The CSU defense ended last season by giving up the most total yards in a single game in school history.
Eight months later, that same defense found its way back into the record books, this time for positive reasons.
“I think I’ll sit in the locker room and enjoy this one,” defensive coordinator Steve Standard said after Saturday’s 30-6 victory in which his defense allowed school record-lows for total offense, 86 yards, and rushing yards, minus-38.
“It feels good because the last three years we’ve been the worst rushing defense or whatever, and now we come out and have a performance like that,” said junior defensive lineman Blake Smith.
When asked if he knew about the defense’s record-setting performance, Smith responded, “Really, in how long…ever? That’s pretty good.”
Smith was one of six CSU players to sack Weber State quarterback Ian Pizarro seven times on Saturday.
“When I was back in coverage, I didn’t have to cover anybody because the quarterback was already sacked,” sophomore safety Mike Pagnotta said.
The CSU defense forced Weber State to punt the ball eight out of its 10 total possessions.
In fact, back-to-back CSU turnovers inside its own 30-yard line provided Weber State with both of its scoring drives.
Despite starting deep inside Rams territory, the Wildcats were held to only a pair of field goals.
“That shows maturity, especially in the first game,” Standard said. “When guys go in an adverse situation and not just pull the pen.”
While the defense was satisfied with its record-setting performance, it will be sure not to be overly optimistic.
“We have to come out to practice this week and go balls to the wall and definitely get our physicality up a little bit,” said senior safety Ben Stratton, who recorded a tackle in his first game back since having knee surgery a year ago.
Head Coach Sonny Lubick said he was pleased that his defense did not give up the big play, but that he would have to wait to see how it responds to a bigger, more physical opponent.
The defense was able to execute so successfully in large part due to its play on first down. The Rams held the Wildcats to five total yards on first-down plays.
“We got ourselves in a lot of second and longs,” said junior defensive end Jesse Nading. “We really did a nice job on first down. Any time you can do that, it alleviates a lot of the pressure for the rest of the series,”
Nading was also happy with the amount of punts forced by the Rams.
“We did a really nice job getting off the field on third down also, so hopefully we can carry that into next week,” he said.
Next week, of course, is when CSU plays the Colorado Buffaloes – a team that, unlike the Rams, did not take care of business in its home-opener against a Division I-AA opponent and is sure to be hungry to get its first win of the season in the return of the true Rocky Mountain Showdown at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium.
As Smith put it: “We’ll prepare for the game of our lives.”
Staff writer Sean Star can be reached at email@example.com.