They say speed kills, and no one knows that better than the Colorado State football team after Friday night's 44-7 shellacking at the hands of in-state rival Colorado.
Though the Rams had plenty of errors on the offensive side of the ball, including two costly interceptions, CU hit the Rams with something they couldn't stop: speed.
Colorado not only showed that it had plenty of experience coming back with nine returning starters, but the Buffs also seemed to take the Rams by surprise with their ability to speed rush, to close holes from the linebacker spots and to break on passes too late. The result was an inability to control the clock with their run game, forcing Nick Stevens and Faton Bauta to handle more of the offensive load than they were capable of handling against that defense. The only CSU player who was remotely effective against the Buffs was junior spark plug Dalyn Dawkins, who rushed for 88 yards on 14 carries.
"They (CU) pretty much lined up and did what they've done," CSU head coach Mike Bobo said of the Buffs' defensive play calling. "They might have pressured a little bit more with the weak side linebacker than they have in the past, a little bit like they pressured UCLA last year and Josh Rosen. They used some of their third-down pressures on first and second down, but for the main part of the game they were just playing faster defensively. When you're on offense, sometimes that one first down will get you going and you put a little bit of pressure on the defense, but they had the upper hand the whole time and we could never get out of the hole offensively."
CSU had relative success in the second half with Bauta running the zone-read option, but a good amount his playing time came against CU's second- and third-string defenses when the outcome was already in hand. Surprisingly, CSU's offensive line, considered by many to be the best position group on the team, struggled in pass protection and the run game, often failing to move from its initial blocks to the second level.
But after two weeks of preparation for the Buffs, offensive coordinator and line coach Will Friend believes that if anyone on CSU's offense was surprised by CU's, they shouldn't have been.
"We talked to them all week, that was one of the messages, that we were going to have to be ready for a tough and physical game and that they were and improved defensive team as the year went on and had everybody back," Friend said Monday. "We were going to take their best shot, so if they were surprised that's not good because that was the message all week for our offensive team and all three of those things were true."
Now with the more mobile Bauta getting the start at quarterback ahead of Stevens, both Friend Bobo hope the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder can give the Rams a different element offensively than what they've had in recent years. Despite struggling in the passing game throughout fall camp, Bauta did finish 6 of 9 for 32 yards and a touchdown against the Buffs, offering a glimpse at the first true dual-threat quarterback Colorado State has had in quite some time.
"He can do a little bit of both (running and passing), and really we needed it the other night," Friend said of Bauta. "We needed someone to step up and say, 'I'm going to compete,' and get some things going and that's what he did. Obviously we've got to convert on third downs and those type of things that help drives going and gets a little momentum going, gets a little rhythm going. ... He was able to come in and kind of give us a little bit of a boost, and I think guys respect his toughness and I think the things he can do, he can run the normal offense but yet you can still kind of have a quarterback run threat and put some pressure on the defense."