It doesn’t matter that the Rams haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in their first eight games.
Nor does it matter that CSU ranks last in the Mountain West Conference with 74.6 rushing yards per game.
No clear starter – no problem.
Senior running back Nnamdi Ohaeri is tired of hearing about the missing running game this season.
“On the outside looking in, it seems like the run game is struggling,” Ohaeri said. “There’s a lot more to a football game.”
Everyone knows by now that Ohaeri was switched from playing defense to offense to back up Gartrell Johnson after a season-ending injury to starter Kyle Bell in the off-season.
Everyone also seems pretty aware of how things have gone in Bell’s absence.
To date, Johnson leads the team in rushing yards with 277. Ohaeri has earned 178 rushing behind him.
The fans are more worried about the numbers than Ohaeri is though.
“We’ve played eight games,” said Ohaeri. “We’ve lost four and we’ve won four. The only frustrating part is when we lose.”
Ohaeri has had to accept his role as a second string player in this year’s often-criticized ground game all season – maybe until now. Johnson has ran the ball 98 times to Ohaeri’s 50. But CSU head coach Sonny Lubick surprised fans in Saturday’s 20-19 loss to New Mexico by giving Ohaeri 12 rushes and Gartrell none.
Whether the ball continues to go Ohaeri’s way the rest of the season remains to be seen.
“For lack of a better term, random is how I’d describe it,” said Ohaeri about when he and Johnson enter the game. “Depends on how the game is going; you just have to patiently wait for your chance.”
After saying early in the season that the Rams would eventually need to decide on their running back of the season, Lubick hasn’t shown any hint of making that decision up to this point.
Even if the carries continue to be split, it won’t have an impact on the competing backs’ relationship off the field.
“It’s the same it’s always been,” said Ohaeri about his relationship with Johnson. “We’re still on the same team, we’re not split.”
The strongest thing the teammates may share is the burden of carrying the offense’s criticism on their shoulders. A burden that Ohaeri says shouldn’t be theirs alone.
“If our offense doesn’t figure out ways to score we won’t win,” said Ohaeri. “Having success running doesn’t always equate winning.”
Football beat writer Brett Okamoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.