Despite the 0-2 start for Colorado State, there is a belief that things are trending the right direction in Fort Collins. 

For one thing, the Rams have established an offensive identity with Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi at quarterback.

After not scoring more than 19 points in any game last season, the Rams are finally starting to look like the group that we envisioned when Jay Norvell came over from Nevada. It’s early in the season, but at 28 points per game, CSU has more than doubled its scoring average from 2022. And in just his second career start, “BFN” was able to lead the Rams to 499 total yards of offense, while distributing the ball to three different pass catchers, all of which had a huge night. 

With Tory Horton (133 yards), Louis Brown (131 yards) and Dallin Holker (109 yards) all going over the century mark, CSU was able to accomplish something the program has never done before. Horton’s 16 receptions against the Buffs is a single-game record as well. 

Tory Horton smiles on the sideline of the 2023 Rocky Mountain Showdown. Photo: Ryan Greene | DNVR

As encouraging as the aforementioned numbers are — and don’t get me wrong, they’re certainly exciting — perhaps the biggest reason for optimism is the improvement we’ve seen with the offensive line. CSU allowed 16 sacks through the first two weeks of the 2022 campaign. They’ve allowed just four to this point and only one of them was an actual shot on the quarterback. The other three were instances where BFN ran out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage. 

“My big boys up front kept me clean and allowed me to do me tonight,” Fowler-Nicolosi said postgame. “I think it’s really pivotal moving forward that we continue that and I keep faith in the big boys up front.” 

If there is an area where CSU could improve offensively, it would be on the ground. The Rams do not have a rushing touchdown this fall. And the team average of 2.4 yards per carry isn’t exactly going to intimidate anyone watching the Green & Gold. 

Having said that, though, while there is room for improvement, it should be noted that the Rams converted on 50 percent of their third-down attempts at CU. So while it’s easy to nitpick the rushing numbers, the fact of the matter is that CSU was successfully able to sustain drives all game long — largely due to the success BFN had getting the ball to his receivers on crossing routes. 

With the talent and speed that the Rams possess at the skill positions, if you can get the ball in the hands of the receivers in space, they’re more than capable of creating yards after the catch. And in a vertical passing scheme like the Air Raid, some of the underneath routes and screen passes essentially work as an extension of the rushing attack anyways. 

Really, the biggest killer for CSU on Saturday proved to be the penalties. An exasperated Norvell told reporters that he can’t even really speak on it because it was so frustrating and ridiculous. “It’s a real shame, because a lot of those penalties took away a lot of great efforts from our kids,” he said. 

If CSU can clean up the penalties, though, and continue to build on the progress we’re seeing the offensive unit make, the defense is going to hit its stride in the coming weeks. Having to deal with Washington State and Colorado was a pretty brutal draw for the Rams out of the gate. The nice thing about the situation is that CSU won’t face another quarterback that is even remotely on Cam Ward or Shedeur Sanders’ level for the remainder of the season. 

If the Rams continue to get after the quarterback, force turnovers and get off of the field on third down like they did for the majority of the night against CU, good things are going to happen for the Green & Gold. Don’t lose faith in a unit that has significantly more talent than one may guess by just glancing at the scores of the first two games. 

0-2 is never a position anybody wants to be in. But in a year where the Mountain West feels particularly wide open, there’s still plenty on the line for the Rams this fall. These next two non-conference games are going to be pivotal for CSU to refine some things before entering the conference slate. 

Next up: Middle Tennessee State. 


Justin is a Colorado State alumnus and has covered the Rams for DNVR since 2019. Prior to coming to DNVR, Justin was the founder of and the Sports Director for the Rocky Mountain Collegian. From 2013-15 he was an intern for CSU Football.

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