Wolf: Stevens stands tall in Air Force defeat

Eric Wolf

On Saturday night, there were not too many constants in Colorado State’s 49-46 loss to Air Force in a game that featured enough rushing yards, lead changes, officiating head scratchers and momentum swings to last an entire season.

Yes, Michael Gallup was a constant. His crucial fourth quarter fumble all but sealed the loss for the Rams, but if it wasn’t for Gallup and his career high 13 catches for a career best 213 yards, the Rams are not even in this football game.

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But the other constant comes in the form of reemerging quarterback Nick Stevens. Yes, he too had a crucial turnover that led to a Falcon touchdown right before the half, but if Stevens doesn’t play the way he did on Saturday, the losing deficit would have been much more than three points.

“I thought Nick Stevens played awesome,” Bobo said. “I thought he showed tremendous poise. I thought he threw the ball extremely accurately. I thought he made plays under duress a couple times…it was probably the best game he has played in his career.”

Best game he has played in his career is no overstatement. Stevens finished with a career high 374 yards on an efficient 22-29 passing to go along with two touchdowns.

And after the game, Bobo said that he thought his offense was really coming into it’s own. A huge part of that has to come from the consistent, and quite frankly stellar play out of the quarterback position in the last 13 quarters of football for the Rams.

“He made play after play tonight,” Bobo said. “He would like to have that one play back (the interception)… but we were able to overcome. We had a chance to tie or win the game at the end and a lot of that has to do with Nick Steven’s play tonight.”

Steven’s pick was his first turnover since his two interception performance week one in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Like in that game, he made a poor decision on Saturday night, but it was one poor decision in a game filled with his decisions that repeatedly pulled the Rams back into the game.

And plenty of controversy went into that interception, as Stevens took a hit that was initially ruled as targeting and then waived off, but at the very least should have been ruled roughing the passer, and the interception would not have stood.

But the pick did stand, and though Steven’s was hobbled by the hit, he stood tall. As far as if he thought that any penalty should have been called on that play, Stevens said he is not a ref and he is not going to complain about it.

It was that kind of presence Stevens showed that made him stand out on Saturday. He took a lot of hits from the pressure defense that Air Force is, and he repeatedly stood in the pocket and delivered the ball exactly where it needed to be.

No play was as pretty as his 38-yard dime to Olabisi Johnson that set the Rams up at the Falcon two-yard-line halfway through the third quarter. On the play, Steven’s had a free-blitzer in his face, but he stood in the pocket and delivered, and one play later, the Rams grabbed a 38-35 lead.

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The image of Stevens standing in the pocket and dictating an offense through his arm stands in sharp contrast to that week one game against Colorado, when Stevens and the offense looked completely overwhelmed early and often.

But now, Stevens is a different quarterback, and this is a different offense.

When Stevens was asked if the offense was hitting a stride at this point in the season, he said, “absolutely, I think that we have really started clicking on offense. The only thing that can slow us down is ourselves and I think that’s apparent tonight.”

That’s the lesson Stevens is taking from the loss, and anyone else paying attention should be taking that one too.

He struggled in his first start back under center against Boise State four weeks ago, but from the fourth quarter of that game on, Stevens has been lights out, and with that, so has the CSU offense.

And the Rams may have lost on Saturday, but that offense is rolling. With two games left on the schedule and one win necessary to clinch a bowl berth, CSU’s postseason hopes hang on the balance of Steven’s right arm.

After week one, who could have imagined that.

Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5

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