The streak has ended. After three years of holding the rights to displaying the Bronze Boot in the McGraw Athletic Center, Colorado State can longer do so following Wyoming's 38-17 beat down of CSU in Fort Collins. Inside The Rams breaks down CSU's tough loss to the Cowboys.
Making the Grades:
The Rams posted 17 points on a night of ups and downs - mostly downs. A bright spot was Collin Hill's 370 passing yards. The true freshman looked poised and moved the offense down the field, but his second quarter pick-six to Wyoming nose tackle/end Chase Appleby was a devastating blow to CSU's momentum, and ultimately their chances of winning. Hill hesitated on the screen throw to Dalyn Dawkins, and while the play took too long to develop, Hill forced a throw instead of taking a sack. The result was a throw right into the gut of Appleby.
Hill finished 23-of-41 with the interception and a touchdown. CSU head coach Mike Bobo admitted post-game that Hill's 41 attempts was far from ideal, but was so high because the Rams played from behind so often and couldn't find a strong run game. A curious component to Hill's poor completion percentage was the large number of drops from his receivers. Sammie Long dropped a sure catch on a deep post that could have been a momentum changer. Michael Gallup was targeted 13 times, yet came up with only four receptions. Hill overthrew him a few times, but Gallup dropped multiple passes. Bisi Johnson was also guilty of a drop. It's still clear CSU is looking to develop chemistry between Hill and his receivers. We knew growing pains would come with Hill and we're finally seeing them.
One other positive from Hill's performance was his ability to find Danny Nwosu. CSU's passing attack has been notorious over the last year and a half for not finding the tight end. Nwosu was sure-handed, catching multiple passes in traffic and finished with a new career-high six catches for 68 yards (he had a career-high three receptions against UNC). Senior Nolan Peralta also had a career-first, catching his first touchdown. The Rams need to get Dalton Fackrell involved in the passing game, but at least they involved their other two tight ends. The bottom line is CSU will need to learn to finish drives and improve chemistry in the passing game.
Now for the bad, or ugly if you include Izzy Matthews' ineffective hurdle on his game-high 30-yard run. The Rams could not establish a run game, which was curious considering Wyoming's suspect defensive front. It was clear from the start that Bobo expected to be able to pound the rock and dominate the Cowboys in the trenches. Actually, the opposite happened. On their first three drives, CSU came out a majority of the time in a 22 or 21 personnel look, with the expectation of running with success. Wyoming controlled the line of scrimmage from the get-go, and what compounded CSU's issues were the backs' inability to break tackles. Whether it's breaking actual tackles to get yards after contact, or simply making guys miss, CSU's running backs couldn't do it, nor have they been able to this year. Matthews isn't the bully that he was last year. Dawkins is electric, but still hasn't found a way to make guys miss in the open field in one-on-one situations. Marvin Kinsey is the slashing threat that can both break tackles and make guys miss in space, but he hasn't learned to run with a low pad level between the tackles, plus his second quarter fumble, with the Rams up 14-10, enabled the Pokes to eventually score and go up for good.
CSU's offensive line was expected to be one of the best in the Mountain West going into the season. CSU's backs were expected to be among the best in the league. But we haven't seen it. Perhaps the most curious aspect of the entire team is the offensive line's inability to bully defenses up front. It simply hasn't happened. And what's odd about it all is the ability appears to be there. Guys are talented, both up front and in the backfield, but CSU hasn't been able to put it all together.
The Rams can't find balance from game to game offensively. It's not that they can't find big plays or the players, it's simply a matter of being able to execute consistently. Perhaps one game we'll see that, but we have yet to this year.
The same issues and miscues from earlier this year are plaguing the defense. Missed tackles, botched assignments, poor run defense and suspect defensive back play have hindered the Rams defensively all year. Against the Pokes, CSU's front got shredded to the tune of 269 yards - 166 of which came from Wyoming's newly minted all-time leading rusher, Brian Hill.
What's interesting is several guys on Wyoming's lines, including former Valor Christian Eagle Ryan Cummings (offensive tackle) and Connor Cain (starting defensive tackle from Heritage) were preferred walk-on candidates at CSU. The Rams didn't want to use scholarships on them because they deemed them not worthy enough, yet there they were, doing work against CSU's lines. They epitomize the type of play that characterizes Craig Bohl coached teams: gritty, undersized, blue-collar players that may have gone overlooked in the recruiting process, but play with a chip on their shoulder. CSU's defensive line got handled, even with a healthy Colton Foster in the lineup and O'Shea Jackson seeing more reps.
CSU's linebackers weren't a major concern, primarily because of the continued stellar play from Kevin Davis. The secondary, however, was another issue. Defensive backs continue to look lost, getting beat deep on a rather common basis, while missing tackles too often. Kevin Nutt played relatively well at cornerback and should start opposite Tyree Simmons. Jordon Vaden and Braylin Scott were both liabilities tackling ball carriers. What makes matters worse is the lack of depth. A solid rotation has yet to be formed, as several seasoned players or junior college transfers have not panned out.
The Rams did generate three sacks, yet gathered zero turnovers. Still, not enough turnovers are being generated by the defense this year. Youth and inexperience aren't helping, but more playmakers need to stop up.
Special Teams: D
Wyatt Bryan made a field goal, but also missed a chip shot. Hayden Hunt had an interesting game. He averaged 44 yards on seven kicks, yet had one of his worst kicks ever, a 14-yard shank that led to a Wyoming touchdown. Wyoming kick returner Austin Conway had a couple successful returns, too.
Really, the Rams were beaten in all three phases of the game. Not a good sign at home against arguably their biggest rival.
By the Numbers
17 - tackles by Wyoming sophomore Andrew Wingard, a first team all-Mountain West selection last year. Wingard was also a preferred walk-on candidate at CSU coming out of Ralston Valley.
33,500 - The crowd on hand to witness the Border War. It was the 11th largest crowd in Hughes Stadium history and most since 2004.
269 - Total rushing yards for the Cowboys.
481 - Total yards of offense for the Rams. Wyoming had 434 in comparison.
14 - Points off turnovers for Wyoming. CSU had none.
8.7 - Average yards per rush for Brian Hill, who had 166 yards and a touchdown.