With week number one in the books, we take some time go back over the stat sheet to see where the Rams excelled, where they could use some work and reflect on what this weekend's game taught us in a segment we call, Monday Morning Quarterback.
What worked: Getting off the field on third down: Last season Colorado State's opponents managed a first down on 55 percent of their third down efforts. Saturday the Rams took a major step forward on third down, allowing the Buffs to move the sticks just five times in 13 tries. Kudos to the Rams defense for stepping up when they had a chance to get off the field. Until they can develop adequate depth, that will be among the keys to a successful Ram season.
Keeping it clean: One thing the Rams cannot be accused of are shooting themselves in the foot too many times via penalty. Colorado State was flagged just twice in this one for 35 yards.
New guys coming through: While there are highs and lows in playing football with youth, there are some impressive performances to lift up. Pete Thomas quarterbacked the Rams for the first time on Saturday and accounted for 196 yards on 24 completions and looked very serviceable as a field general. Mike Orakpo and Crockett Gillmore both scored sacks in their first game action for CSU. Tony Drake led the Rams in rushing with 32 yards on two carries. Weston Richburg started at strong guard for the Rams one year after being considered as a greyshirt possibility.
Slowing the Buff stampede: While the Rams took on a very special talent in CU running back Rodney Stewart (16 rushes for 67 yards) and a CU offensive line that was flat huge, the Rams still allowed just 3.3 yards per carry.
What didn't work Three-and-out: The stat sheet offers us a view of the combination of football and underclassmen. Perhaps no where does that better show itself than the third-down conversion rate where CSU managed just one first down conversion in 12 attempts. That doesn't count two failed fourth down tries.
Ground game stuck in neutral: Even if you subtract the sack yardage the Rams gave up (28 yards), Colorado State still rushed for 77 yards on Saturday. The stat sheet will show 49 net rushing yards and that seemed almost generous to those who watched the game. Take away 32 yards by freshman Tony Drake and the numbers were plain awful - 25 rushes for 17 yards. A strong Colorado defensive line ruled the line of scrimmage left transfer Raymond Carter (10 yards on 11 carries) nowhere to run. Run blocking was supposed to be the strength of this new offensive line which should jel together as the season goes along.
Best chance at momentum blocked: Late in the first half Momo Thomas' interception and return of a Tyler Hansen pass gave the Rams a shot to score with 50 seconds to go. Ram quarterback Pete Thomas completed three consecutive passes for 40 yards to bring the Rams down to the Colorado 25. With time running out in the period, Ben DeLine's field goal attempt was blocked, ruining the Rams' best chance at some momentum and left the CSU sidelines with a disappointed feel.
Young guys being young: With a young team, you could tell the Rams were still thinking and then playing rather than reacting. That manifested itself in the second quarter when a close play was ruled incomplete on third down, forcing the Rams into a punting situation. When the punt team ran on to the field, the blocking assignments and general feeling of being unsure of when to call for the snap left the replay booth time to look at the play again, change the ruling on the field to an interception. CU took over at their own 46 instead of deeper in their own territory and managed a field goal. A lack of awareness of the situation.
Still looking for special teams help: While Momo Thomas showed himself as one of the Rams' more athletic players on both his interceptions return (20 yards of spinning and creating just before half), and in the return game (3 returns for 44 yards), the Ram coverage teams allowed 11.5 yards per punt return and 34 on their only kickoff return.
What we learned: We learned that the building of a program and specifically this season's team may be a longer process than hoped. The coaching staff has decided to take its lumps in an effort to prepare some of its young talent for the future. While the lows like Saturday may be a part of the season, the potential for talent to shine through is also a distinct possibility as the season goes along.
By my own math, there were eight freshmen who saw time on the field for Colorado State on Saturday. It seems clear the Ram coaching staff is intent on bringing in a new level of athlete to Fort Collins and has done so over the past two seasons. However, those athletes need time in the weight room, time at the training table as well as more birthdays before they are ready to compete with an established Big 12 squad like Colorado.
Colorado State will be a strong football program and those days are likely coming sooner rather than later, but it will take some time and days like Saturday are bound to happen - it is the nature of football when you rely on youth.