The CSU offense under head coach Sonny Lubick has always been based on a good running game and play action passes. A good running game was needed even more than usual Saturday to keep Miami (Ohio) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger off the field as much as possible.
But the RedHawks’ defense held CSU to their lowest rushing output in more than two years and Roethlisberger torched the Rams in a 41-21 Miami victory at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.
“We couldn’t run,” said CSU quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt. “If you know football, you know you have to be able to run to be successful.”
CSU managed just 39 yards on the ground, averaging 1.3 yards per carry and had minus three yards rushing at halftime. It was the lowest output since another 39-yard effort in a 17-14 win against New Mexico on Oct. 7, 2000.
“We weren’t doing anything different and they weren’t do anything different,” said CSU sophomore center Albert Bimper. “Mistakes killed us early and killed us often throughout the game.”
Bimper was playing his second game at center, moving from guard to replace the injured senior Mark Dryer. Dryer dressed but did not play after having surgery on his right hand less than two weeks ago. Tight end Joel Dreessen played through a lower abdominal strain he incurred early in the game.
“The (offensive) line was a little banged up, but that is no excuse,” Lubick said.
CSU’s offense was forced to rely on big plays, with five plays accounting for 239 of the 388 yards in total offense. Wide receiver David Anderson had a big day, catching five passes for 167 yards. But Anderson said the offense could not be successful without a consistent running game.
“Everybody knows we’re a smash mouth football team and we do a lot of stuff off play action, and if we’re not running the ball, they’re not going to bite,” Anderson said. “I’m kind of dumbfounded at what happened.”
Miami middle linebacker Terrell Jones and strong safety Matt Pusateri led the RedHawks with five tackles each. Miami had eight tackles for losses including three sacks. It was the first time CSU had been sacked more than once this year.
“I thought our defense played a good game, with the exception of giving up a few big plays,” said Miami head coach Terry Hoeppner. “It was very key for our offense to keep the ball as long as we could. We wanted to keep it away from their offense.”
Miami’s defensive play, combined with a balanced offensive attack of 330 yards passing and 206 yards rushing, dominated time of possession 35:48 to CSU’s 24:12.
“As an offensive player, we didn’t do our part to put some long drives together,” said CSU running back Marcus Houston, who led the Rams with 11 carries for 30 yards.
Van Pelt said he is confident the offense can improve on the running game the rest of the season, starting next Saturday against conference rival Utah.
“We’re going to have to suck it up and do a little better job, so I guarantee you we’re going to focus on the running game,” Van Pelt said. “But I’m not worried, I know we can run. Just because things don’t go your way, you’re not going to throw the towel in.”
Hammered at Hughes
Saturday’s 41-21 loss to Miami (Ohio) was the worst CSU has been beaten at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium since 1997. Air Force beat CSU 24-0 at Hughes in the 1997 season.
“We have to come back and practice harder than last week,” head coach Sonny Lubick said about the loss.
Miami (Ohio)’s upset of CSU was just one of many upsets notched by the Mid American Conference last week. On Saturday, the conference knocked off two top 10 teams. Marshall knocked off No. 6 Kansas State 27-20 in Manhattan, Kan., and Toledo knocked off No. 9 Pittsburgh 35-31. Northern Illinois continued their stellar non-conference season, knocking off No. 21 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., 19-16. The Salukis knocked off Maryland to start the season. Miami (Ohio) has posted more than 40 points two weeks in a row, with 41 against CSU and 44 last week against Northwestern in a 44-14 victory.
The Rams’ confidence was not the only thing that was hurt in the loss. Tight end Joel Dreessen suffered a lower abdominal strain, linebacker Jahmal Hall hurt his left shoulder, safety Lukas Davis hurt his left ankle, defensive end Patrick Goodpaster suffered a left knee sprain and tight end Brandon Alconcel hurt his left ankle and left foot.