CSU’s football defense has trudged through a 1-9 season full of disappointment.
There have been blowouts, heartbreakingly close defeats, ongoing injuries and a pervasive feeling that the unit simply can’t catch any breaks.
So it would seem that Saturday’s game against I-AA opponent Georgia Southern (noon, Hughes Stadium) would be just what the doctor ordered.
But the Georgia Southern Eagles are hardly that.
The Southern Conference member comes into this weekend’s game the eighth-ranked offense among all I-AA teams, averaging 451 yards per game.
“I think they’ve got a very good offense,” said CSU defensive coordinator Steve Stanard. “You’d be surprised; there is very little difference sometimes between I-A and I-AA.”
The nation got a lesson in that theory on Sept. 1 when I-AA Appalachian State defeated then fifth-ranked Michigan 34-32 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
That upset surprised most, but not those who have been watching the talent disparity between the two divisions erode over recent years.
“Look at pro football and how many I-AA players are in the NFL,” Stanard said. “It shows you recruiting is not an exact science. You’re going to have to play well against whoever it is.”
For the record, Georgia Southern (7-3, 4-3 Southern Conference) beat Appalachian State on the road Oct. 20.
To avoid another disappointment, the Rams’ defense must slow an Eagles attack led by senior quarterback Jayson Foster, who averages just 109.6 yards passing per game but a league-best 164.9 rush yards per game.
“Their quarterback is a pretty talented guy, we have to make sure we tackle high and wrap him up,” said Rams safety Steve Juedes. “He’s just quick; he finds an open hole and steps through.”
“They are just athletes making plays,” said freshman linebacker Ricky Brewer. “Their quarterback and running back are the real deal.”
That running back, senior Lamar Lewis, is third in the Southern Conference in rushing, averaging just over 93 yards per game.
Through 10 games, the Rams rush defense is ranked last in the Mountain West Conference, allowing 203.9 yards per game.
“This is kind of like playing Air Force, the old Air Force, from the standpoint that you have to get them to do what they don’t want to do,” Stanard said.
That means slowing the run early and forcing Foster to use his arm, not his legs, to beat the Rams.
The CSU defense will attempt to do so once again battling the injury bug. Safeties Mike Pagnotta, Zach Bryson and Jake Galusha are all questionable to play.
Expect to see more of Juedes, a walk-on safety who played in every snap Saturday at New Mexico for the first time in his career.
Sports writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at email@example.com.
Colorado State Defense
Returning Starters from 2006: 9
Leading Tackler: LB Jeff Horinek
MWC Total Defense rank: 8th
MWC Scoring Defense rank: 9th
MWC Turnover Margin rank: 5th
By the numbers:
20 – rushing touchdowns allowed this season by the Rams defense
30.7 – points allowed per game, most in the MWC
113 – average rush yards allowed the past two weeks against BYU and New Mexico