Zahlmann: CSU football needs 3 things to go their way for the Bronze Boot

Luke Zahlmann

Colorado State and the University of Wyoming have met 109 times in the two programs’ history. With the 110th meeting set for Oct. 26 under the lights, the Bronze Boot is on the line once again.

Both programs have suffered from an inept season thus far, residing far from the top of the Mountain West standing’s apex.

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Here’s are three keys for the Rams to end the Cowboys current two-game winning streak:

Get over the Hill on offense

At his weekly press conference, Coach Mike Bobo announced that backup quarterback, redshirt sophomore Collin Hill will be taking the reigns for the Rams’ offense. The decision was made after the signal caller, coming off of two torn ACL’s, had a nearly flawless fourth quarter in the team’s matchup against Boise State University.

Despite playing in six of the team’s eight games, Hill has yet to start a game for the Rams, despite being named a team captain before the year.

Wide Receiver Preston Williams runs upfield after making a catch against the Hawaii State Warriors in the first quarter of play at Canvas Stadium on August 25, 2018 in Fort Collins, CO. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

In their last three games following a quarterback competition where Hill failed to supplanted redshirt senior K.J. Carta-Samuels, the offense has been stagnant. Outside of a matchup against conference laughingstock San Jose State University, the unit has put up 48 points.

The total is discounted when the consideration of garbage time is added to the BSU points. 

Taking away meaningless points, the Rams offense has scored roughly 27 points, only 13.5 per game.

Now the starter, Hill is responsible for righting an offense that has been inconsistent throughout the year. The weapons are there in senior running back Izzy Matthews, senior wideout Olabisi Johnson and redshirt junior receiver Preston Williams.

If Hill continues the struggles that the Rams have endured, the team is unlikely to overcome the Cowboys. A game of 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns would likely do the job for the team, with turnovers being the backbreaker.

Limit the rushing attack of the Cowboys

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After the departure of their star quarterback Josh Allen to the NFL Draft, the Cowboys offense has struggled.

New starter under center, freshman Tyler Vander Waal was expected to be the cure but has largely failed. Through eight games, Vander Waal has only accrued 1,044 yards and only three touchdowns. Now supplanted by freshman Sean Chambers, the passing attack figures to be improved, but still lackluster. 

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Linebacker Josh Watson (55) brings down an Air Force running back during the first half of Saturday’s contest with Air Force. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

The real weapon of the Cowboys’ anemic offense is their running game, led by senior Nico Evans. The tailback has rushed for almost as many yards as Vander Waal threw for in his starts (822).

Outside of the running game that averages 150.1 yards per game, the offense averages only 130 additional yards.

In their wins this year over New Mexico State University and Wofford University, the Cowboys averaged 200.5 yards on the ground.

The Cowboys’ offense stands to be the cure to the defensive woes of the Rams, as long as they keep the one successful facet of their opponent under control.

Win the turnover battle

On the year, the Rams have a mere nine turnover through their first eight games. That is not great.

The lack of turnovers has been largely due to their ineffectiveness rushing the passer. With only 14 sacks, under two per game, the Rams’ pass rush has limited their ability to garner turnovers.

The deficiency has led to the Rams’ defense to allow 37.75 points per game with 449.5 yards alongside. Even when their offense has been able to muster up success, the Rams have been unable to provide support, losing every game against teams over .500. 

Safety Jordan Fogal celebrates an interception during the first quarter of play of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl against Marshall on Dec. 16. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

Outside of their matchups against bottom-of-the-conference UNM and SJSU, the Rams have allowed 43.5 points per game, nearly a touchdown more than their season average. In those games, the defense has forced only six turnovers, turning the ball over 12 times themselves.

If the Rams are able to force turnovers on the Cowboys’ offense that has turned the ball over less than once per game, their chances of winning gain an incremental advantage.

Turning the ball over and giving the ball to the Cowboys on a short field, without forcing the visitors to turn it over themselves will make winning nearly impossible for the Rams.

Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.