After an extra seven days to prepare for the next challenge, the CSU football team is ready to take the field with hopes of winning back-to-back games for only the second time in 22 contests as they host the University of Houston (1-2) on Saturday.
The Rams (1-1) are finally starting to come together on all fronts on the practice field with innovation in the playbook and successfully trying out players at new positions. The cohesion many of the players have been focusing on finally seems to be there, but it will take more than cohesion and positive attitudes for CSU to stop the Cougars’ high-flying spread offense.
It’s going to take a 120 percent effort by every member of the Rams veteran defense.
Despite Houston’s potent offense, CSU head coach Steve Fairchild is looking at this weekend’s matchup as a normal game, leaving the defense in the hands of defensive coordinator Larry Kerr.
“It’s just like I do every week: Larry and I visit, same thing on the offensive side of the ball, we have guys who know what they’re doing,” said Fairchild. “I mean obviously this week we have to keep [Houston] off the field and when we’re on it, we have to take some time.”
While CSU is loaded with veterans at linebacker and safety, including Houston native Klint Kubiak, they are still relatively inexperienced at cornerback, a position that UH will undoubtedly try to take advantage of.
First-year cornerbacks coach Tim Duffie has faith in his young squad. Duffie spent 2002-2007 coaching safeties and linebackers for the Texas-El Paso Miners, Conference-USA rival to Houston. During his time at UTEP, his team had a record of 1-2 versus the Cougars. Duffie has seen first hand the weapons UH has, including senior wide receiver Mark Hafner and quarterback Case Keenum.
Keenum has already passed for 1411 yards and 13 touchdowns in only three games — he also leads the Cougars with 148 rushing yards.
“I understand what type of athletes [Houston] has on the football field and they are tremendous players,” said Duffie. “Now, they’re a totally different team from the way it has been, but at the same time it’s the same people running out there in space and I know they are very dangerous at all positions.”
While UH is strong on offense, they have a defense that has struggled heavily this season, giving up 1331 yards and 90 points thus far. CSU senior running back Gartrell Johnson III believes that the holes in the Cougar defense, along with the way the Rams gave up a 14 point lead to Houston a year ago can be used as motivation to get the win on Saturday.
“It’s definitely motivation. We get motivation every week. We know we just have to come out and play hard, and big things are gonna happen,” said the senior. “If we break some passes and get some blocking, we’ll be good.”
Even with having last weekend off, Johnson said the team is still focused on Saturday.
“We’ve been very focused; the main thing we’re working on is the mistakes we made last game and our timing and putting things behind us.”
The Rams and Cougars kick off on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CSU Media Relations has said that there are fewer than 2,000 student tickets still available for pickup at the iBox location on the main floor of the Lory Student Center.
Sports writer Matt L. Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.