Who needs identity?

Sep 292002
Authors: Reed Saunders

You think you know someone.

I thought for sure I had our Rams figured out. They were a fast-starting team, used to closing the first quarter with the lead. They used a steady defense and spectacular special teams units to stay on top.

After half, the Rams’ fast feet would hit quicksand. Turnovers and a stalled offense would allow the dudes in different colored jerseys back into the game. It got close, but in the end, the Rams would hang on. “Rams escape with victory” was the ever-present headline.

That wasn’t Saturday’s Rams. A trip to Reno brought out a different team for a different kind of victory.

CSU was slow out of the gate against the Nevada Wolf Pack. Instead of going up, it was the Wolf Pack who jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind quarterback Zack Threadgill’s torching passes. The normally disciplined Rams also committed uncharacteristic penalties. Bradlee Van Pelt opened the Rams’ offensive game with a 23-yard option dash, only to see it negated with a holding penalty.

The Rams special teams weren’t so special. Jeff Babcock missed a chip-shot field goal that would have opened the scoring. Joey Huber, a Ray Guy award candidate for the nation’s top punter, shanked a wounded duck punt for three yards and averaged a meager 29.6 yards on five punts.

It certainly did not appear to be the Rams’ day. CSU went into halftime trailing 14-7. Their defense had been picked apart. Their offense was inconsistent. Their special teams were anything but.

The stage was set for the Rams’ most impressive win of the season.

Foret Virginia, forget CU. Don’t even think about Louisville. THIS was the best win of the Rams’ season.

The Cardiac Kids became the Comeback Kids. The second half, normally a time of turmoil, was the Rams’ time to shine. Van Pelt and Cecil Sapp each rumbled for over 125 yards, shredding the Wolf Pack with their scorched earth option attack. Chris Pittman had a breakout game, catching 10 passes for 151 yards. Trailing by as many as 14, the Rams outscored the Wolf Pack 25-7 to close the game.

The defense tightened up as well. Constant blitzing pressure forced Threadgill to unload the ball much quicker – and much less accurately – than he had in the first half. They were solid when they had to be and two huge interceptions by seniors Rhett Nelson and Peter Hogan changed momentum and sealed a come-from-behind win.

Before Saturday, the Rams had been outscored 64-28 in the fourth quarter. In this second half, the Rams rallied not once, but twice from deficits to produce a victory.

What does it all mean? The Rams have become an elite team because they refuse to settle on a single identity. Coming into the season, the Rams were a running team – the Rams would live and die with Sapp because the passing game was unproven. Now Van Pelt and Holland’s arms – along with a fast group of receivers – are just as feared. The linebackers were the best part of an otherwise unspectacular defense, including an inexperienced secondary. While the linebackers have excelled, the secondary and defensive line have stepped up to be solid performers every week.

The Rams were on their way to being labeled again – the dreaded “can’t put a team away” stigma. Saturday the Rams shed that and any other stereotyping identity by coming from behind in the second half to win a game in which they were not the better team for the majority of the afternoon.

We’re still not sure just who these Rams are. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

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