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Colorado State gambled and failed on offense Thursday night — Where do the Rams go from here?

Justin Michael Avatar
October 30, 2020

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Steve Addazio made a bold decision in not starting Patrick O’Brien on Thursday night. Despite being a second-team preseason all-conference selection and the team’s starting quarterback for the majority of the 2019 campaign, the Rams went with Todd Centeio — a running QB that transferred over from Temple in the offseason. 

Early in the contest, Centeio’s running abilities proved to be a difficult matchup for a Fresno State defense that got torched for north of 300 yards on the ground the week before. Centeio consistently was able to move the chains and helped guide the Rams to multiple drives down the field. The problem, however, was that CSU’s passing offense was essentially non-existent — and it was evident from the get-go. 

On CSU’s second offensive series of the game, after leading the Rams down into the red zone, Centeio had a wide-open Marcus McElroy in the flat on third down. If he made the read and got the ball to his running back the senior would have been able to walk in for a touchdown. What happened instead was the inexperienced QB tried to force the ball to E.J. Scott and ended up spiking the ball at his receiver’s feet. As a result, instead of tying the game and taking back some of the momentum Fresno State created early, the Rams had to settle for a field goal.

Todd Centeio scrambles in the open field against Fresno State. PHOTO: Brandon Randall (CSU Athletics)

Late in the third quarter, with CSU down 31-10, Centeio led the Rams down the field, reaching the Fresno State 3-yard-line in the process, but once again, failing to capitalize. On 4th and 3, offensive coordinator Joey Lynch dialed up the perfect play — Centeio rolled out right to draw the attention of the defense and then attempted to make a touch pass back across his body to a wide-open Trey McBride in the back of the end zone. Without a defensive back in the frame, though, Centeio overthrew McBride, causing a turnover on downs and putting the final nail in CSU’s coffin. 

Now, obviously these were only two plays in what was an largely-underwhelming performance for the Rams across the board. Aside from the kicker and punter, there really was not a position group that performed up to expectations for an entire four quarters. Maybe the tight ends but they had a couple of drops as well. So, the point of this is not to say that the loss should be pinned on Centeio — that would be wildly unfair on multiple levels. Having covered that, though, it’s hard not to look at the decision to bench Patrick O’Brien as one of the biggest reasons the Rams got rolled by the Bulldogs on Thursday night. 

As exciting as it was to see Centeio gash Fresno State on the ground for 7.4 yards per carry, his inability to place the football was definitely alarming. And looking at the situation realistically, the Rams just are not going to win very many games if they are completing less than 45 percent of their pass attempts — not when the defense also allows 38 points at least. 

Moving forward CSU is going to have to make a variety of adjustments if they want to remove the sour taste of defeat from their mouths. The tackling must be better at all levels, the Rams have to control possession, get more stops on third down, convert in the red zone, and give away less yardage via penalties to even be competitive. 

But with the stakes being extremely high for CSU football against Wyoming, and hopefully two of the Rams’ top four receivers returning to the field in some capacity, I just cannot see how the coaches would not give O’Brien a chance against the Pokes. He’s proven that he is a capable leader, someone that can put the Rams in position to win consistently and not lose you the game with poor decision making. More than anything, though, it at least makes the defense have to respect the pass — and that’s a huge factor against aggressive units like the Cowboys, Broncos, Aztecs, etc. 

With what Centeio flashed athletically against Fresno State, I’m not saying that they should send the kid to the bench, never to be seen again. There are plenty of ways that the coaches can scheme him into the mix — much like what the New Orleans Saints currently do with Taysom Hill. At the end of the day, though, when you have an established guy like O’Brien and a pretty talented group of wide receivers on the outside, you cannot waste games trying to force something that just is not working. 

CSU may have lost Warren Jackson in the offseason but the program still has the talent on roster to compete with any team in the Mountain West. The defensive line is legit, the linebackers are athletic, the offensive line is improved, and guys like Trey McBride and Dante Wright are elite talents at the skill positions. Because of all that, right now is not the time to experiment — O’Brien gives the team the best opportunity to consistently win — and it’s really not even a controversy. Let’s see what he’s got.

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