September 19, 2011

Monday Morning Quarterback: CU

The Rams squandered multiple opportunities in a comeback attempt against in-state rival Colorado Saturday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, losing 28-14. It's time to delve into what worked, and what failed to work in this week's edition of Monday Morning Quarterback.

What worked -

• Star receiver Paul Richardson of the Buffs failed to deliver anywhere near his 284 yard catching performance from week 2 against Cal. The Rams did a solid job for the most part in keeping him in check, yielding only 27 yards on four catches. However, Richardson would be the first to admit to a subpar day, as he dropped three easy passes.

• Colorado State did well in protecting the football. Quarterback Pete Thomas didn't throw an interception, and the only black eye in the turnover column was a blocked punt by the Rams that inadvertently hit Derek Good as it rolled by him, which was recovered by CU tight end Ryan Deehan.

• Trickeration - the Rams caught the Buffs off guard with a receiver pass from freshman Charles Lovett (who played QB at Hillsborough High in Tampa last year) to tight end Crockett Gillmore, which resulted in a fourth quarter touchdown for Colorado State.

What didn't work -

• Running the ball - The key for the Rams all season will be to establish a running game. Although he is a quarterback guru and loves to pass, Coach Fairchild has stated numerous times during his tenure at Colorado State that running the ball with authority is his number one goal. That didn't happen against the Buff defense on Saturday. CSU averaged 2.7 yards rushing on 25 carries. That equates to 67 yards on the ground - not exactly a promising number for an offense that supposedly boasts a stable of quality backs and a mean, beefed up O-line. If one thing was apparent Saturday, Speedy Stewart clearly outclassed CSU's running backs.

• Stopping the run - I stated going into the game that if the Rams could keep the Buffs inside the tackles when running the ball and eliminate the lateral sweeps and reverses of Colorado, that the advantage was held by the Rams defense. Boy was I wrong. Stewart finally broke out a big game for CU, rushing for 98 yards and catching the ball for 93 more, most of which were gained after the catch. A battered CU offensive line imposed their will for most of the game, which culminated in a 16 play, 85 yard drive over the course of over 10 minutes in the fourth quarter to seal the win for Colorado.

• Penalties were a major issue for both teams, as they combined for 19. However, key penalties on offense stalled drives, and Nuku Latu's personal foul facemask penalty on third and long cemented the frustrations of CSU fans. It certainly wasn't something you'd expect from a senior leader that is poised for a big season.

• Throwing downfield - likely the biggest issue with on-lookers from Saturday's Rocky Mountain Showdown, and frankly all season long for CSU fans. When Pete Thomas did throw downfield, he was very inaccurate. When his receivers did create separation or find weak spots in zones, Thomas seemed either unwilling to throw further than fifteen yards to them, or flat out didn't see them. Perhaps most alarming of Pete's passing performance this past weekend was he often underthrew or threw behind his receivers on a large portion of his throws. If he is set on completing a high percentage of his throws short and average far under 10 yards per completion, you'd expect him to be more accurate. That being said, he has shown a lot of leadership and maturity in leading the offense, and it would be surprising not to see him bounce back against a stout Utah State defense next week.

Stat of the game - 243

That's the number of yards of total offense for Colorado State. The defense was the big question mark heading into this year, but the offense has taken the place of main concern. The Buffs failed to break open the game with several passing miscues and penalties, yet the CSU offense never could get going after their first drive. There seems to be too many weapons on an offense that had plenty of opportunities, yet produced only 243 yards on the day.

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