Rams’ linemen have the chance to show improvement against Arkansas

Mack Beaulieu

Neither side of the ball has been pretty for Rams’ linemen this year, especially in regards to the running game. This weekend’s game against Arkansas will give them each a chance to prove how capable they can be.

On offense, Colorado State’s line will finally be working with a full complement of running backs after ranking near the bottom of the FCS in rushing yards per game through the season’s first two games. Defensively, if the line can hold up against what looks like a weak Arkansas running game, then their success containing the more dynamic Razorbacks’ passing game should increase.

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So far, through two games, CSU’s offense ranks 103rd in the country in rushing yards per game. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that they have been depleted at running back, with a power back leading the way in Izzy Matthews. While Marcus McElroy has shown flashes of big-play ability, he is more of a bruiser as well at 5’11 and 220 pounds.

This week the Rams will get both Rashaad Boddie and Marvin Kinsey back. 

Boddie gives the Rams a more explosive back who averaged almost six yards per carry as the Rams’ third-string back last year. Kinsey had a fantastic freshman year with the Rams in 2016, leading the Mountain West in touchdowns by a freshman running back. He fell back a bit last year, but still averaged well over five yards per carry and should get a chance to take on a bigger role with the running game struggling.

None of that will matter though if the Rams cannot block better as the returning running backs may be more elusive than McElroy or Matthews, but they cannot be depended on to escape on every play. Matthews and McElroy went down on a number of plays last week where a defender went unblocked. 

izzy matthews
Senior RB Izzy Matthews warms up before the spring game where the CSU offense takes on the CSU defense. (Joe Oakman | Collegian)

It is hard to analyze how good the Razorbacks’ rushing defense really is this year as they allowed only 3.1 yards per rush in week one, but that was against Eastern Illinois University. The Rams have proven to have an effective running game in recent years, partly because of a variety of runners. If the line can help get them free long enough to average anywhere near the five yards per carry that Arkansas allowed last year, it should allow the entire offense to breathe a easier.

The same type of thinking goes for the defensive line. They are even worse than the offense statistically, allowing the 109th most yards per game in the FBS. On the other side, the Razorbacks carried the ball for a paltry 2.16 yards per carry, but at least one Arkansas running back claimed they were merely missing holes against Eastern Illinois.

The lack of a back does not mean the Rams can take anyone lightly, as they have basically been the defensive equivalent of Arkansas’ week one rushing performance as they are allowing six yards per carry. So far the Rams line has not done anything to suggest that those holes will not be there.

Still, holding the Razorbacks in any sort of check will be big in the team’s effort versus Arkansas. If the Razorbacks cannot get it going on the ground, that leaves the pressure on their passing game. It could lead to less Arkansas points or a shoot-out, either of which would mean a more attainable win for CSU.

This game will not necessarily be as much about winning as it is about getting better for the Rams. Coach Mike Bobo spoke at length this week about having to come together to maximize each other’s skills. That usually starts at the line of scrimmage and this game should give the Rams a great chance to improve and build confidence in that area.

Mack Beaulieu is a sports reporter for the Collegian and can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Macknz_James

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