CSU preview

Overall, the Rams are a solid Mountain West team. That being said, there's no way they should be able to play with USC on Saturday. If this game gets opened up early, the scoreboard operator might not be able to take many bathroom breaks. At this point in the season, it's time for the Trojans to turn it on if they want to prove they belong at the top of the polls.

Without Oregon State's "doink, doink, whiff" gift at LSU, the Colorado State – Colorado tilt at Folsom Field would have been undoubtedly the most exciting game of the weekend. Months of off-the-field problems at Colorado served as emotional fuel for the Buffs as they came out of the tunnel on fire and proceeded to exercise absolute first quarter dominance over the Rams. Colorado State managed just nine total yards in that first quarter as Colorado built a 14-0 lead after 15 minutes of play. Colorado stretched the lead to 17-0 before Colorado State showed that they had some intensity and determination of their own. The Rams fought all the way back and had the ball at the Buffalo one yard line with 30 seconds left, trailing by just three points. Electing to forego overtime and try for the win, Colorado State tried to stuff the ball up the middle and was stopped. Confusion reigned on the Ram sideline and on the field as State lined up for another play instead of stopping the clock with a spike. The play that followed, a sweep to the left side of the field, was stopped in the backfield and the clock ran out on the Ram comeback.

When: Sept. 11 at 5 p.m.
Where: Los Angeles Coliseum
Last Meeting: First meeting

Rams to know on Offense:

QB – #8 Justin Holland – While Holland has found playing time in many games during his previous two seasons at Colorado State, 2004 marks his first season as the number one quarterback. He responded brilliantly against Colorado, throwing for 403 yards and two touchdowns against the Buffalo defense. He threw 41 times, completing over 70% of his passes and was intercepted only once. Holland isn't the mobile quarterback that Bryan Randall was, but he is smart, efficient and able to pick apart a defense.

RB – #1 Marcus Houston – A much-heralded prep running back out of Denver, Houston originally enrolled at the University of Colorado before transferring to Colorado State in 2003. He was the number two running back for the Rams last year, totaling 636 rushing yards on 158 carries, with ten total touchdowns (nine rushing, one receiving). Houston didn't play as big of a factor in the Colorado game as he is capable of, gaining only 44 yards on 20 carries. However, much of that is a result of the Ram's success through the air. Houston did have one touchdown and probably could have added another had CSU called the last play correctly. However, any introduction Marcus Houston needed to Trojan fans, he provided in 2000 as he piled up 150 yards rushing on 25 carries and caught a pass for another 27 yards in his first trip to the Coliseum while wearing the black and gold of Colorado.

WR - #4 David Anderson – If the Rams are moving the ball through the air, chances are David Anderson is catalyst. He averaged almost 100 yards per game in 2003, totaling 1,293 and hauling in nine touchdown passes. The yardage, along with his 72 receptions both set school records. Anderson showed that he's right back where he left off in 2003 with a monster game to open the 2004 season. He hooked up with quarterback Justin Holland nine times for 156 yards, averaging 17.3 yards per catch. At only 5'11", he doesn't have the height you'd want in a wide receiver, but his actions on the field more than make up for it as he is one of the more dominant wide receivers in the Mountain West Conference.

WR - #7 Johnny Walker – Walker used his redshirt year as a freshman in 2003 and burst on the scene in 2004 to the tune of six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown in his first collegiate game. Walker played basketball and ran track in high school. He is athletic and fast, and he'll use that speed to try and put pressure on the Trojan defensive backfield this Saturday.

WR – #85 Dustin Osborn – Osborn played sparingly in 2003, but used the 2004 spring practice to make a name for himself and was awarded with a scholarship. He also had a solid opening game against Colorado with 78 yards receiving on five catches. Osborn can also fly with and without the ball, and will prove yet another challenge for USC's secondary.

TE - #81 Joel Dreessen – Unfortunately for the Trojans, Colorado State has a good tight end in Joel Dreessen. He was second-team All-Conference for the Rams in 2003 and was put on the preseason John Mackey watch list. Dreessen hauled in 29 receptions last year for over 300 yards and started this year with four catches for 26 yards. The Trojans will have to account for Dreessen in the passing game as he is capable of getting loose and rumbling for big plays, as his 85-yard catch-and-run against Cal last year proves.

Rams on defense:

S - #3 Ben Stratton – Stratton is a solid presence in the Ram defensive backfield. He's not afraid to throw himself into the play and come up with tackle after tackle as his twelve tackles in the season opener demonstrate. He is also a reliable pass defender as he started every game in 2003 at cornerback and came up with four interceptions. Stratton is quick and strong and we should be seeing him plenty on Saturday.

CB - #6 Robert Herbert – One of the corners that the young Trojan receivers will be looking to take advantage of is Robert Herbert. It could prove to be a difficult task as Herbert is skilled against the pass as well as the run. He tallied 49 tackles in 2003 to go along with three interceptions, one of which he returned 50 yards for a touchdown. He's already deflected two passes in 2004 to go along with the 11 tackles he piled up against Colorado.

LB - #2 Jahmal Hall – A Junior this season, Jahmal Hall will be the presence on the strong side of the field for the Ram defense. He's small for a linebacker (only 183 pounds) but he's aggressive and will stick his nose in with the big boys. He brought down Colorado players ten times in the opener.

DL - #99 Patrick Goodpaster – A senior in 2004, Patrick Goodpaster has been the standout on the Ram defensive line for all four years he's attended the school. His motor is running constantly and he's got the ability to get through the offensive line and into the backfield. He picked up five tackles in the Colorado game, but the Trojans will have to be wary of his presence on the line.

Special teams:

K/P - #13 – Jeff Babcock – Jeff Babcock is the Ram's special teams. He handles both kick-off and punting duties, and does both very well. He put up 85 points in 2003, hitting 13-of-19 field goals. He also hit his punts at a 42.3 yards/punt average. He doesn't have a booming leg, but the Trojans shouldn't be counting on him to miss or shank many kicks.

Overall, the Rams are a solid Mountain West team. That being said, there's no way they should be able to play with USC on Saturday. While their secondary has some good players, the Trojans should be able to take advantage of a suspect defensive line and linebacking corps. After giving up 255 rushing yards to Colorado, the Trojan offensive linemen will be licking their chops to get a chance to throw their weight around against the Colorado State defensive front. The running game will favor USC by a landslide. Offensively, Colorado State could get nothing done against Colorado on the ground, and I don't see them performing any differently against a much better Trojan defensive front. This will be a good game for the Trojan passing offense and defense to see what they can do. Colorado State will most likely come out throwing with their talented offensive playmakers, and with the young USC wide receivers against the veteran Ram defensive backs, both passing games will be something to watch. If this game gets opened up early, the scoreboard operator might not be able to take many bathroom breaks. At this point in the season, it's time for the Trojans to turn it on if they want to prove they belong at the top of the polls.

Erik McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing.

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