 26 of their 81 points this year in the opening half. Only three of those second-half points came against University of Colorado, but the Showdown is not a mulligan in terms of getting the offense where it needs to be.

“We struggled with (communication) against CU,” running back Izzy Matthews said. “None of us were on the same page, but this last game we were definitely able to bring ourselves together and play more as a unit.”

The CU game exemplifies the first-half struggles CSU has had. The Rams rushed only 2.6 yards per carry. K.J. Carta-Samuels targeted only four receivers in the first half, and CSU barely used their running backs in the passing game. The performance is identical to the first half against Arkansas where the run was nonexistent and only three receivers were targeted more than once.

In the second half against Arkansas, Carta-Samuels targeted nine receivers, targeting five of them multiple times and four members of the backfield had receptions. Tight end Cameron Butler had most of his 106 yards in the second half of the game against Arkansas. 

“As an offense, sometimes we get in our own way,” Butler said. “As you saw Saturday night though, we kind of realize what we’re doing, you can really tell by the scoreboard. We start executing, guys get hot and things just connect.”

Having that variation and having the running backs involved is huge. The running game still struggled, but the Arkansas defense had a lot more options to cover. The slow starts could be due to an inexperienced quarterback that is often under pressure defaulting to his top receivers early on in games.

“Sometimes we’ve self destructed and not made the play that could’ve been the fast start in the ballgame,” Bobo said. “Some of that’s youth and some of that’s a new quarterback that’s playing for his first time. A lot of factors are in that.”

At least a couple of the factors in that slow start, aside from inexperience on Carta-Samuels part, is the relatively ineffective play of the offensive line and running backs over the first couple of weeks.

“(The running game has) been pretty nonexistent,” Matthews said. “It’s definitely something that can be there. We have the talent at running back, we have the talent on the front line and it’s just about executing early so we don’t get in those holes.”

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Matthews said Carta-Samuels needs be better protected, which was on him and the offensive line. Matthews said with a clear pocket, one can only imagine how effective the Rams’ offense could be. For Butler’s part, he thinks the Rams are starting to get there. 

“We made a lot of crucial mistakes against Colorado and we tried to fix that,” Butler said. “I feel like we did a little bit as far as up front. We just got to continue to have that confidence and play together as a whole collective unit and nothing but success can happen after that.”

The Rams next opportunity comes on the road in Florida, a venue that will make the task difficult to accomplish. 

Collegian reporter Mack Beaulieu can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Macknz_James.