Saturday provides CSU’s defense with an opportunity to progress

Eddie Herz

Defensive progression and consistency have been tough to come by for the 2018 Colorado State Rams.

Fans saw a glimpse of a confident Rams’ defense that helped factor into a marquee victory over the University of Arkansas Sept. 8. However, CSU’s defense has failed to build upon what was its lone effective defensive performance this season.

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The University of Florida put up 48 points on the Rams in the following week, with the team allowing 35 points to FCS-opponent Illinois State University the week after that. 

This coming Saturday, the Rams travel to face the winless San Jose State University Spartans. 

Squaring up with the Spartans provides CSU’s defense with the most significant confidence-building opportunity of the season.

SJSU has averaged 25.3 points per game en route to an 0-4 start to the season which began with a defeat at the hands of FCS-opponent University of California, Davis in front of its home crowd. SJSU’s scoring offense ranks 95th out of 130 FBS teams.

Similar to the Rams, running the ball has been a major area of concern within the Spartans’ sputtering offense, though their struggles have been more pronounced. The Spartans rank dead last in the FBS with 54.5 rushing yards per game.

Though there are many examples, SJSU’s rushing attack and its difficulties were epitomized in a 31-0 loss to Washington State University. The Spartans collected a total of nine rushing yards in the defeat.

As far as CSU’s morale goes, it is important for the Rams’ defense to contain the SJSU rushing attack. 

Even though it has not translated to any victories, SJSU’s offensive strong suit comes via passing the ball. The Spartans rank 23rd in the FBS with an average of 295.8 passing yards per game.

The Rams’ secondary is aware of how crucial limiting the Spartans through the air will be to their overall prosperity on Saturday.

“We just have to stick to our game,” junior cornerback Anthony Hawkins said. “As defensive backs we know we have to protect over the top this week. We know that they put the ball in the air the majority of the time. We just plan on containing them and keeping everything in front of us.”

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If statistics indicate anything, it is that CSU should not have any trouble putting together an all-around, potent defensive display.

But, Rams’ defenders are treating the Spartans as they treat any opponent: with respect.

“I’m going to go out there and play like I’m playing against anyone else,” sophomore defensive end Emmanuel Jones said. “Our team is just going to have to buckle down and do the job.”

After a 1-4 start, CSU’s bye week came at a convenient time. The week off gave the Rams extended time to work on key areas of improvement.

“We got to work on a lot of the basics and getting back to what we know,” redshirt senior linebacker Tre Thomas said. “At the same time learning more concepts and getting what we need to continue the season.”

The upcoming matchup against SJSU Sept. 6 is the first of seven-consecutive Mountain West contests for CSU, with the final conference matchup against the Air Force Academy on Thanksgiving concluding their season.

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