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Ag Day preview: 2-2 in Rams’ sight for first time since 2017

Members+of+the+Colorado+State+and+Middle+Tennessee+Football+teams+line+up+for+a+snap+during+their+game+Sept.+10.
Collegian | Reuel Indurkar
Members of the Colorado State and Middle Tennessee Football teams line up for a snap during their game Sept. 10. The visiting Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee won 34-19 against the Rams.

The Rams looked deja vu in the face Saturday night. The defense took the field, the opponent was pinned inside the 20-yard line and there were under two minutes left on the clock. 

A 0-3 start for a second straight year loomed large over the Rams as the Middle Tennessee offense took the field. Thanks to the Rams defense, the team didn’t have to worry about that, as they celebrated victory last week and now look ahead to their game Saturday against Utah Tech

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“I think it’s an expectation for us in two-minute (drills) to get a stop on defense,” defensive lineman Grady Kelly said. “And we fell short of that against CU — very similar situation — and I think we all just knew. We looked to the left and the right, and we knew that’s not happening again in this game.”

Offense

Another week, another mention of Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi‘s great play. He’s taken the reins of the offense, and he’s not giving them back. 

Posting more than 300 yards through the air for a second straight week, the redshirt freshman looks like he could be the answer to the Rams’ quarterback problems for years to come. 

“He’s a freshman; we’ve got him for four more years,” head coach Jay Norvell said. “He’s done some pretty special things the last two weeks.”

The Rams will need Fowler-Nicolosi to continue his brilliance with both Avery Morrow‘s and Kobe Johnson‘s status in doubt for Saturday. 

If neither player can go, it will be Vann Schield‘s turn to carry the rock for the Rams. Schield walked on for the Rams in 2021 and had an impressive spring camp. 

One of the components of the air raid is getting the ball to playmakers and almost running the ball through the air. 

“When you play a team that blitzes as much as Middle Tennessee does, you’ve got to get the ball out quick to open receivers and then let them run,” Norvell said. “So that was the key to the game, was getting the ball out quickly because of the blitz.”

Dallin Holker had 79 yards after the catch Saturday, and his dominance to start the season will be expected to continue this coming weekend.

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“Holker is a special player — he just is,” Norvell said. “I’ve been around a lot of good receivers and good tight ends, and I can’t really say (there’s) another quality that I would like to see in him.”

The Utah Tech Trailblazers present a woeful 1-3 record heading into Canvas Stadium. The Rams are in prime position to advance to 2-2 on the season — something they haven’t done since 2017, when they made the New Mexico Bowl. 

The Trailblazer defense has been dismal to start the year. They’ve allowed 270 yards through the air and 260 yards on the ground.

Watch: Vann Schield

Vann Schield has the opportunity to come in and run against a lackluster UT defensive line. If he can capitalize and help the offense run on all cylinders, fans may see something they haven’t for a long time in Canvas Stadium.

“It was nice to see Vann running so hard — kind of got us going,” offensive lineman Drew Moss said. “He came up from being a backup to just going out there and running as hard as he could.”

Defense

Giving up 151 yards on the ground and 279 through the air, the Rams defense didn’t have the best day against the Blue Raiders.

This may have been due to Mohamed Kamara serving his half suspension because once he came in, the Ram unit got it together. 

Kamara came in and registered two sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. With five sacks now on the season, Kamara leads the NCAA alongside Utah’s Jonah Elliss in solo sacks.

“He’s the same Mo on and off,” Kelly said. “We’ve got guys that can play, guys that can back him up, and we’ve just got to go and get after it and have no drop-off when he’s not there.”

Utah Tech likes to throw the ball a lot. With only 93 attempts total on the ground through four games, their 166 through the air vastly out-produce that.

The Trailblazers are prone to turnovers through the air. Quarterback Kobe Tracy is coming off a game in which he threw four interceptions and no touchdowns against Missouri State.

While you can never look at an opponent in sports and expect to dominate, anything short of exceptionality from the Rams defense might be a disappointment to Ram fans. 

Watch: Ron Hardge III

Ron Hardge III was part of a secondary that gave up a lot of big plays against MTSU. He also gave up a 35-yard bomb to Holden Willis that set up the Blue Raiders to take a 17-10 lead at halftime. Without an interception this season and the expectation that UT will pass the ball a lot, Hardge could be in prime position to get his first pick in the green and gold. 

“Another talented team with a lot of firepower offensively,” Norvell said. “This is an air raid team. They throw the ball over a lot. They’re very capable of scoring points, … so we’re going to have to do a really good job of handling them offensively.”

Reach Damon Cook at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @dwcook2001.

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Damon Cook
Damon Cook, Sports Editor
Damon Cook is the 2023-24 sports editor for the The Collegian and has been at the paper since August 2022. He started doing coverage on volleyball and club sports before moving onto the women's basketball beat. He is in his third year and is completing his degree with a major in journalism and media communication and a minor in sports management. As The Collegian's sports editor, Cook reports on CSU sports and helps manage the sports desk and content throughout the week. After having a year to learn and improve, Cook will now get to be part of a new age under the sports desk. The desk moved on from all but one other person and will now enter into a new era. Damon started school as a construction management major looking to go in a completely different direction than journalism. After taking the year off during the COVID-19 pandemic, he quickly realized that construction wasn't for him. With sports and writing as passions, he finally decided to chase his dreams, with The Collegian helping him achieve that. He is most excited to bring the best and most in-depth sports coverage that The Collegian can provide.

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