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Three keys to victory for the Rams against Western Illinois

Justin Michael Avatar
September 6, 2019


FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The Rams (0-1) are looking to get back to their winning ways.

Having not come out on top in a football game since October 13, 2018, head coach Mike Bobo knows that a win in Week 2 would be huge for the team’s morale.

Spirits have been positive since the beginning of fall camp, even after the loss to Colorado, but there is no denying that the Rams are desperate to taste victory again. Right now, CSU is crawling through a vast desert and a win over Western Illinois is a jug of iced tea.

“I think it’s huge — I told Collin Hill that he hasn’t won a football with his hair like that so he needs to get a haircut,” Bobo joked. “It’s a bottomline business. It’s about winning ballgames and we’re trying to get to a certain point as a football team.”

Bobo continued, telling reporters that he feels his team has already made great progress in the early portion of the season. Now, he just wants to see them go out and have that hard work translate to success.

“We gotta go out there and win the ballgame, that’s my message to the team,” Bobo said.

With that in mind, here are three keys to victory for CSU against Western Illinois this weekend.

The most interesting man in the backfield

Marvin Kinsey might be the most intriguing person on Colorado State’s roster. The senior running back has enough athleticism to make an NFL team but could just as easily fade into wind if he doesn’t prove to be reliable enough to trust on a regular basis.

In the Week 1 loss to Colorado, Kinsey ran hard and converted on multiple third down touches to keep drives alive. Kinsey also was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after CSU’s first touchdown, fumbled on his first carry of the second half and allowed Collin Hill to get absolutely murdered on a missed pass protection assignment.

It’s obvious that the staff wants to be able to use Kinsey, especially if Marcus McElroy isn’t completely healthy yet. But if Kinsey wants to stay on the field, he can’t hurt his team with selfish penalties or costly mistakes.

“The talent is there, it’s always been about being dependable — that’s still up to Marvin,” Mike Bobo said after Tuesday’s practice. “We can’t lay the ball on the ground — if we lay the ball on the ground, you’re going to be standing next to me on the sidelines.”

Bobo expressed that he liked Kinsey’s effort against the Buffs and how he was able to make defenders miss tackles but pointed out how his mistakes had a big impact on the game.

He played extremely hard and made some plays, we just gotta take care of the football,” Bobo said. “Whether the whistle should have been blown dead or not, the rule is that as a running back, you’ve got to hand the football back to the official.”

Although Kinsey’s outing was an up-and-down performance, his burst and physicality should excite CSU fans. If the offense is clicking on Saturday, look for Kinsey to be a big part of it.

Can the offensive line stay consistent?

There were a lot of concerns about the stability of the offensive line but the group actually played really well against CU. Collin Hill had plenty of time to sit in the pocket and progress through his reads. And when the Rams decided to run the football, the guys in the trenches created space.

Colorado has as much size on the defensive line as team that CSU will face all season and the Rams handled them all night.

If CSU can get that same type of production from the offensive line in future games, including against Western Illinois, the Rams should be competitive in most games they play.

How the defense responds

It sounds odd to say that the defense showed flashes in a game in which CSU gave up 52 points but that really is the case.

Had sophomore cornerback Rashad Ajayi not been flagged for pass interference in the first quarter, the Rams would have forced three-and-outs on two of Colorado’s first three offensive possessions. If that would have happened, the game could have played out completely different.

Regardless of the outcome, the defensive line looked stout, particularly in the first half, the speed of the linebackers stood out when the Buffs tried to get the ball to the perimeter, and there weren’t many blown coverage assignments in the secondary.

Obviously, Laviska Shenault was able break free for a wide-open score at the end of the first half, and the tackling does need to be better — though, Bobo told reporters on Wednesday that the defense wasn’t as poor as he initially believed they were after the game. Bobo did say that CU was able to break some tackles late in the game but after reviewing the film, he was satisfied with his defenders for the most part.

“We let some things slip through the line of scrimmage but in the back end we tackled really well at the safety position,” Bobo said.

If CSU can limit the frustrating penalties that help keep drives alive and maybe get a few stops early in the game, the Rams should be able to move the ball against Western Illinois’ defense. However, according to Bobo, Western Illinois loves to push the pace, so doing so won’t be a walk in the park.

“They do a good job with motions and shifts, trying to get you talking defensively and just be a step slow with your keys,” Bobo said. “They do a great job on offense. I’ve been watching the past couple of days and I might have to steal some of their stuff to be honest.”

Look for CSU to try and build up an early lead in the first half and then run out the clock. But doing so starts with the defense getting stops. Bobo wants his defenders to force turnovers and has emphasized it throughout the week. Saturday will be the next test for CSU, before a pair of tough opponents in Arkansas and Toledo.


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