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Takeaways: Colorado State offense underwhelms in Game 1 for the Rams

Justin Michael Avatar
October 30, 2020

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — After 335 days, Colorado State football finally played a team other than themselves Thursday night. Unfortunately, for the Colorado State faithful, the Rams looked like a team that had not played in roughly 11 months, as they fell to Fresno State 38-17 at Bulldog Stadium. 

In the blowout loss, CSU consistently brought pressure and actually managed to do a nice job of getting in Jake Haener’s face at times. However, unlike his performance in the loss to Hawaii, the junior quarterback looked extremely composed against CSU. Haener bought time with his legs and made good decisions with the football all night. When there was a chance to strike for big yards against a soft zone, Haener was aggressive. But he also killed the Rams with simple dump-offs to the running back in the flat. In total, the Washington-transfer QB finished 22-of-32 for 311 yards, three touchdown passes and zero turnovers. 

Along with Haener, one of the players that Fresno State relied on the most was Ronnie Rivers who finished with a pair of rushing touchdowns and 95 yards on the ground. Additionally, Rivers was Fresno State’s second-leading receiver, finishing the night with 69 yards on four receptions and a receiving touchdown. After a modest showing against the Warriors, it was definitely clear that getting the senior running back more touches was a point of emphasis in Fresno State’s gameplan. 

Flipping things to CSU, the Rams were led offensively by Trey McBride. McBride caught CSU’s only passing touchdown — a 20-yard strike from Patrick O’Brien in the fourth quarter. Had Todd Centeio not missed a wide-open McBride in the end zone in the third quarter, he would have had two scores on the night. Alas, the junior tight end still finished with game-high figures in catches (8), receiving yards (130) and receiving targets (11) despite the team’s losing effort. 

Aside from McBride, Nate Craig-Myers was really CSU’s only other significant pass catcher in the game. The former Auburn Tiger hauled in 80 percent of his targets (4-of-5) and finished with the most receiving yards (50) he’s had in a game since Week 6 of last year. It was good to see him in the mix after a quiet finish to the 2019 season but it obviously did not impact the final score at all. 

On the ground, the Rams did produce 158 yards — 74 more than they allowed on defense. The problem was that after Centeio gashed the Bulldogs for multiple first downs with his legs, but generally struggled to move the ball through the air, Fresno State just started stacking the box — which only made things tougher on Marcus McElroy (35 yards) and A’Jon Vivens (26 yards) in the backfield. 

Here are the other takeaways from the opening loss.

Passing offense struggles without O’Brien on the field

Despite coming out and running well early, CSU’s offense as a whole was wildly inconsistent throughout the night. With Temple-transfer Todd Centeio under center and wide receivers, Dante Wright and Ty McCullough, both out due to contact tracing protocols, the passing offense looked extremely lackluster on Thursday. Centeio missed multiple wide-open throws, including two that should have been touchdowns. That said, he also was the victim of multiple easy drops from veteran players. Constantly being in second and third and long situations did not help his cause either. 

Moving forward, it will be extremely interesting to see what the coaching staff decides to do with the starting quarterback position. Steve Addazio told the media postgame that the decision to start Centeio on Thursday night was largely because he believed they needed his rushing abilities to have a chance with the team missing half of their top receivers. He also said the decision was not necessarily permanent and that he reevaluates all aspects of his team before each week. 

With how one-dimensional the offense looked under Centeio, though, as well as his accuracy issues throwing the football, O’Brien seemingly has to get more playing time in Week 2. In essentially a half a quarter of football, O’Brien had more than half as many passing yards as Centeio totalled in the entire game. Playing devil’s advocate, Fresno State was up 28 by the time O’Brien got subbed in, so there is an argument that much of his statistical production can be chalked up to garbage time. But just watching the offense with O’Brien on the field, it’s pretty evident that the Rams are much more explosive vertically — even if he doesn’t bring the same dynamic rushing abilities as Centeio.  

Neither quarterback was made available for the media post-game but when asked how O’Brien responded to the situation, Addazio credited O’Brien for handling the situation like a grown man. Trey McBride also credited O’Brien for being an active teammate on the sidelines throughout the game and stepping up when his number was called in the fourth quarter. 

Rams struggled to get off the field on D, stay on the field on O

“We’ve gotta get off the field… and we didn’t do it,” Addazio said. 

If CSU is going to have any chance of being a successful football team, they absolutely must improve on third and fourth down situations. Both offensively and defensively, the Rams were a mess in multiple critical moments — none more back-breaking than the multiple third-and-longs given up by the defense, however. 

When it was all said and done, the Bulldogs converted on 10-of-18 third down attempts and each of their fourth down attempts to boot. The Rams, on the other hand, were only able to convert on four of their 15 attempts on third down. Fourth down was even rougher for CSU — the team converted once in four tries. 

As Addazio explained, if you don’t execute in those crucial situations, there’s almost no chance of winning the game — especially when you allow 70 yards on penalties alone. “Far too many mistakes on defense that kept drives alive.”

Red Zone Woes

CSU was able to drive down the field on multiple occasions. Once they got to the Red Zone, things kinda fell apart though.

As Addazio mentioned in his opening statement of his post-game press conference, the Rams got inside the Bulldogs’ 13-yard line on three different occasions and only managed to come away with 3 points out of the trips. “When you get to the red zone, you’re there to score points… we didn’t get it done tonight.”

Simply put, the Rams left way too many points on the board to really even give themselves a chance in this one. The tackling needs to improve on defense and CSU needs to cut down the penalties, but nothing comes back to haunt teams quite like missed opportunities. 

Next Up

CSU (0-1) has no time to feel sorry for themselves. The Rams have the always-important Border War coming up on November 5. The Cowboys (0-1) will come to Fort Collins after hosting Hawaii (1-0) this weekend.


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