Only five games into the 2008 season, the CSU Rams have already equaled their win total from 2007 at three, but before they go any further, CSU has to face the toughest stretch of this year’s schedule starting with the Texas Christian Horned Frogs on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday’s game against TCU (5-1, 2-0 MWC) marks the sixth ever meeting between the two Mountain West Conference teams. CSU head coach Steve Fairchild said the Horned Frogs are among the elite when it comes to football in the MWC and where TCU is now is where the Rams plan to be in the coming years.
“TCU is, arguably with some of the other teams, one of the elite programs in our conference right now,” Fairchild said. “That’s where I think we were in the late ’90’s, now they’re the benchmark. This is a good opportunity for us to measure our program, so to speak, we will catch them. That’s our desire as a football program over the coming games, years, what have you. We have to get back to playing at that level.”
The Horned Frogs bring to the table the nation’s ninth ranked rushing offense, already accumulating 1,480 yards on the ground. The trick for TCU is that they don’t have one player carrying the load, as four members of the team have over 200 yards rushing. Leading the way on the ground for TCU is junior quarterback Marcus Jackson, who splits snaps with sophomore Andy Dalton.
Fairchild said CSU’s defensive preparation hasn’t changed too much despite the platoon quarterback system of TCU.
“They’re going to try to run the football, but (Jackson) is certainly a little bit different type of athlete. I wouldn’t say (preparation) would change a ton, but as we study him there are certain things one guy does a little bit better than the other,” the first year head coach said. “Dalton may be a little bit better in the passing game, but it’s very clear that they can lineup and run the football on you, and that’s what they’re going to do.”
While preseason preparation had most seeing CSU as a team that could run the ball as well as TCU, the Rams have found a pleasant surprise in the passing game, much of which credit should be given to junior wide receiver Rashaun Greer, who is currently second in the nation in receiving yards per game with 114.
Something TCU has been able to pride themselves on this season is their defense. Horned Frog head coach Gary Patterson isn’t sure if it’s his best defense ever, and won’t until the end of the year, but he does believe that next to top-ranked Oklahoma, the Rams are the best team TCU has faced this season.
“I think this week will be a big test because I think this is the second-best football team we’ve played this year,” Patterson said. “I think we have a lot of work to do, and we’re playing them at home. They’ve got it set up where it’s a homecoming crowd, family weekend, and I think everything plays in that direction and we’re gonna have to go take the ball game.”
CSU offensive coordinator Greg Peterson believes that the Rams have their work cut out for them this weekend against the stout TCU defense and that they are going to have to find ways to run the ball.
“They’ll try to outnumber you in the box regardless if you’re in two-back, I-formation, I mean they’ll try to get nine up there and spread ’em out, and they’ll get eight in there and blitz their corners,” said Peterson, who coached twelve years at Patterson’s alma mater, Kansas State. “They’ll always try to load the box so we gotta try and do things and try to make it easier to run the football effectively.”
Football beat writer Matt Stephens can be reached at email@example.com.