The CSU football team is getting ready to face its fourth Top 25-ranked team and second team placed in the top 10 Saturday against the University of Utah.
Unlike the previous three games, the Rams are practicing this week with lots of momentum following the 43-10 dismantling of UNLV on homecoming.
Even the loss two weeks ago to Air Force saw some progress offensively.
CSU coach Steve Fairchild said in his weekly press conference Monday that some of the improvement comes from better team play.
â€œWell they were going right before, they just werenâ€™t going right as consistently as we would have liked,â€ Fairchild said. â€œWe scored on a few drives there in the opening part of that football game, but when you get a turnover or a good return, that gets a lot of
things going when one area is helping another area.â€
In place of the injured Raymond Carter, Senior running back Leonard Mason has provided the running game with a spark.
Mason is coming off of two straight 100-yard games, and redshirt freshman Chris Nwoke had his best game of the year against
UNLV, where he averaged 9.4 yards per carry.
â€œWe gained a lot of confidence (last week),â€ Nwoke said. â€œWe played real good in all three phases, so thatâ€™s a big plus for us going in
to play No. 9 Utah.â€
Nwoke also said paying attention to the finer details of the offense was a key theme at practice in preparation for a tough Utah defense.
True-freshman quarterback Pete Thomas also appears to get better as the season progresses.
Last week was Thomasâ€™s most efficient game, completing 71 percent of his passes for three touchdowns a no interceptions.
â€œIâ€™ve learned that youâ€™ve really got to be quick with your reads and real accurate,â€ Thomas said at Tuesdayâ€™s practice. â€œIf itâ€™s off by a little bit it will get tipped or intercepted.â€
The defense showed signs of growth against UNLV due largely to a record-breaking performance by senior nose tackle Guy Miller.
The Rams held the Rebels to just 10 points and fewer than 300 yards of total offense.
Miller might not expect individual success each week but sees lingering effects on the unit as a whole.
â€œI think weâ€™ve started off practicing good this week, so if we just continue to practice hard and do everything right, it should carry over,â€ Miller said.
Carter was back at practice after sustaining a knee injury against TCU and Fairchild said, depending on how he looked, he would determine how much Carter would play. But he was adamant Mason would remain the starter.
Also, true freshman Tony Drake will be moved to wide receiver from running back in an effort to better utilize his speed and quickness in the open field.
Football Beat Reporter Cris Tiller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.