Oct 102010
Authors: Matt L. Stephens

AIR FORCE ACADEMY – It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the Colorado State football season.

Halfway done and only one game won.

Through this 1-5 start, we’ve all either voiced or heard the same complaints: The Rams can’t run the football, no defense, poor special teams, etc.

But after CSU’s 49-27 loss at Air Force on Saturday, it finally struck me on what exactly the Rams are missing: autonomy.

The only thing CSU is truly guilty of is identity theft.

For the past three games, CSU has had one prolific passing attack, an incredibly stout defense and a killer ground game but never simultaneously.

Think about it.

Against Idaho, a school that boasts a future NFL quarterback in Nathan Enderle and the nation’s No. 6 passing attack, the Rams led a complete air raid. CSU freshman quarterback Pete Thomas threw for 386 yards, three touchdowns and one interception – which, suffice to say, does not fall into the realm of his norm.

Versus TCU, known for hard-nosed defense, CSU shutdown the Horned Frogs to the tune of six first half points and 27 for the game. While TCU did run wild against the Rams, keep in mind that the Frogs are averaging 41.7 points per game.

And then there was Saturday, when CSU headed south for the Battle for the Ram-Falcon Trophy.

Entering the game, Air Force was ranked as the No. 1 rushing offense in NCAA FBS while the Rams sat at 120th in the same department – dead last.

Prior to the game, if you told anyone that the Rams would outrush the Falcons on Saturday, that person should have called social services and had you committed. However, after CSU did in fact outgain Air Force 285-248 on the ground, you’d be released –– though only temporarily as the U.S. would surely analyze your brain for potential psychic warfare.

The yards achieved via the run game for CSU on Saturday was an incredible feat for this team, and while a big part of that goes to the offensive line, making some great holes for both Leonard Mason and Chris Nwoke, I saw something else in the rushing attack that made the difference.

Mason just wanted it.

Here we have 2009’s leading rusher who has been riding the sideline for most of the season with a hamstring injury. He was not 100 percent healthy on Saturday but decided he’s going to get the job done, refusing to go down on first contact.

I don’t think there’s any question about whether or not Mason will start in the backfield against UNLV this weekend, nor should there be. He’s a senior who proved he still has what it takes to get the job done against a Falcons’ defense that was only allowing 123.5 yards per game heading into Saturday. Mason topped that by himself with 139.

But as far as we know, Mason’s performance could just as well be another link in the Rams’ chain of copying their surroundings –– acting as chameleons, if you will.

This week, CSU needs to create an identity and stick with it, not flip-flop like John Kerry in 2004; it gets the Rams nowhere.

This week’s game against UNLV serves as homecoming and family weekend for CSU, and while there’s not much of a homecoming tradition here in Fort Collins, maybe the Rams could create one by figuring out what type of team they are and sticking with that the rest of the season. I’m sure stability of any kind could help this team improve.

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels are a football team that can’t run the ball, can’t pass the ball and can’t play defense. If CSU is to emulate UNLV this week, there will likely be some fans sleeping in the crowd at Hughes Stadium after being forced to watch a snooze fest of a game.

It’s time to stop stealing identities, Rams. You’re better than that.

Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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