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Finish better than you started.
It’s a simple goal for a team in any sport, but particularly college football, where the playing field is far from even.
Outside of Alabama, Ohio State, a few select others, the mindset for most teams is not national championship or bust. It can’t be — at least not in the current structure of the sport.
For most fans across the country what keeps interest in the game so high during a time when there is less parity than ever before is hope. Hope that your alma mater will finally beat its rival. Hope that they will break through and win the league. Hope that this year will be better than the year before.
In Fort Collins there is more hope amongst the Ram Faithful than there has been in quite some time. Since coming over from the University of Nevada — ironically right after beating down CSU in the 2021 finale — Norvell has rejuvenated the fan base in a major way. And for the first time in a long time, the consensus with CSU supporters seems to be that 2022 is going to be extremely fun.
While this season will certainly be more entertaining just based off of the style that the Rams will be playing, with 59 new players on the roster and new schemes on both sides of the football, it’s tough to project exactly what type of year the Rams will have. There is definitely talent, and they look more athletic in general, odds are that CSU will be a high variance team though, especially early on in the process.
There will be moments where the Rams connect on a big passing play and everything is exciting, but there will also be moments where the collective inexperience shows, including along the offensive line and under center.
That’s why for CSU, one of the biggest goals in 2022 is simply to finish the year better than they started it.
At his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon, Norvell opened with some startling statistics on how poor the Rams have been over the last half decade in the second half of seasons. In 2021 the Rams obviously lost six straight to close out the year in what was a particularly tough finish, but what’s crazy is that over the last five years the Rams have an embarrassing record of just 8-21 in the back half of the schedule.
What’s worse, the Rams have had a losing record at home in those games, an atrocious record on the road, and despite being the games that matter the most, the conference matchups and divisional games, CSU has largely been a doormat for the rest of the Mountain West with a record of 1-16 in games in which they trailed at halftime.
Sure, it would be awesome to see the Rams do what Utah State did in 2021 and win the league after flipping their roster with a bunch of transfers. But you cannot count on a perfect storm. All you can hope for is effort and incremental improvements. If CSU is going to turn things around under Norvell, CSU must start finishing better than they start, and he knows it.
“Our coaching staff and our current players have to question why,” Norvell said. “Why has this team not had more success, especially in the back half of the season?”
“Football is about responding to adversity. It’s about accountability,” Norvell continued. “And we’ve always had teams that have gotten better and improved with the more that they’ve practiced. That’s a goal that we have. But I wanted to start off with that because I think that’s where we are. Anywhere we go from here, we have to have a common understanding of how we do things, and how we go about our business.”
Norvell explained that over the last couple of months everything that the staff has drilled to the players has been in hopes of establishing the right habits, getting the guys in shape, and just just generally getting the guys to buy in wholeheartedly.
“Go out and give their best effort with all that they do,” Norvell said. “So I think that’s the floor that we start on right now. And I’m really, really excited about getting into our game week.”
The Rams may not blow everyone away this fall with 10 wins and CSU’s fist conference championship since 2002, but it feels safe to say that the program is finally trending in the right direction. The non-conference slate could be a bit bumpy with a pair of power five road trips, ultimately though, the main goal that Ram fans should have is improvement. If at the end of the season CSU is playing in competitive games, hopefully with a shot at qualifying for a bowl game, then Year 1 under Norvell should be considered a success.
Here are some more goals for CSU fans this season.
Winning record at home
CSU’s road schedule is definitely going to be a handful this fall. Starting with trips to Michigan and Washington State in September before opening the conference slate at Nevada is tricky enough. Having to then go to Boise State, San Jose State and Air Force is the cherry on top.
If the Rams are going to have a realistic shot of reaching the postseason, CSU will probably need to win at least four games at home, potentially more. Fortunately that seems like a realistic target between the non-conference schedule, Hawaii and New Mexico. While we don’t want to put too much stock into Week 0, Wyoming and Utah State appear to be winnable as well.
Week 0 games can provide a mixed bag of results, so again, we don’t want to overreact to the less-than-convincing showings from Utah State and Wyoming over the weekend.
Having said that though, it does not matter how either team is projected or even how they have performed in the games leading up to the Border War, for the fans of CSU and Wyoming, making sure the Bronze Boot is “where it belongs” is a goal each and every year. 2022 is no different.
Throw 15 touchdowns
CSU’s passing offense left a lot to be desired during the Addazio era. Over the 16 games that he led the program CSU totaled just 19 passing touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Between 2013-19 the CSU quarterbacks threw a minimum of 20 touchdowns in every 12-game season, so 19 total over 16 games was significantly less than what Ram fans had become accustomed to seeing in recent years.
Carson Strong only threw 11 touchdowns in 10 games in his first season as Nevada’s starting quarterback, and as a team Nevada combined for 13 in 2019. So we do not want to get too bold with expectations for a redshirt freshman QB this year.
However, on multiple occasions associate head coach / quarterbacks coach Matt Mumme has said that at this stage of his career, Clay Millen has progressed further than Strong had back in 2019, so the hope is that with an abundance of talent at wide receiver the Rams will have more statistical success than UNR did in Strong’s first season.
15 touchdown passes seems like a realistic bar to set for the 2022 campaign. 20 would be awesome, but 15 would show that this squad made some plays and provided much more excitement than the passing offense was able to in recent years.