First half takeaways for CSU’s homecoming matchup against New Mexico

Eddie Herz

The Colorado State Rams hosted the New Mexico Lobos for its annual homecoming game on Saturday after earning its second win of the season over San Jose State University last weekend. In front of a nearly sold-out crowd, CSU began the game firing on all cylinders and put together its quickest scoring drive of the season.

Defensive Dominance

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The Rams were able to find the end zone a little over a minute into the game, despite kicking off to begin the game. The host’s defense can be given credit for the immediate points. 

Redshirt senior defensive end Caleb Smith punched the ball free from UNM running back Tyrone Owens on the second play from scrimmage. Fellow redshirt senior Tre Thomas recovered the ball at the UNM 12-yard line.

CSU’s defensive unit fed off its immediate success from then on.

The hosts forced a three-and-out on the next drive before inducing a key incompletion on third down with UNM threatening. The Lobos then punted from the Rams’ 43-yard line. 

Early in the second quarter, the Rams stood tall with its back to the endzone by holding UNM on fourth and two from CSU’s five-yard line. That was one of two goal line stands for the Rams during the first two quarters.

With under three minutes remaining in the half and CSU leading 14-0, UNM capitalized on the Rams’ lone defensive lapse in the half by finding a wide open receiver for a 52-yard gain. But, CSU recovered, forcing a field goal from the 12-yard line, giving the Lobos their only points of the half. 

CSU did not allow a point in the first quarter and held UNM under 80 total yards.

Junior quarterback Sheriron Jones was kept in check after exploding for 250 yards through the air and four touchdowns last week against UNLV, throwing for only 84 yards and zero touchdowns. 

Living and Dying with Preston Williams

As he has often this season, redshirt senior quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels instantly relied on and looked for redshirt junior wide receiver Preston Williams often.

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The two connected for a five-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game.

Williams has been lethal this season and has taken advantage of his high volume of targets. But, a few drives later, the Tennessee transfer made a rare miscue.

The receiver had his defender beat by about four steps on a deep route down the middle of the field. Carta-Samuels looked for Williams and hit him in stride for what should have been a near-60-yard touchdown. 

But, Williams mishandled the ball and dropped it. The Rams punted a few plays later and missed an opportunity to build an early two-score lead.

Williams later recovered to make the most of his ensuing targets. The wideout led CSU with six receptions and 52 yards in the opening half.

Abiding by K.J. Carta-Samuels

Though the Rams started off hot, there was not very much offensive progression for the rest of the first quarter.

Carta-Samuels was accurate as he completed eight of his first 11 passes, but the Rams failed to move the ball. Nevertheless, Bobo stuck with Carta-Samuels, neglecting to switch signal callers. 

The decision to not give sophomore Collin Hill any reps in the first half ended up paying off. CSU found the endzone again late in the second quarter after a 16 play, 96-yard drive, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by the quarterback. 

The 16-play, 96-yard scoring drive, which took 7:31 off the clock was the Rams’ longest scoring drive of the season.

Overall, Carta-Samuels went 13-20 through the air in the first half and threw for 140 yards and a touchdown.

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