The CSU football team got the result it wanted in its season opener last Saturday against the University of New Mexico, winning 14-10.
But there are some issues CSU must deal with to develop into a bowl-worthy team.
The defense was solid, but the offense left plenty of room for improvement. The running game averaged a pedestrian 3.3 yards-per-carry. And despite completing almost 85 percent of his passes, quarterback Pete Thomas was forced to throw short much of the afternoon.
The good news for CSU is that Saturday provides a perfect opportunity to rectify those problems. The Rams will be in front of an energetic â€œorange-outâ€ crowd and are facing a Northern Colorado team that lost 22-20 to NAIA school Lindenwood last week.
The first thing CSU will try to do is create more big plays in the running game.
â€œItâ€™s all about patience,â€ said Raymond Carter, who had 52 yards rushing last week. â€œIf youâ€™re patient and let everybody get on their blocks then the next thing you know thereâ€™s a whole righthere and you can just gash them downfield.â€
After watching the tape, CSU players felt that the running backs attacked the line too quickly without allowing the play to develop.
A poor run game in-turn allowed the defensive secondary to play deep and cut off all downfield throws, forcing Thomas to check down to underneath receivers. This led a fullback, Joe Brown, to lead CSU in receiving.
â€œA lot of plays you run off of certain coverages,â€ receiver Marquise Law said. â€œIf the defense runs a certain coverage, you have to check it down. As a receiver, itâ€™s a down moment in a game because youâ€™re looking for a big breakout play.â€
Coach Steve Fairchild feels that his offense did a good job of operating within the framework of what the defense provided, but he knows that his playmakers need to be more involved.
â€œIf theyâ€™re taking away deep balls and outside guys, weâ€™ve got to be able to hit inside guys,â€ Fairchild said. â€œLikewise, it doesnâ€™t take anybody studying football to see we need to get our receivers involved more. Thatâ€™s a point of emphasis this week.â€
Another focus point of the week has been just that: focus.
CSU is facing a team that saw its quarterback and running back get hurt while suffering a bad loss. And with division rival CU-Boulder looming next week, it would be easy for attention to wane.
But Fairchild insists that his team is locked in.
â€œIf youâ€™re the University of Northern Colorado, this is a big game for you, a chance to make a statement,â€ Fairchild said. â€œI am sure they look at it as a winnable game. Our football program is not at the point where we can overlook anybody.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What: Northern Colorado vs. CSU
- When: Noon, Saturday
- Where: Hughes Stadium
- Tickets: Student tickets available in Lory Student Center until 5 p.m. Friday.
- TV: The Mtn.
- Live-blog: Check Facebook and Twitter (@RMCollegian) for link to live-blog.