Colorado State wide receiver Johnny Walker summed up the entire game plan for this week’s match-up against the Fresno State Bulldogs in one sentence.
“We got to play Ram football, that’s it,” Walker said.
Play Ram football. It sounds so easy, but the Rams did anything but just that two weeks ago in a 28-10 loss to Nevada.
With three games in the books, the Rams’ main area of improvement remains a ground game that rushed for only 64 yards against the WolfPack.
“We better run the ball or it’s going to be another long night,” said offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt. “Our running backs are good enough to get it done. Kyle Bell isn’t out there, but that’s not the answer. We’ve got to get tougher, stick on our blocks longer and run over people.”
The Bulldogs’ defense features many of the same zone blitz packages the Rams use. Last season saw fifteen different Fresno State players record a sack.
“I’m hoping we can complete some balls early,” said Hammerschmidt. “When people blitz you got to complete balls. We’ve been giving up too many sacks but they got better in the off week.”
Defensively the Rams have to return to the form that put them among the best in the country before the Nevada game. The Bulldogs are returning 18 starters from last season, including four members of an oversized offensive line.
“We’ve always been undersized up front. We have to rely on our quickness,” said defensive end Jesse Nading. “It’s the same thing this week.”
The defensive line will have their work cut out for them trying to contain the fifth-ranked running back in the country, Dwayne Wright. Wright is currently averaging 149.33 yards per game and has found the end zone six times in three games, despite missing all of last season rehabilitating an injured knee.
“They play smash-mouth brand of football,” Nading said. “Our number one priority is the run game. They have a good quarterback and receivers though, we’ll have our hands full.”
When the Bulldogs do throw, expect them to go to their catching tandem of Joe Fernandez and Paul Williams, who combined to score 15 touchdowns last season.
As good as the pass game can be for Fresno St., the Rams know they’ll have to stop Wright to even see it on Saturday.
“I have a ton of confidence in our defensive backs,” said safety Klint Kubiak. “But they’re not going to pass until we shut them down on the ground.”
The Rams will be without defensive leader Ben Stratton, who missed all of last season due to a knee injury. Sophomore Jake Galusha is expected to play in Ben’s absence.
“As sad as it sounds we’ve gotten used to him not being around,” Kubiak said. “Jake is a great football player and we’ll be alright.”
If the defense is successful in holding the Bulldogs’ potent offense, the Rams know they still need to put points on the board to win.
“We need a win right now,” Hammerschmidt said. “The defense is playing great right now. We don’t have to be the best offense in the country, we just need to help the defense out a bit. If we can do that we’re set for a heck of a season.”
The game will be played in Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PST.
Staff writer Brett Okamoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.