Statistically, the weakest part of the CSU football teamâ€™s defense is stopping the run.
Saturday the Rams will face the Mountain Westâ€™s best running back in Ronnie Hillman of San Diego State University.
The numbers suggest that Hillman will have a prolific day at Hughes Stadium.
Hillman is the conferenceâ€™s leading rusher, averaging 150 yards per game on six yards per carry.
His 1,198 yards on the year ranks first in the nation, and is almost 450 yards more than the second leading carrier in the MW.
And CSU has struggled stopping the run throughout the season.
The Rams are giving up 226 rush yards per game, and during the four game losing streak they are on, CSU has allowed 276 per game.
Looking at those numbers, the key to the game is obvious.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to stop the run,â€ coach Steve Fairchild said. â€œThereâ€™s no question. If we donâ€™t stop the run, we donâ€™t have a chance.â€
Run defense is a problem that Fairchild and the rest of the coaching staff have been harping on for weeks now with little evidence that the group will return to the form it showed in the first four weeks of the season.
The players are trying to take the onus upon themselves and their teammates in order to shore up the unit.
â€œItâ€™s just blown assignments and missed tackles here and there,â€ linebacker James Skelton said. â€œWhen one guy doesnâ€™t do their thing, 10 other guys can do the right thing and itâ€™s going to mess up the whole defense.â€
In each of the past four weeks after reviewing the game tape, the coaches have felt that the players have been in the right spot to make the play, they just havenâ€™t executed.
â€œWe gave up a couple big plays at UNLV where we had guys there to make the play,â€ Fairchild said. â€œWeâ€™ve just got to get more hats to the ball. Weâ€™ve got to wrap up a little bit better. Itâ€™s an attitude thing, too.â€
And Hillman will certainly make the Rams pay if they arenâ€™t in the right positions or make the tackles when they get the opportunity.
The sophomore is only 300 yards short of his freshman total with four games still remaining. He has rushed for 100 or more yards in all but one game this season.
â€œHe was very, very impressive last year,â€ Fairchild said. â€œBut I think heâ€™s carrying the load this year…heâ€™s the first option. You can tell if they can get him going; thatâ€™s what they would like to do.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @Kevin_Lytle
Rushing touchdowns: 13
Yards per carry: 6
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