CSU rolled by Fresno State passing in season opener

Scott Nies

On Thursday night, the Colorado State University Rams lost to the California State University, Fresno Bulldogs 38-17 in their first football game since Nov. 29, 2019, and, to say the least, it was not pretty.

The biggest question mark surrounding this game was who the Rams’ starting quarterback would be. Todd Centeio, a transfer from Temple University, was named starting quarterback the day of the game, although many expected repetitions to be split between him and redshirt senior Patrick O’Brien. 

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To make matters worse, one of the Rams’ top playmakers, sophomore wide receiver Dante Wright was listed as out right before the game. Fellow sophomore receiver Ty McCulloch also did not play. Eddie Herz, a sports reporter for the Loveland Reporter-Herald, indicated that CSU head coach Steve Addazio stated the two did not play due to COVID-19 contact-tracing precautions in the post-game press conference. 

Fresno State drew first blood, as running back Ronnie Rivers caught a 13-yard pass for a touchdown a little more than halfway through the first quarter. 

Early, Centeio looked good. Ram fans had reason to be excited when he had a 35-yard run to the Fresno State 13-yard line. It was the Rams’ first trip to the red zone this game and a touchdown seemed to be on the horizon. However, Centeio missed an open passing opportunity to his running back, instead targeting redshirt junior wide receiver E.J. Scott which resulted in an incomplete pass. The Rams had to settle for a field goal, bringing the score to 7-3.

Centeio had back-to-back 11-yard runs to finish the first quarter and start the second. The Rams looked to be rolling as senior running back Marcus McElroy Jr. capped off the drive with a 15-yard rushing touchdown, and with the extra point, CSU was now up 10-7.

The Rams would not score for their next eight possessions. Instead, they gave up 31 straight points to the Bulldogs.

“The Rams will look to next Thursday, where they will take on the University of Wyoming in the annual Border War.”

Rivers would go on to have two more rushing touchdowns, while Fresno State receivers Jordan Mims and Jalen Cropper would also pick up a touchdown each.

Despite Addazio’s apparent focus on a revamped CSU’s defense, the result was a mixed bag in their first showing of the year. The Rams’ pass rush was a bright spot as the team had five sacks and nine tackles for loss.
 
However, the Rams’ pass defense was the worst it has been in recent memory. For a team that last year ranked first in the Mountain West for defending the pass, only allowing an average of 181.6 yards a game, it was somewhat of a shock to see Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener shred the CSU secondary for 311 yards and three touchdowns

The Rams had a chance to make it a salvageable two-score game going into the fourth quarter as they looked to score on fourth and goal on the Fresno three-yard line. Junior tight end Trey McBride was wide open on the left side of the end zone but was completely overshot by Centeio, and the Rams turned the ball over on downs. 

Centeio was ultimately replaced after he fumbled the ball in the final quarter for a loss of possession and what would result in a drive leading to the final Fresno State touchdown.

The familiar face of O’Brien was a welcome one, but it was too little too late for the Rams, as their first loss of the year quickly materialized. O’Brien threw together a couple of nice drives by way of 82 yards and a touchdown over seven completions to finish out the game and position himself as a strong challenger for the position going into next week.

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Although, as a whole, the Rams struggled, McBride had himself a record-setting day. The tight end recorded one touchdown and a career-high 130 yards over eight receptions.

The Rams will look to next Thursday, where they will take on the University of Wyoming in the annual Border War as their first home affair of the season. 

Scott Nies can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @scott_nies98.