When the Colorado State defense gave up a 41-yard pass play that led to a touchdown on New Mexicoâ€™s opening drive Saturday evening, Rams fans probably had fears of a continuation of the 59 points Utah scored a week prior.
But after the first drive, the CSU defense went into shutdown mode, as the Rams topped the Lobos 38-14 at Hughes Stadium.
â€œAfter that first drive we stepped up,â€ said linebacker Mychal Sisson. â€œWe said â€˜Weâ€™re not going to let that happen anymore,â€™ and we came out and proved it.â€
Sisson created havoc all day long, consistently disrupting New Mexico plays. The junior led the Rams with 12 tackles, including three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
While the Ramsâ€™ offense and exceptional rushing attack will get most of the headlines, the CSU defense put in a dominant performance of its own, limiting New Mexico to 237 total yards.
The CSU defense was able to dominate the line of scrimmage, limiting the Lobos to 96 rush yards for the game, with an average of 2.8 yards-per-carry.
And while the Rams didnâ€™t record a sack on the day, they did apply plenty of pressure to the Lobos quarterbacks. CSUâ€™s defense had five quarterback hurries and knocked New Mexicoâ€™s starting quarterback, B.R. Holbrook, out of the game with a shoulder injury.
â€œThis was one of the few games that Iâ€™ve coached in that I felt our team just got outmanned,â€ said New Mexico coach Mike Locksley after the game. â€œOffensively, we didnâ€™t do a good job of protecting our quarterback. We got our quarterback knocked out.â€
The pressure applied to the Lobosâ€™ quarterbacks kept their passing attack out of rhythm and New Mexico only threw for 141 yards while alternating between Holbrook and Stump Godfrey under center.
The CSU defense started the second half by keeping UNM off of the scoreboard after the Lobos executed a successful onside kick recovery, preventing them from gaining any momentum.
For the entire second half, the Rams limited New Mexico to 63 yards and three first downs. CSU has now given up only 24 total points in its last two home games.
CSU was especially dominant on third downs, only allowing the Lobos to convert five of 14 third down attempts.
The Rams know that their success on third down defense is often a good indicator of how a game will go.
â€œI thought they did well,â€ coach Steve Fairchild said of the defense. â€œThe biggest thing we did was we made some third down stops. When we do that defensively, things go good. When we struggle on third down, itâ€™s usually a long night for us.â€
Sisson echoed his coachâ€™s assertion that third down defense has been a point of emphasis from the coaching staff.
â€œEvery week (defensive coordinator Larry) Kerrâ€™s been telling us that we need to get more third down stops and just get three and outs,â€ Sisson said. â€œWe practiced that and practiced that and finally it showed up in this game.â€
Sports reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.