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Izzy Matthews turning into a bruising back for Rams

Dominic Nedbalski Avatar
October 19, 2016


FORT COLLINS – It’s been well-documented that Colorado State lacked player leadership for a solid chunk of the 2016 season.

But when the Rams turned around a deficit against Utah State and nearly completed what would have been a historical comeback against Boise State, leaders showed up. Nick Stevens, Kevin Davis, and Jake Schlager all received praise by the coaching staff for recent performances.

Now, though, CSU may have found an emotional catalyst at running back.

Izzy Matthews, who shares time in the backfield with Dalyn Dawkins, is starting to emerge as the Energizer Bunny of the offense.

“Anytime you’re going down when all your guys see you pop back up after you just had a hard 5-yard run, most people would be tired,” Matthews said. “But when you pop back up and you’re ready, that makes them want to be ready for the next play. Anytime you can be that kind of spark, that’s what you want to do.”

Matthews was slowed by injury to begin the season, but now provides the change-of-pace type of running game the Rams were unable to generate for a number of games.

“A healthy Izzy Matthews gives us probably the ability to break more tackles,” said head coach Mike Bobo. “Does he have the game-breaker speed to him if we block him all the way to the safety to take it to the house? I don’t know, but I think he can punish guys in the back end.”

Bobo went on to explain how the sophomore running back can get both his offensive line excited, as well as the entire sideline. He referenced Knowshon Moreno and Todd Gurley from his time at Georgia as backs who would do that with regularity.

Moreno, he said, was the fastest guy to get back up off the ground following a tackle and get back to the huddle. Bobo recalled Gurley beating his chest and looking at the defender.

The Rams’ coach sees some similarities emotionally with Matthews.

“Any time you can punish a defender or you can make a guy miss or you get an explosive run, I think that adds energy to your football team,” Bobo said. “Izzy did it a couple times Saturday and jumped off that ground. And that kind of brings excitement to the sideline, to the guys that are blocking for him.”

Center Jake Bennett appreciates the cruel intent Matthews runs with.

“I think that gets the offense excited,” Bennett said. “As a defensive player, you’re like ‘I hit the hell out of that guy, what else can I do to him?’ As an offense, when a guy takes a lick, pops up and wants to get the ball again, I think it gets guys going.”

While Matthews is starting to open eyes, offensive coordinator Will Friend believes he can be even more of a difference-maker.

“The big thing he’s got to do is he’s 220 pounds, you know, run like it,” said Friend. “If you’re 220, you need to be the guy that kind of wears on defenses and that’s the way he needs to run.”

Heading into Saturday’s tilt with UNLV, Dawkins and Matthews have combined for 900 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns.

So you can bet Stevens loves the passion Matthews brings, especially if it means production.

“I think that it’s kind of contagious,” said Stevens. “When he comes in, he runs as hard as he can, runs through guys and gives the offense a spark of energy.”


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