Now a bye the second week of the season doesn’t appear so bad to Colorado State coach Jay Norvell.
“I do think it helps us as a football team get a chance to practice together and shore up some execution,” he said after Saturday’s loss to Washington State.
There will be plenty to dissect. After driving for a field goal to open the game, the Rams’ offense stalled, a few drives when third-down passes came up a yard shy. The inability to sustain anything early, a trend which extended early into the third quarter, left the defense on the field the majority of the game as neither side of the ball complimented each other in the game plan.
What looked better overall was the play of the offensive line, a group which featured four new starters. The line didn’t dominate the front – the Rams averaged just 1.9 yard per carry – but it allowed just one sack to a team which collected seven a season ago.
“I thought we did some pretty good things. We ran the ball kind of inconsistently, and the pressure, I thought a couple of times Clay needed to get rid of the ball,” Norvell said. “Obviously, we weren’t dominating up front, and we need to play more consistently together.”
Tackle Drew Moss saw the game as an important first step for them. Only Jacob Gardner returns as a starter, and he’s moved back to center. On either side of him were new pairings, with Moss joined by Andrew Cannon on one side since the start of fall camp. Oliver Jervis and Saveyon Henderson were able to work together during the spring.
The practice reps were valuable, but game action was even more important to Moss as they attempt to become tied together.
“I think it was a good start for us. We can do so much better. We want to win games, that’s all that matters,” Moss said. “We have to improve these next two weeks. This game is going to help a lot. We’re going to go watch the film and fix mistakes. I know me and Andrew were really together on our side. We only gave up one sack, but we want to get down to zero and win.”
The defense is in the same boat. It held up for the most part in the first half, allowing 17 points and it generated a pair of turnovers and three sacks. But the Rams didn’t get off the field with enough regularity (the Cougars converted 11 of 17 third-down chances) and allowed more than 500 yards of offense.
It wasn’t what a group with eight returning starters expected. So, the bye is a time to regroup and improve.
“We take the good with the bad and see the major areas where we need to improve our execution,” linebacker Chase Wilson said. “We’ll approach this game like any other, figure out what we need to do with the game plan and do our best to execute that 100 percent.”
What the Rams had seen from Kobe Johnson in practice was the ability to hit big plays in the run game, a skill they figured would translate if they put him deep as a kickoff returner.
They were correct. His first chance to actually return a kick came in the third quarter, and after he mishandled it at first, he found a gap and exploited it for a 98-yard touchdown. It was the first kick return for a score for CSU since 2019.
It was the one part of the game which went according to script for the team.
“It’s been a minute for me for sure, a kick return like that. It was a high kick and I muffed it a little bit,” he said. “Once I got my hands on it, I saw the seam and trusted the other 10 guys to do their job. They finally gave us a return, and we’ve been harping on it all week we were going to take the first one to the (house), and that’s what happened.”
The return game is an area where Norvell feels his team can produce big plays this season when given the chance.
Tory Horton had just one punt return in the game for a loss, but he proved last year he can take one to the house and help change a game.
“Kobe’s a good football player. He brings experience to this team, he brings play-making ability to this team,” Norvell said. “I think we have an explosive return man with Tory and with Kobe, and that’s really great to have. That’s encouraging to me. As disappointing as the loss was, there’s a lot of things I see in these kids that we can build on, and a lot of good football players. It’s our job to get them to play well collectively.”
Here and There
Wilson finished with a career-best 12 tackles, and nickel Ayden Hector hit a career mark with 10 stops. … Jack Howell was one shy of his best game with 16 stops and Henry Blackburn matched his at 14. … Ross-Simmons now has two touchdowns catches of 75 yards or longer in his career. … Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi didn’t see the play tight end Dallin Holker made on the ball live, but saw it on video later. “I heard the crowd roar, and I talked to Dallin about it,” he said. “I just saw it a few minutes ago in the locker room, and I went and hugged Dallin because that catch was pretty sweet.”