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Takeaways from CSU's 10th consecutive victory over New Mexico

Justin Michael Avatar
October 12, 2019

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — When Dorothy killed the Wicked Witch of the West, all of Munchkin Land danced in the streets. Fans of Colorado State football (2-5) may not be jumping for joy in Old Town but after snapping a 10-game losing streak to FBS opponents Friday night, the Ram faithful, for the first time in nearly a year, can go to bed with a smile.

Playing in front of a modest crowd, CSU defeated New Mexico 35-21 at Dreamstyle Stadium. The narrow victory extends CSU’s winning streak over the Lobos to an impressive 10 games.

Here are the takeaways from the first Rams victory since Week 2.

The offense needs Warren Jackson

After missing a couple of games with a shoulder injury, Warren Jackson returned with a vengeance Friday night. The junior wide receiver consistently made plays up and down the field, quickly reminding the Ram faithful why his presence is so valuable for the offense.

Jackson led the Rams with 214 receiving yards on nine receptions and a pair of touchdowns in the victory. But while the numbers were impressive, what really stood out about the 6-foot-6, 219-pound, playmaker was his ability to come through in the clutch.

In the first half, CSU really moved the football well but a pair of costly fumbles and the failure to secure possession in the Lobos’ end zone after a near-UNM blunder kept the game tight. The Rams racked up 293 yards of total offense, averaged 8.26 yards per play and converted on 6-of-9 third downs.

Jackson was a big part of that offensive success — four of his catches in the opening two quarters resulted in a first down and the other was an 87-yard touchdown to tie the game, 14-14. CSU would later take a one-score lead when Marvin Kinsey plowed into the end zone on fourth and goal with 5 seconds left in the second quarter (21-14).

Then, in the third quarter, Jackson picked up right where he left off. On CSU’s opening possession of the second half, No. 9 kept the drive alive with an 11-yard reception for a first down. A few plays later, following a 64-yard run from Dante Wright, Kinsey scored his second touchdown of the game to give the Rams a two touchdown lead (28-14).

Finally, with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Lobos looking to battle back, Jackson put the game away with a 26-yard touchdown.

Clearly UNM’s secondary is suspect but the fact that Jackson was able to return to the lineup and make an immediate impact was definitely a positive sign. Having a reliable veteran like Jackson opens up the entire offense and makes it hard for the defense to key in on Wright. As long as he’s healthy, the Rams need to build off Friday’s momentum and get the ball to Jackson as much as possible in the five remaining games. He’s an absolute difference maker and his presence can legitimately be the difference between winning and losing in a close game.

Patrick O’Brien should finish out the season

Patrick O’Brien has struggled at times this season but he’s earned the right to finish out the 2019 campaign as CSU’s starting quarterback. In Friday’s victory, O’Brien was accurate with the football, made smart decisions and constantly made plays on third down.

Obviously, the numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt — the Lobos have one of the worst defenses in the country — but O’Brien’s performance was a welcomed sight for sore eyes in Ram Country. In total, the former Nebraska Cornhusker completed 25-of-34 pass attempts for 420 yards (73.5 percent). Most importantly, O’Brien threw three touchdowns and accounted for zero turnovers.

If the former four star recruit can mimic his play against the Lobos in CSU’s remaining games, and the offense can find a way to cut down on the penalties and fumbles, O’Brien may be able to lead the green and gold to a few more victories in 2019.

Rams were fortunate to play the Lobos

Never apologize for a victory, especially on the road — but the Rams were extremely lucky that they were going up against an awful team — otherwise CSU’s losing streak against Division 1 opponents would have very likely extended over a calendar year.

Between UNM’s ineffectiveness through the air, multiple pass interference penalties from Lobo defensive backs and a couple of questionable timeouts by Bob Davie, the home team really helped the Rams’ cause. Not to mention that the Lobos turned the football over on each of their final three possessions.

The Rams have to find a way to play smart football and bury these lowly opponents in the future, otherwise little mistakes like fumbling at the goal line or not noticing that your opponent fumbled before going into the end zone will continue to plague them.


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