Aug 232005
 
Authors: Brett Okamoto

Offense gets the glory but defense wins the game.

At least, according the cliche.

Last season, Colorado State gave up an average of 29.5 points per game – third worst in the Mountain West Conference. The team also posted a 4-7 overall record last season – also third worst in the MWC.

This year is filled with high expectations and opportunities to turn heads for a team coming off its worse season since 1991.

Those expectations will fall short, however, if the Ram defense doesn't pick up the red carpet they laid out for opponents last season.

The biggest focus for this year's Ram defense will be stopping the run, something they didn't do last year.

Opponents last year ran at will against CSU, gaining 5.2 yards per carry. Nationally, their 221.7 rushing yards allowed per game was ranked 111th in the nation.

Sophomore defensive end Jesse Nading has been preached to all off-season about stopping the run and is ready to hush the critics this fall.

"More than anything it's all about attitude," said Nading during the preseason two-a-day workouts. "Stopping the run is about gritting your teeth and doing it. Since spring that's been the focus around here and we're bearing down and getting the physical aspect of it. Now we just gotta be in the right place to make the play."

The defensive line said goodbye to two starters last season and will be a young group this year. Nading is joined by fellow sophomore Blake Smith, who saw action as a freshman last year. Also available is senior Terrance Carter who is a projected starter, despite missing early practice time due to a concussion.

If the team can find success at the front line, opponents will be forced to throw at a veteran secondary, who ranked first last season in pass defense in the MWC.

"I can't really say we were [the best pass defense] in the conference because no one was really passing on us," said junior cornerback Robert Herbert. "The D-line is coming alive this year though and it'll be a test for our secondary."

That secondary will have to operate without senior leader Ben Stratton who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Stratton's punishing hits and vocal leadership will be sorely missed, but the team's secondary will still have Herbert and returning starting cornerback Brandon Cathy to lead them.

Stratton was confident that his presence as the leader of the defense wouldn't be as necessary as it was with last year's younger squad.

"Last year I filled more of a vocal role," said Stratton at this year's football media day. "We have a lot more leaders this year."

The empty safety position will be filled by senior Travis Garcia. He has already had experience at the position, including against last year's national champions, Southern California. Garcia was also a key player on the special teams unit in past seasons.

While the line is expected to improve drastically from last season and the secondary has already proven to be one of the top in the league, the most impressive part of this year's defense will be the linebacker core, made up entirely of returning starters.

Luke Adkins, Courtney Jones and Jahmal Hall accounted for 145 tackles last year, twelve for a loss.

Adkins ran back two picks for touchdowns last season as a sophomore and figures to be one of the best outside linebackers in the conference.

Jones and Hall have both been frustrated by injuries in the past, but are coming into their senior year healthy and hungry after watching on the sideline.

In the end, offense gets the glory, but defense wins the game.

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