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Throw down at the showdown: A preview of what to expect

Throw+down+at+the+showdown%3A+A+preview+of+what+to+expect
Collegian | Trin Bonner

The 92nd edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown is set for kickoff on what will probably be the most viewed meeting between Colorado State and Colorado in the history of the rivalry. 

Part of the reason for that is both ESPN and Fox News bringing their pregame shows to Boulder, Colorado. Despite the bright lights, Colorado State University’s focus is on the game. 

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The offense 

Head coach Jay Norvell announced a big change to the squad in his Monday press conference. Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi will be under center for the Rams come Saturday. 

This change comes after Clay Millen was injured in the Washington State game, and Fowler-Nicolosi came in and threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns. 

“Millen’s a tremendous player for us,” Norvell said. “He’s going to be an important player for us the rest of the season, but we just felt like it was an opportunity for Brayden to play.”

Later in his press conference, Norvell clarified that Millen was healthy enough to play if he needed to.

The change is likely based on the coaching staff feeling like Fowler-Nicolosi gives the Rams the best chance to go into hostile territory and win. 

Doing that will be a tall task for the Rams. Caesar’s Sportsbook currently has CU favorited by 23 points

“To quote Bradlee Van Pelt, this game is about our players earning respect,” Norvell said. “I’m really excited for our football team. I’m really excited for our program, and I’m really excited for our kids that they get this opportunity to play this game and that it’s a meaningful game.”

Norvell also said that he doesn’t have to tell the players how important this game is. They already know, and the reason they come to CSU is to be able to play in games like this. 

The biggest key to the game is putting up points. The Rams struggled to do that against Washington State. 

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“The reality is we’ve got to score on about half of our possessions, and we were about three possessions away from (doing that) last week,” Norvell said. 

Watchlist: Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi 

“Brayden is a very talented quarterback,” wide receiver Tory Horton said. “Young guy, he has a great arm, (and) his capability to move the pocket around, it can be a help to the offense. We just want to support him, have his back throughout the game and just make sure he’s comfortable with us out there.”

Fowler-Nicolosi seemed comfortable, saying he has to go out there and not play hero ball but instead play his own style of football.

“I’m trying to look at it like another game — just focus on working hard this week, practicing well and then going in there and getting the job done,” Fowler-Nicolosi said. “But obviously I think the whole team is pretty dang excited about that atmosphere (and) what that game means to all the fans.”

The defense 

This might be the biggest test for the CSU defense all season. CU comes into this game with an offense that has scored 45 points against TCU and 36 points against Nebraska to start their season. 

For a team that gave up 50 to the Cougars, this is going to be far from a walk in the park for the Rams. 

One of the biggest names on both sides of the ball come Saturday will be Travis Hunter. Hunter has played both wide receiver and cornerback for the Buffs, and he will be a true difference-maker come Saturday. There is a chance he will be used to cover Horton to try and mitigate his production. 

“He’s a great player — at the end of the day, we all play football,” Horton said. “We all bleed, so he’s just another opponent to me. He’s a regular person to me. Of course, a ton of respect for the kid, and it’s going to be a good matchup with the secondary.”

The key to the game, Norvell said, is to get Shedeur Sanders out of rhythm. If Sanders is comfortable in the pocket and has time to go through his reads, this will likely be an ugly game for the Rams secondary. 

“Al Davis used to say he’s got to get hit and he’s got to get hit early,” Norvell said. “But he’s (Sanders) a very good athlete, and they spread out the field, and he’s done a good job. And so we’ve got to get him off-schedule, and we’ve got to get off the field on third down.”

The Buffs have converted on 55% of their third downs so far this season. If the Rams can get below .50, then the Rams defense may have a chance to throw Sanders out of rhythm. 

“I think he does a good job extending plays, … making explosive plays,” linebacker Chase Wilson said. “I think the challenge is just what it is every week — we’ve got to execute our game plan, have intense focus on doing our jobs and we’ll be just fine.”

Watchlist: Jack Howell

Howell took responsibility for a burner play that Washington State threw in the first game. He’ll be under fire the entire game, with CU often looking to go deep and get their receivers in space. 

While everyone on the defense has to do their one-eleventh of the work, Howell has the opportunity to impact this game and truly give the Rams the opportunity to pull off the improbable. 

“And I feel that we’re going to be underdog(s) every game at this point,” Horton said. “I love it though. I love being an underdog.”

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

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About the Contributors
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.
Trin Bonner, Illustration Director
Trin Bonner is the illustration director for The Collegian newspaper. This will be her third year in this position, and she loves being a part of the creative and amazing design team at The Collegian. As the illustration director, Bonner provides creative insight and ideas that bring the newspaper the best graphics and illustrations possible. She loves working with artists to develop fun and unique illustrations every week for the readers. Bonner is a fourth-year at Colorado State University studying electronic arts. She loves illustrating and comic making and has recently found enjoyment in experimental video, pottery and graphic design. Outside of illustration and electronic art, Bonner spends her free time crocheting and bead making. She is usually working on a blanket or making jewelry when she is not drawing, illustrating or brainstorming.

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