Michael Gallup highlights a special year for the Colorado State Rams

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Michael Gallup gallops away from Air Force defenders in his career game. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports

Colorado State Rams football finished the season 7-5, a fourth straight year with a bowl berth.

It’s been special indeed, given it could’ve gone much worse with all the senior turnover and loss of defensive coordinator Tyson Summers, but Mike Bobo and his current coordinators pushed their young team and helped them improve greatly throughout the season.

At the end of that long season, five players have been awarded with All-Mountain-West conference honors: Michael Gallup, Fred Zerblis and Hayden Hunt on the first-team; Kevin Davis and Jake Bennett on the second-team.

Nothing could’ve been possible without the leadership of players like Davis on defense, Zerbils on offense and Hunt on special teams.

Zerblis was sensational for the Rams at right guard, playing on an offensive line which ranked 12th-best in the country for allowing a mere 1.08 sacks per game. The redshirt senior brought the nasty as he helped CSU control the line of scrimmage nearly every week.

From a playmaker’s perspective, Gallup exploded onto the Mountain West football scene this season after transferring from junior college. Of course, his season started slowly as he tried to learn the offense, but once he did it was all over for opposing defensive backs.

Gallup not only had to adjust to football life at the D-I level, but he also had to adjust to playing with three different quarterbacks over the first three games of the 2016 season. Eventually, Gallup not only became the go-to guy for freshman Collin Hill, but also for Nick Stevens when Hill was injured and Stevens took over the offense once again.

When the regular season was said and done, Gallup totaled 70 receptions for 1,164 yards and 11 touchdowns. He finished second only to Thomas Sperbeck (72 for 1,193) of the Boise State Broncos in receptions and yards but Gallup had more touchdowns than Sperbeck (11 to 9).

Gallup also continued to improve as the season went down the stretch. Instead of resting on his laurels, he recorded a 100-yard performance in each of the Rams final four regular season games, while he scored in the team’s final seven games. CSU went 5-2 in those contests and 6-3 in games in which Gallup crossed the goal line.

The tall receiver’s 16.6 yards per catch is a solid number, evidence of his big-play ability on nearly every snap. In nine games this year, Gallup caught at least a 30-yard pass which includes scores from 53, 60 and 65 yards out. He enjoyed a career game against Air Force with highs in catches (13) and yards (213).

Simply stated, he’s an explosive playmaker. In fact, while the offense struggled early on, head coach Mike Bobo called him the Rams only playmaker on offense. He basically was.

Hunt has gained much acclaim as a world-class punter, averaging 44.3 yards per boot this season, which tied him for third-best in the Mountain West. While he was in the running for the Ray Guy Award (nation’s best punter), he’s no longer a finalist.

Davis was somehow put on the second-team, but deserved first-team honors. He’s a soft-spoken, yet hard-hitting linebacker, who was not only a leader on the field but he was usually a leader in the box score, too. Davis led the Rams going away with 101 total tackles, including an amazing 19 against CU and 15 against Air Force. He also enjoyed three sacks this season, all of which came against UTSA in the team’s first victory of the year, which tied him for the team lead. On top of that, Davis ended the year with 9.5 tackles for a loss, also leading CSU, which resulted in -50 yards for his opponents. His four forced fumbles were a Rams best, and he recovered one as well. Plus, Kevin Davis picked off a pass in the comeback win over Utah State.

In fact, Davis was the most instrumental player on the defensive side of the ball for Colorado State all season long.

Finally, Bennett was the anchor of that top-notch offensive line, which not only opened up holes for the top three running backs to carry the ball for 1,448 yards but also scored 94 percent of the time in the red zone, sixth-best in the country.

Finally, quarterback Nick Stevens, and offensive linemen Nick Callender and Paul Thurston were all named All-MW honorable mentions.

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