While three wins and a spot at the top of the Mountain West Conference might be impressive, possibly the most important stat displayed by the CSU Rams this season has been their turnover ratio.
The Rams have been outstanding at creating turnovers so far this season, producing 10 while giving up only three.
CSU produced five turnovers alone in Saturday’s victory against the University of Nevada, the main reason the Rams defeated the Wolf Pack 35-20.
Linebacker Michael Kawulok accounted for one of those turnovers, forcing a fumble early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game. The sophomore said the Rams have been working toward that type of production for a long time.
“Anytime you get five turnovers you have a good chance of winning the game,” Kawulok, a Monarch High School graduate, said. “That’s what we were talking about all offseason. We just play our scheme and anyone can make a play.”
Rams defensive coordinator Larry Kerr agreed with Kawulok and said that producing so many turnovers has helped player’s mind sets.
“Our guys are really playing confidently now,” he said. “When you have confidence, you can go play fast and hard. What we’re adding is playing smart. When you’re able to fly around and play with confidence good things happen.”
One of the keys to the Rams early impressive turnover ratio has been the play of safety Elijah Blu-Smith. In three games this season, Smith has intercepted three passes, one in each game. With those statistics, the sophomore is quickly gaining a reputation as a ball hawk.
Smith said that he is just trying to do his job as a defender.
“I just want to go out there and do what I do,” he said. “I go out there, see the ball thrown and try and make a play.”
Smith first saw playing time with the Rams last season, filling after then-safeties Mike Pagnotta and Jake Galusha were sidelined with injuries.
Kerr said that he could see all the way back then that Smith had the potential to be special.
“I knew Elijah-Blu was an outstanding player,” he said. “We saw that at the end of last year. He’s a football player and we’re really excited about him. He just really comes up and makes plays. That’s what you are looking for.”
The Rams will need to keep their turnover hot streak alive in order to have a chance in their next game, as they travel to Provo, Utah to face the Brigham Young Cougars. CSU has had luck forcing turnovers against the Cougars recently, grabbing two fumbles and an interception in a heartbreaking loss last season.
Smith said that he is confident his team can continue the turnover streak they are on and explained that, if they do, good things will continue to happen.
“(Turnovers) get contagious,” he said. “Our coaches harp on us to get the turnovers. That’s what we want to do. Every week we want to play hard and when it shows up on the field, that’s when you know you’ve got something.”
Assistant Sports Editor Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org