Can CSU football contain a dangerous Fresno run-game?

Jack Taylor

Unfortunately for Colorado State University football fans, the scheduled season opener at home against the University of New Mexico was canceled due to health concerns. After finishing the 2019 season 4-8 and not receiving bowl game eligibility, CSU called it quits for previous head coach Mike Bobo.

New head coach Steve Addazio, after an extended off-season, was finally going to showcase his new team. Addazio cleaned house, installing a new offensive and defensive playbook that Rams fans were eager to see.


The silver lining for CSU football is their new upcoming season opener against California State University, Fresno in California on Oct. 29. A team who fared worse than the Rams by a thin margin, also ending the 2019 calendar year 4-8 overall but 2-6 in conference play. This losing trend has carried over to the new season for Fresno, falling to the University of Hawaii 34-19 this past Saturday.

“Even without a true test of competition, this re-engineered CSU football team is favored to come away with a win.”

To open the season with a win, CSU football must plan accordingly for a Fresno team that operates on a run-first scheme. Last season, the Rams were the 9th ranked defense against the run in the Mountain West, allowing an average of 195.8 rushing yards per game. This will be a problem for the Rams because starting Fresno running back Ronnie Rivers was 52 yards short of a 1,000 yard rushing season in 2019.

Now a senior, Rivers had an extended offseason. Rivers’ game is based on speed and agility, cutting multiple times before breaking through the second level. The extra gain in size will slow Rivers down but will give him an increase in power.

Being named to the Paul Hornung Award watchlist, an acknowledgment for football players who add versatility to their team, and the Doak Walker Award watchlist, an award given to the best college running back, Rivers has an extra boost of confidence coming into the season. He will be a force to not be reckoned with.

This Fresno State matchup will be won with defense. Not only will CSU have to plan for a ground-and-pound offensive scheme of Fresno, but they must also capitalize on the Fresno passing game. In their opening season loss to Hawaii, Fresno quarterback Jake Haener threw 3 interceptions. Haener will not have an easier game against CSU — last season the Rams ranked first in pass defense, only allowing 181.6 passing yards per game.

Chuck Heater, the Rams’ defensive coordinator, will lean heavily on senior Logan Stewart, who finished 21st in interceptions last season, and Keevan Bailey, who ranked 25th in passes defended last year. Both of these defensive backs showed up big for the CSU defense last season and must show up again against a struggling quarterback, Haener if the Rams want to come away with a win.

The CSU Rams have conquered the Fresno State Bulldogs in their past three matchups. Rams fans will wait to see on Oct. 29 if Addazio and the re-invented CSU football team has the grit and proper defensive game plan to start the season with a win away from home.

Jack Taylor can be reached at or on Twitter @j_taylr.