This season was supposed to be a solid senior year for quarterback Caleb Hanie and a CSU team that appeared to be built for a rebound.
But things have not started well for either.
Hanie has eight interceptions to go with nine touchdowns in the Rams’ first five games, all of which have been losses.
When CSU (0-5, 0-2) takes on Air Force (4-2, 3-1) 3:30 p.m. Saturday at. Hughes Stadium (The Mtn.), Hanie will be looking to turn around the slow start.
He will attempt to do so against a Falcons defense that has surprisingly emerged as one of the Mountain West Conference’s best.
Usually in the past, they’ve been a more base defense and what you see is what you get,” said Hanie. “This year they’re a lot more aggressive.”
The Falcons currently rank second in the MWC in scoring defense, allowing just 18 points per game through six games.
Co-offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt said Air Force’s aggressiveness shows up in its tendency to use the blitz liberally.
“They take chances, they run a lot of blitzes to try to throw a kink into your deal,” he said. “When they blitz, you’ve got to hurt them. Somehow, run or pass you’ve got to hit a crease and beat them.”
Hanie and his speedy group of receivers, including seniors Johnny Walker and Damon Morton, will get opportunities for big plays, but must do so against an improved Air Force secondary headed by senior corner back Carson Bird.
Bird, whom Hammerschmidt called “as good a corner as I’ve seen at Air Force”, has three interceptions this season, tied for second-most in the MWC.
“They disguise a whole bunch, so it’s a lot of preparation,” Hanie said. “They want to blitz, and you can hit big plays on them. I’m definitely looking to have a big game this week.”
Though Hanie’s numbers haven’t been stellar through five games, Hammerschmidt said the only area he needs to improve on is third-down conversions.
“Third-down conversions are on the quarterback when it comes right down to it,” Hammerschmidt said. “He’s got to make a play.”
The Rams have converted just more than 40 percent of their third-down plays this season.
Hanie said a win against Air Force could get the Rams on the right track to what still could be a successful season.
“We’ve still got a couple goals on the table that can be accomplished,” he said.
Sports writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hometown: Forney, Texas
By the numbers:
5,043 – career passing yards
232.2 – yards passing per game this season, fourth in the MWC
8 – interceptions this season, second-most in the MWC