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Despite a tough start to the season, Colorado State has found its offensive identity with Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi

Justin Michael Avatar
September 18, 2023

Colorado State left it all on the field Saturday night. 

After nobody gave the Rams a chance to hang with the Buffs in Boulder, let alone have an opportunity to win the game, CSU went into Folsom Field and went blow for blow with Colorado in an environment that was straight out of a movie.  

Obviously losing 43-35 in double overtime is tough to stomach. It’s one of those losses that will linger in the back of your mind for years. I mean, the Rams were right there. They should have pulled off the upset after being completely dismissed by the nation for a week straight. 

As painful as the result was for Ram Nation though — and it’s definitely up there with some of the all-time heartbreakers in program history — seeing the way that CSU battled in hostile territory was extremely encouraging for the rest of the season. The Rams are 0-2 and that’s not where anybody wants to be. But considering they’ve played the best two teams they’ll see this year, similarly to what San Jose State has done, there’s legitimate reason to believe this group can get rolling in a hurry.

Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi prepares for the snap in his second career start. Photo: Ryan Greene | DNVR

I’ve said all along that this Rams team has serious talent. What they needed to establish was an offensive identity. And they’ve clearly unlocked something here with Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi at quarterback. 

In just his second career start, the redshirt freshman made plays all night long. He was decisive with the football and gave his skill players an opportunity to do what they do best. He was confident in the pocket and went through his progressions. Given the circumstances, it was really one hell of a showing for the young gunslinger. 

In total, Fowler-Nicolosi finished the night 34-of-47 for 367 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Obviously the turnovers are something he needs to clean up and he knows that. But more than anything, on a night where the Rams needed “BFN” to essentially summon his inner “BVP”, Fowler-Nicolosi showed that he has the type of personality a team can rally behind. 

Even after losing in such a gut-wrenching manner, BFN was calm, cool and collected at the podium. He talked about attention to detail and how Saturday night will be a learning experience for him. He credited the offensive line for keeping him clean and praised his receivers for making plays. It was everything you wanted to hear from your QB. And it was one of many examples from Saturday night of why his presence has been really good for the Rams. 

Moving forward, it’s going to be fun to see BFN get an opportunity to grow with the offense. He did a stellar job of getting the ball in the hands of CSU’s playmakers against CU. In fact, the Rams had three different pass catchers go over the century mark for the first time in school history. As he continues to work with the offense and gains even more familiarity with everyone on the field, this group could be extremely dangerous — especially if Tory Horton, Louis Brown and Dallin Holker are showing out like they did against CU. 

Tory Horton (14) matches up against Travis Hunter (12) in a highly anticipated Rocky Mountain Showdown. Photo: Ryan Greene | DNVR

We already knew Horton was one of the best deep threats in the game. But when you’re also able to get him the ball in space and allow him to create yards after the catch, he’s pretty much a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses. He showed that all night with 16 receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown. The candidate for Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year showed that he can pass too with his highlight touchdown throw to Holker in the first quarter. 

Speaking of Holker, the BYU transfer already has three touchdown receptions on the season and is quickly proving to be the best tight end in the conference. He’s too big and strong for defensive backs to handle, but he’s too athletic for linebackers to keep up with in coverage. His catch radius is absolutely absurd as well. A lot like Trey McBride, he’s one of those guys you can line up anywhere on the field and just depend on to make something happen. 

The most encouraging showing Saturday night, though, at least as far as the pass catchers go, was probably the breakout game from Louis Brown. If BFN can get the ball to guys like him and Justus Ross-Simmons consistently — on top of everything Horton and Holker bring to the table — I’m really not sure what defenses are going to be able to do to slow down CSU. Particularly if the offensive line is holding up and the Rams can also run the ball with their two-headed monster in the backfield. That’s just too much offensive firepower for defenses in the Mountain West to shut down consistently. 

It’s been a tough start to the 2023 campaign with a pair of losses to top 25 opponents. That said, if the Rams can build off of the momentum they have established offensively and not let the disappointing finish result in a hangover that holds them back, this team is good enough to be in the mix for a Mountain West Championship. It’s up to them to figure out how to play like it consistently. 

We’ll see how CSU deals with its first of 10 remaining tests when they travel to Middle Tennessee State in Week 4. The setting won’t be even remotely close to what the Rams experienced in Boulder, so it will be up to them to generate their own energy. But considering this team came into Fort Collins and punched the Rams in the teeth last year, you’d have to think that the Green & Gold will be itching to potentially return to the favor in 2023. 

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