Offense moving the ball, but only when it needs to

In two of the Rams' last three games, they've passed the 500-yard mark in total offense. In 12 games last year, CSU did that only once.<BR><BR> In only four games last season did the Rams score 30 or more points. They've done that five times already this year.

Each of the past two seasons, CSU's leading rusher ended the year with 841 yards. Through seven games this year, with six more to go, Cecil Sapp has gained 855 yards on the ground.

Bradlee Van Pelt was the team's leading passer last year with 1,247 yards. He's 55 yards from surpassing that mark this week.

Pete Rebstock led the team in receiving a year ago with 546 yards on 28 catches. This year, Chris Pittman already has more catches (33) and needs just 75 more yards to top Rebstock.

In other words, the Rams' offense is firing on more cylinders than last season.

"I think Bradlee's a huge difference this year," said wide receiver Joey Cuppari. "Having him with the ability to throw the ball well now, it changes our offense from being one-dimensional. Last year we ran the ball and hardly ever threw the ball. This year we're spreading it out and it gives our offensive coordinators the ability to make up different plays, throw in these trick plays or weird plays, because we know Bradlee can do them."

However, it hasn't all been fine and dandy for the CSU offense this year. In the season opener against Virginia, the Rams led nearly all game, but had to put together a fourth-quarter comeback to seal the win. And against Colorado the next week, CSU led 13-0 going into the final quarter, but then gave up two touchdowns and again had to garner another scoring drive to pull out the victory.

The Rams were getting leads early, going into conservative mode, and then having to step it up in the final minutes. In the third week against UCLA, the offense couldn't do it again. The Rams led the first three quarters, gave up the lead, stormed back for a chance to tie, but ultimately failed on a two-point conversion.

The offense hasn't been able to put a dagger in the heart of its opponent and seal up a win early on. Only when it feels it has to score does the offense really move the ball at will. "We want to score every single possession," co-offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt said. "That's how you got to play offensive football, and I think that's part of our problem this year. It's hard to tell guys we need to score when they say, ‘We're up by 10 points.' We can't have that drop off in intensity." That's especially been the focus in practice this week as the team prepares for Utah, against whom Hammerschmidt says CSU has never been able to score a lot of points on. And the Utes enter the game riding a four-game losing skid. They need to win four of their final five games to become bowl-eligible, and getting a win over the preseason conference favorite on Saturday would be the ideal way to get the ball rolling.

"They're gonna be upset; I'd be upset if we lost four in a row," Cuppari said. "They're gonna come out and give us everything they've got. We just gotta be able to take it, and don't make those mistakes that you can't make on the road, because the next thing you know, the crowd's all over you, like in Fresno. We just have to play within ourselves, take what they give us and play Ram football."


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