Sep 192010
 
Authors: Matt L. Stephens

OXFORD, Ohio –– I don’t think I’ll ever forget the words that resonated from veteran referee Karl Richins during the first quarter of Colorado State’s 31-10 loss at Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.

Following an outstanding catch by CSU junior wide receiver Matt Yemm that setup the Rams first-and-goal from the nine-yard line and advancing the ball to the two with third down upcoming, a costly mistake pushed the Green and Gold back five yards.

Flags were thrown, whistles were blown and Richins came over the booming PA system at Yager Stadium.

“Prior to the snap: False start, everyone but the center,” he said.

Clearly funny in its context, I couldn’t help but laugh at the pure irony of the call.

Losing four offensive linemen from CSU’s 2009 team to NFL camps, everyone expected the Rams’ front five in 2010 to not be as strong as it was a season ago, but we did hear from coaches that this year’s group could be more talented than the last.

Do I blame this bunch of offensive linemen for not being at the level of its predecessor?

Absolutely not. I think they have the potential to be with time. But for three consecutive weeks with this team, we never see what’s expected.

Improvement from the offensive line?

Not really, though it only allowed four sacks to Miami after five against Nevada.

A veteran defense that continues to get stronger?

The five sacks by as many players for CSU against the RedHawks was great, but the Rams still allowed too many big plays and couldn’t stop the screen. CSU has also only forced one turnover this year.

Any production whatsoever from that deep pool of running backs?

Nah.

Three games into the season, the only thing we’ve learned to expect from the Rams is the unexpected. And once again, it’s a local kid turning heads.

That player is Yemm.

The former Fort Collins High School quarterback became infamous during the Border War a year ago when he couldn’t catch a perfect pass from then-quarterback Jon Eastman during the Rams’ final drive. The ball deflected off Yemm’s hands and resulted in an interception.

Not the headline receiver CSU fans expected heading into the 2010 season, Yemm is now the Rams’ second-leading receiver –– behind Byron Steele –– with 94 yards and the team’s only touchdown thanks to a diving catch in the fourth quarter against Miami.

What has driven Yemm to establish himself as a go-to target for freshman quarterback Pete Thomas?

“My teammates motivate me a lot, and the coaching staff has given me a shot to show what I can do,” Yemm said Saturday. “The ball is getting thrown around everywhere, and I do what I can when it comes my way.”

For Thomas, who admits it may sound cliche, though all of his receivers are targets he said he feels comfortable throwing to, having a former quarterback run routes is something valuable to have.

“It helps because (Yemm) knows what I’m thinking, especially when he’s running a route to know where the holes (in coverage) are,” Thomas said.

But using a former high school quarterback to play wide receiver isn’t something that’s new for CSU.

Obviously there’s T.J. Borcky, who always seems to find himself in the quarterback battle discussion every spring and even takes snaps from one of the Rams’ wildcat variations during practices.

And last year we saw Dion Morton, who was very generously listed at 5-foot-10-inches, complete 100 percent of his passes (four total) for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Morton played quarterback at John W. North High School in Riverside, Calif. and holds the school record for passing yards and touchdowns.

Even though it’s not an oddity in today’s football world when a one-time quarterback is put on the opposite side of the pitch-and-catch, there’s something special about Yemm that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I know it’s still early, but Yemm seems to be turning into this season’s Tyson Liggett –– the undersized receiver from right here in Colorado who no one expected much of until he got his shot.

Offensive production has been in limited supply for CSU this season. Fans should be thankful for kids like Yemm doing everything they can to try and save a football program that was for more than a decade synonymous with “success.”

Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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