CSU football aims for first consecutive wins of season

Jeremiah Janzen

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(Graphic Illustration by Alyson Serio | The Collegian)

The Colorado State Rams (2-3 overall, 1-0 Mountain West Conference) will look for their first back-to-back win of the season Oct. 16, as they take their undefeated conference record on the road against the University of New Mexico Lobos (2-4, 0-2).

These teams last met in 2019, as their 2020 matchup was canceled due to COVID-19 protocol. Colorado State has won the last 10 matchups against New Mexico.

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The Rams are coming off of a home win against the reigning MWC champion San Jose State University and have won two of their last three games. The Lobos will look to right the ship as they enter the contest on a four-game losing skid.

Obviously this week we’ll have a great challenge schematically because they come at you with a lot of different fronts and pressures. … I think when you can stop penetration and knock them back on any level, you can get your run game started, and that’s what we have every intention of doing.” -Steve Addazio, head coach

Key factors

To say that the Lobos have struggled lately on offense would be putting it lightly. Over the last four games, the Lobos have been outscored by a total of 123-30. In that span, transfer quarterback Terry Wilson has thrown four interceptions (one in each game) while only passing for one touchdown. His average QBR over that stretch is just 21.4. Despite the poor passing numbers, Wilson is not entirely to blame. In their four losses this season, the New Mexico offensive line has allowed 13 total sacks.

Unfortunately for New Mexico, Colorado State has been among the nation’s best in pressuring the opposing quarterback. The Rams enter Saturday’s contest ranked 38th in the nation for sacks and 35th in total defense. Lineman Scott Patchan has recorded a sack in three consecutive games while the Rams defense as a whole has recorded 16 sacks on the year. Look for Patchan and company to further build on their sack totals against a New Mexico team that has struggled to protect their quarterback.

One positive note for the Lobos would be running back Aaron Dumas, who averaged seven yards per carry for the Lobos in their last game. Keeping things close early on would give the Lobos a chance to establish the run game and give their tailbacks a more significant workload. Ultimately, possessing the ball and not falling behind early will take some of the weight off of Wilson’s shoulders.

However, this New Mexico defense has a propensity for giving up big leads early on in their contests, often resulting in their offense playing “catch up” and becoming one-dimensional through the air. Establishing the run will come as no easy task for the Lobos, as the Rams defense is allowing only an average of 104.8 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses.

On the other hand, Colorado State has relied on their running game to carry the offense all throughout the season. The Rams average 170.6 yards on the ground per game, and for head coach Steve Addazio, continuing this success starts with the offensive line.

“You want to be an aggressive offensive line, not a reactive offensive line,” Addazio said in an Oct. 11 press conference. “I think we’re pretty good in protection right now, we’ve learned how to flip our protections and adjust our protections. Obviously this week we’ll have a great challenge schematically because they come at you with a lot of different fronts and pressures. … I think when you can stop penetration and knock them back on any level, you can get your run game started, and that’s what we have every intention of doing.”

While David Bailey’s injury status remains unclear, backup running backs A’Jon Vivens and Jaylen Thomas have proved more than capable of filling in for Bailey. Vivens played the workhorse last weekend against San Jose State, carrying the ball a whopping 31 times for 114 yards. Thomas contributed with 13 carries and 62 yards of his own while also finding the end zone once. Neither effort was lost on Addazio, who praised both of his running backs for their performances last weekend.

“(Vivens) played explosive and fast, and Jaylen (Thomas) played real physical and tough,” Addazio said. “(I’m) really proud of the way those two guys stepped up and played. … Those are two young guys right there that are going to be really good players, so their development’s been phenomenal.”

Although the Rams rushing attack is their offensive focal point, their offense has looked at its best when quarterback Todd Centeio finds passing success early on. After completing his first 12 attempts last weekend and finding eight different receivers in the contest, look for the Rams to get Centeio going early on in this weekend’s game as well.

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While Trey McBride is Centeio’s go-to weapon on offense, receivers E.J. Scott and recently Ty McCullouch have both demonstrated their value in stretching the field, evidenced by McCullouch’s 60-yard touchdown catch last weekend against San Jose State.

Limiting turnovers has been key for the Rams as well, and they will need to continue this trend against New Mexico. Despite their recent defensive struggles, the Lobos have accumulated eight turnovers on the year. In fact, their only score in last weekend’s contest against San Diego State University came off of a 15-yard fumble return touchdown by linebacker Ray Leutele.

The game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. kickoff at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This marks the first away conference game for the Rams this season.

Jeremiah Janzen can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @JeremiahJanzen.