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Moving forward: Rams look to notch first win against MTSU

Colorado+State+University+football+coach+Jay+Norvell+motivates+his+team+before+the+Rocky+Mountain+Showdown+game+against+the+University+of+Colorado+Boulder+at+Folsom+Field+in+Boulder+Sept.+16%2C+2023.+CU+won+43-35.
Collegian | Milo Gladstein
Colorado State University football coach Jay Norvell motivates his team before the Rocky Mountain Showdown game against the University of Colorado Boulder at Folsom Field in Boulder Sept. 16, 2023. CU won 43-35.

Editors Note: This story has been updated to clarify Mohamed Kamara will be suspended the first half of the game against Middle Tennessee

Coming off a heart-wrenching defeat, Colorado State football and Ram Nation will have to find a way to move forward. 

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The Rams will again enter hostile territory as they travel to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to take on Middle Tennessee.

With the controversies and national media attention the Rams have received since the Rocky Mountain Showdown, this game will be a nice change of pace.

While the Rams will still enter into a hostile environment for the Blue Raiders homecoming game, there won’t quite be as many eyes on the team this weekend.

Offense 

Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi has been granted the keys to the jet and will lead the Rams’ air raid offense against the Blue Raiders.

Fowler-Nicolosi led the Rams to 35 points against Colorado after showing some flashes of what the Rams and Norvell have envisioned of the quarterback position. 

“I think the big thing about Brayden is that he made some mistakes,” Norvell said. “But he kept playing, and he kept firing that ball, and he kept giving his guys an opportunity to make plays, and that’s the credit of a good player, a good quarterback.”

Over the course of a game and a half this season, Fowler-Nicolosi has completed 70% of his passes for five touchdowns. He’s shown flashes of being a great quarterback, though he’s still had his struggles this season, throwing four interceptions in CSU’s two games.

“We don’t expect him to be 100% error-free, but he’s got to learn from those mistakes, and he’s got to keep giving his guys a chance to make plays,” Norvell said. “He made some incredible throws in that game.”

Part of the progression Fowler-Nicolosi will need to make is through in-game reps. Having logged only two career starts to this point, there is still a lot of room to grow.

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One of the things Fowler-Nicolosi will help the Rams with is spreading the ball around to all the weapons on the offense. 

Tory Horton is obviously the Rams’ No. 1 wide receiver, but two games into the 2023-24 season, four different Colorado State players have gone for more than 100 yards receiving. Last season, the only player to eclipse 100 yards at that point was Horton. 

“He just sat back in that pocket and found our open receivers — found our playmakers — so that’s how he performed really, really well,” O-lineman Oliver Jervis said.

Watch: CSU O-line

A season ago, the Rams gave up nine sacks to the Blue Raiders. Norvell said this is a team that likes to blitz the quarterback. If the Rams can keep Fowler-Nicolosi clean, then they have a chance to get the air raid offense going yet again. 

“Coach (Bill) Best has a really good game plan for us,” Jervis said. “We’re working to our strengths. We’re not allowing them to decide the game in terms of what they want to do. We’re going to play our game. … We’re five guys up front — if it’s not five guys playing together, we’re not going to succeed. So we just have to trust the guy next to us that if they twist, our guy’s going to be there, and if they blitz, we got to keep our eyes on the right place.”

Defense

The Rams’ defense will look to continue their good play against a tough Middle Tennessee offense. 

Similar to the Rams, the Blue Raiders run the air raid-style offense. MSTU’s QB Nicholas Vattiato burst on the scene this season in true breakout fashion. 

“I think there’s been some similarities in our first three games that we’ve had to deal with defensively,” Norvell said. “You know, we did a lot of good things defensively in the game last week, and then we slipped a little at the end, but it’s going to be another challenge, and we’re still looking for that type of defensive performance where we’re really locked in and playing with great discipline.”

The Rams will have an opportunity to do that again, but MTSU is a tough team and a good program. It will be the Blue Raiders’ homecoming weekend, so the fans will be out in full force. The Rams’ defense will have to make it tough on Vattiato.

“Just getting pressure and playing tight coverage on all sides,” cornerback Chigozie Anusiem said. “With all due respect, this is probably the best D-line he’s going to see, (and) this is probably the best DB core he’s going to see as well.”

These are bold words considering the Blue Raiders played Alabama in week one. While Anusiem surely didn’t mean any disrespect by his claims, he exuded the utmost confidence in his guys and his unit. 

Watch: Mohamed Kamara

Kamara is a top edge rusher in the Mountain West and has been shot out of a cannon to start the season. Kamara has three sacks through two games. Kamara will look to come in during the second half of play after he serves his one half suspension for his targeting penalty against CU. 

“Yeah, it’s the respect we have for him,” Anusiem said. “Mo (Kamara) is somebody on the defense who works. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 5-yard drill — he’s going to try and be first. He’ll race the DBs.”

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

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About the Contributors
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.
Milo Gladstein
Milo Gladstein, Photo Director
Milo Gladstein is a fifth-year senior majoring in journalism and media communications. He is currently serving as one of the two photo directors for the 2o23-24 school year. Gladstein's work focuses on long-form stories diving deep into what it means to be human and sharing people's passion and story with the community. He did not begin as a journalism major and has worn many hats while at CSU. He began as a conservation biology major, moving to undeclared and then horticulture therapy before finally landing in the journalism department. He seeks stories about community members who are impacting the world around them in positive ways and shares those stories. Working at The Collegian has taught Gladstein about working on a team, how to develop a story and the best ways to present said stories. Most importantly, he has grown from a photographer into a photojournalist. As co-photo director, he hopes to pass that knowledge on to the next group of journalists rising through The Collegian. When not working at The Collegian or in class, Gladstein can be found reading a book or in the outdoors climbing, camping, exploring and getting lost in the mountains.

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