Three keys to offensive success for the Rams against San Jose State

Eddie Herz

The Colorado State Rams upcoming matchup with San Jose State University fully commences Mountain West play for the team and poses the first of seven-consecutive conference matchups for Coach Mike Bobo’s squad.

A 1-4 start to the season is indicative of several problems on the season for the Rams.

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The defensive woes may not be solved in 2018. But, offensively, CSU is capable of providing firepower reminiscent of recent seasons. Though glimpses of a fully-functioning offense have been seen this season, the consistency has lacked. The Rams have failed to eclipse 19 points in three of the team’s five games.

Colorado State players are far from satisfied with what they have achieved offensively through nearly the first half of the season.

“At the end of the day you look at our roster, you look at what we have and we have the tools,” senior running back Izzy Matthews said. “We have everything that we need. It’s about coming together, it’s about putting it together, and it’s about becoming the team we know we can be.”

Putting the difficulty of CSU’s first five opponents into consideration, the Rams should be well-positioned to succeed against the Spartans’ struggling defense this week.

Let’s take a look at the key factors the Rams’ offense needs to capitalize on. 

Burn SJSU Through the Air

Though CSU’s quarterback situation has become unclear throughout the season, it has not negatively impacted the Rams’ wide receiver core, a unit that has performed consistently. 

Senior wide receiver Olabisi Johnson came through against Illinois State University by collecting 107 yards, notching his second triple-digit performance this season.

The unit’s overall performance was surprisingly quiet when you take last season’s track record into account. Junior wide receiver Preston Williams accumulated only 14 yards after gathering at least 100 in three of CSU’s previous four games.

On Saturday, The Rams’ wide receivers are presented with the chance to feast on SJSU’s ineffective secondary.

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The winless Spartans have allowed an average of 379 yards through the air per game this season, 128th out of 130 FBS teams. 

“Every game is an opportunity for our receiving core and it was definitely nice to have that bye week to work on some things,” Johnson said.

Progression in the Offensive Front Five

The limitations of CSU’s offense this season circle back to the offensive line.

After losing a number of key linemen from last season, regression was expected from the less-experienced unit. But, Bobo wasn’t anticipating struggles to this extent from the offensive line.

The problems on the line have stripped the Rams from establishing the run in each and every one of their five games so far.

Finally putting forth an effective performance would boost the confidence of the whole team. This is especially the case for Matthews who has struggled to produce this season.

Matthews is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry on 61 attempts after carrying the ball for 4.6 yards per carry last season. It has been a frustrating campaign for a player who was planning on picking up where 1,399-yard rusher Dalyn Dawkins left off.

Matthews has liked what he has seen from the front five lately though.

“Coaches were hard on (the offensive line) during the bye week and they handled it very well,” Matthews said. “They all attacked the week and every single practice. I think they’ve grown exponentially as far as what we are doing. I’m excited to see what they do on Saturday.”

SJSU’s run defense ranks 50th in the FBS, a lone bright spot in what has been an ongoing defensive struggle for the past few seasons.

Use Bye Week as an Advantage

Though more of a mental element than a physical one, it is very important for CSU to come out of its bye week feeling like a better team.

The bye week gave the Rams an extended period of time to work out kinks, a vital ability for a team that has lost four of five games to begin the season.

Responding to the bye week with a win allows CSU to separate the season into two chapters and put the forgettable 1-4 start in the past. After all, the Rams play only MW opponents the rest of the year. With wins in the next seven games, the Rams would still have the opportunity to compete for the conference title.

Bobo credits his team for staying enthusiastic and confident amongst the turmoil, giving reason to believe that the Rams may be able to respond in a resurgent manner following the bye.

“When you keep losing you hope they still have belief,” Bobo said. “I feel good about where they think…we’ve played some good teams. But, I don’t think they’ve lost their confidence because (of being) 1-4. There is some value from playing those guys, of having to strain and having to play in tough games and getting knocked around.”

The Rams’ matchup against the Spartans will take place Sept. 6 at Citizens Equity First Credit Union Stadium.

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