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Rams show promise despite blowout in home football opener

Colorado+State+University+running+back+Kobe+Johnson+%280%29+ran+the+full+field+for+a+punt+return+and+CSUs+first+touchdown+of+the+game+early+in+the+fourth+quarter+vs+the+Washington+State+University+Cougars+at+Canvas+Stadium+Sep.+2.+CSU+lost+24-50.+Photo+by+River+Kinnaird.
Collegian | River Kinnaird
Colorado State University running back Kobe Johnson (0) ran the full field for a punt return and CSU’s first touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter vs the Washington State University Cougars at Canvas Stadium Sep. 2. CSU lost 24-50. Photo by River Kinnaird.

The fans inside Canvas Stadium weren’t the only ones roasting as Colorado State kicked off its home opener in the hottest recorded start in history, which clocked in at 90 degrees. Washington State took Canvas heat to a new level, torching the Rams 50-24.

It was a good start for the Rams; after forcing a short four-play drive, the Rams were able to drive down the field and put up 3. 

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“Offensively, we got off to a good start,” head coach Jay Norvell said. “We had four drives where we just came up short. We’re a yard short — fourth and one  — didn’t convert, and we really needed to.”

The Rams couldn’t stop the bleeding after the half. They again went three and out, making five out of their last six drives three and outs, with their other drive being only a four-play drive.

“The first game of the season, we cant let this define who we are as a team,” running back Kobe Johnson said.

The slow offense in the first half really helped launch the Cameron Ward show, as he threw for more than 440 yards through the air and led the Cougars’ rushing attack, posting another 40 on the ground. He added three touchdowns, carving up the Rams’ defense. 

“I just grabbed the football team, … and I said we got a lot of good football players in that locker room,” Norvell said. “And it’s our job — its my job — to get them to play consistently and play more efficiently and execute better.”

While the Rams’ offense was largely missing in the first half of the game, they showed flashes of who they could be in the third and fourth quarters. Part way through the third quarter, Rams quarterback Clay Millen got injured on a throw, and Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi came in to replace him.

“I thought Brayden came in and did some good things,” Norvell said. “Clay kind of got dinged a little bit, and I really didn’t like the look in his eye, and so we let Brayden play, and I thought he did a really good job when he came in there.”

Fowler-Nicolosi came in and threw a couple of touchdown passes for the Rams. One came on a goal line fade to tight end Dallin Holker and the other on a pass that Justus Ross-Simmons took 75 yards to the house.

Ross-Simmons had a breakout game for the Rams, leading the team in receiving and notching a career high in both receptions at five and yards at 123.

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“We absolutely want to get him the ball, and him and Tory (Horton) and I think (Louis Brown IV have) improved as well,” Norvell said. “And so I think we’ve got some guys that are capable playmakers, and (they) got a chance to have very productive years, all these guys.”

The Rams’ defensive line didn’t make it comfortable for Ward the entire game, including forcing two strip sack fumbles, one by Tony Pierce Jr. and one by Mohamed Kamara.

In training camp, Norvell revealed he would be playing his starters on special teams. Johnson helped make that decision pay off, returning a kick off 98 yards for the touchdown.

Although the game didn’t go as planned for the Rams, they have a bye week to try and figure some of their issues out.

“I think one thing that we’ve done really well as a team is we approach each week as a work week,” linebacker Chase Wilson said. “So you know this isn’t the result we wanted, but we have some obligations this year as a team that we need to fulfill, and we’re going to approach each week with a working mindset.”

CSU will head into a week two bye before they head down to Boulder, Colorado, Sept. 16 for the 92nd edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown at 8 p.m. Colorado is heading into week two with an upset win against No. 17 TCU.

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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