If a football game was only three quarters long, the CSU Rams would be in pretty good shape right now. Unfortunately that’s not the case for the green and gold, who have been riddled by fourth-quarter failures this season.
The Rams defense has begun to develop a disappointing pattern the past couple weeks, giving up sizable leads late in games, and it appears to be taking a toll on the team.
Two weeks ago, CSU found itself up 20-10 against the University of Idaho just before halftime and then proceeded to give up three touchdowns during the second half en route to a 31-29 loss.
The Rams repeated this feat against conference foe Utah on Saturday, holding a 17-3 lead midway through the third quarter. CSU once again gave up three touchdowns, this time in the final 18 minutes of the game, leading to a painful 24-17 loss.
Rams safety and team captain Klint Kubiak describes the collapses as tough and said that he knows his team is better than that.
“Obviously we know we are good enough to beat those teams, but for some reason we aren’t getting it done when we have a chance,” the senior said after the loss to Utah. “For some reason we have a 14-point mental block. I don’t know what it is, if it’s a jinx, but it’s on the players.”
Cornerback Nick Oppenneer was particularly disappointed with CSU’s late defensive struggles against the Utes, saying the Rams have no excuse.
“We play such a good first half against such a great team that we have to come up with stops,” the senior said. “There is no excuse for giving up as many points as we did. There is no excuse for giving up one touchdown. We were playing great enough that we didn’t have to let them score.”
Head coach Steve Fairchild said that overall he was pleased with his defense’s performance Saturday and blames a bulk of Saturday’s disappointment on the offense and special teams.
After going up 17-3, the Rams gave up a long kick return on the ensuing kick off. Utah scored two plays later.
CSU quarterback Grant Stucker threw an interception early on in the following Rams drive, giving the defense little time to rest.
“They (the Rams defense) wore down at the end, but if we do what we are supposed to do offensively they aren’t on the field that much,” Fairchild said.
Kubiak respects his coach’s opinion, but said nonetheless, the defense still has to make the stops.
“We don’t have any control over that, we just have to keep them out of the end zone,” he said. “At the end of the game, we didn’t do that.”
Visibly shaken by the loss, Kubiak added that he puts responsibility for the Rams struggles on the team’s leaders and said that something has got to change.
“It’s on the defense, it’s on me, it’s on the captains,” he said. “So we have to step up and find some play makers.”
Assistant sports editor Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.