As the old saying goes, defense wins championships.
But after Saturday afternoon’s 42-28 loss to San Diego State, the Rams’ fifth defeat in as many games, the CSU defense would settle for just winning games at the moment.
Saturday’s loss is made all the more painful when you consider the Rams (3-5, 0-4 MWC) squandered a 14-point halftime lead. In all, the Rams have been outscored by a margin of 162-77 in the second half this season.
Head coach Steve Fairchild felt his team was simply outplayed in the second half, giving San Diego State credit for earning the victory.
“You can ask anybody on the field or in the stands. We got outplayed,” Fairchild said. “That was a good effort by their football team and their coaching staff in the second half.”
Particularly troubling was the performance of the Rams pass defense, which allowed Aztec quarterback Ryan Lindley to pick them apart, exploding for a career-high 459 yards passing, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
“At some point we have to step up and make a play,” said senior cornerback Nick Oppenneer. “I’m just as guilty, I dropped two interceptions that could have changed the game.”
The Aztecs aerial assault came without the services of their star wide receiver, Vincent Brown, who entered the game ranked No. 3 nationally in receiving yards. Brown failed to catch a pass in the first half, and was forced to miss the second half due to a right hand injury.
In Brown’s absence, the Aztecs relied heavily on senior wide receiver DeMarco Sampson, who caught 15 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’ve dreamt of this,” Sampson said. “When the whole team believes in you, it makes you want to play every down like it’s your last.”
Despite the Rams poor defensive showing on Saturday, defensive coordinator Larry Kerr doesn’t anticipate changing the preparation of his unit.
“The corners have got the toughest job in America,” Kerr said. “Sometimes it becomes a confidence thing. Nothing changes in how you teach the fundamentals.”
The Rams will face a very different test this coming Saturday, as the Air Force Falcons (4-4, 3-2) visit Hughes Stadium.
The Falcons will challenge the Rams defense in a completely different nature than did the Aztecs. Air Force starting quarterback Tim Jefferson has completed just 24 passes all season, while Lindley completed 29 on Saturday afternoon alone.
What the Falcons lack in aerial pedigree, they make up for on the ground, ranking second nationally in rushing yards as a team. The Falcons feature seven different players who have rushed for more than 100 yards this season.
The Rams will be forced to face rushing juggernaut Air Force without one of its better run-stoppers in linebacker Michael Kawulok, who left Saturday’s game with a knee injury that will likely sideline the sophomore for the remainder of the season.
“(Air Force) is a pretty good team,” said freshman linebacker Chris Gipson, who led the team with 10 tackles against SDSU. “We are going to have to come to play.”
Sports writer Joel Hafnor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.