After another sub-par performance from the passing game Saturday, head coach Steve Fairchild is left scratching his head at trying to fix the ailing aerial attack.
On a day when the running game was going strong, producing 180 yards, CSU quarterbacks completed only seven passes for 87 yards against Air Force.
Starter Grant Stucker threw his 12th interception of the season early in the fourth quarter, and with the Rams down 34-10, was pulled for backup Jon Eastman. The junior went 2-9 for 38 yards in mop-up duty.
Stucker, after recording a season-high quarterback efficiency rating of 157.57 against Idaho, has been grounded the last four games with his low point coming against TCU in which he recorded an efficiency rating of 79.71.
“We’re not executing in the passing game all year like we should. We’re underachieving in some spots, there’s no question,” Fairchild said.
No fingers are being pointed at any particular player. And although he has struggled recently, Stucker is still plugged in as the starting quarterback for now, Fairchild said.
“Just because we’re not throwing the ball well doesn’t mean we go out and replace the quarterback,” Fairchild said. “If a guy’s supposed to be in a certain split and run a route on a certain step and catch the ball, that sure helps a quarterback.”
Dropped passes have plagued the CSU receiving squad all season long and that continued Saturday as senior receivers Dion Morton and Rashaun Greer each had dropped passes against Air Force.
For reasons Stucker can’t figure out, the Rams haven’t connected or even attempted the deep pass as often as in the beginning of the season.
“Our big-play capability that we had in the beginning of the season just isn’t there right now, and we’ve got to figure out how to get that back,” Stucker said.
Stucker, on the season, has thrown for 1,719 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 52.7 percent of his passes.
Eastman, who has only seen playing time in three games this season, hopes he gets the chance at the starting quarterback position sometime this season. He attributed the passing game’s recent struggles to the team’s overall struggles amid the six-game losing streak.
“I think mental toughness is a big factor. When you get on a losing streak like this and bad plays are being made, then it’s hard to overcome those,” Eastman said.
The shaky quarterback play of late can’t be contributed to the offensive line. Anchored by seniors, Cole Pemberton, Tim Walter and Shelley Smith, the unit has only given up 16 sacks on the season.
“My hat’s off to our offensive line. They deserve better,” Fairchild said. “I couldn’t even imagine that they would be playing as well as they would be playing. Offensively we’re not giving them much help in the passing game.”
Though it may not necessarily be a changing-of-the-guard at the starting quarterback position, Fairchild said something has to change to improve CSU’s passing game.
“We’ve got to do something — that’s for sure,” Fairchild said.
Football beat reporter Stephen Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.