Collin Hill shines in first career start as Rams romp Bears 47-21

Collin Hill. Credit: Austin Humphreys, USA TODAY Sports

So much for growing pains, eh?

Collin Hill has arrived, in his first game. He was superb as CSU’s starting quarterback in the 47-21 blowout of the University of Northern Colorado Bears.

It’s too bad the freshman Hill didn’t see gametime in the Colorado State Rams’ first two contests of the season, because the way he played on this sunny Saturday afternoon on Sonny Lubick’s Field, Hill looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate.

“Collin Hill played well today,” head coach Mike Bobo said of the freshman post game. “I thought he was calm and composed. He played with the poise and confidence that I’ve seen since Day One. I thought the guys made plays for him…He was calm all day. He understood what he was doing.”

OK, it should be noted that CSU blew out their “rivals” from down the road in Greeley, a 2-1 UNC Bears team who has never beaten the Rams — CSU now holds a 20-0-1 record over UNC — but, no matter whom they beat, Hill was the story, because of his superb ability to throw, and run, for the Rams this week.

After a punt on the offense’s first drive of the day, Hill led the offense on six straight scoring drives, including five straight touchdowns all scored by the freshman. And it wasn’t just that he was throwing well on touchdowns; he enjoyed three explosive plays in the first half alone.

Hill’s throw to Xavier Williams down the seam of the field hit the receiver in stride and allowed him to catch and run for 50 yards. That ball flew seamlessly 30-plus yards in the air. The quarterback finished that drive with a back-shoulder fade toss which Elroy Masters went up and got, masterfully.

On the next drive, Hill showed off his wheels, taking a designed run up the gut 51 yards for a score. He even juked a Bears player on the way to the end zone, proving he’s not just a pocket passer. 14-0, Rams.

Then, Hill found Michael Gallup for 45 yards down the left sideline, another deep bomb which hit his receiver in stride, again. That drive, like the first score, was capped with a back-shoulder fade, this time to Olabisi Johnson. 21-0. His touch on those passes was evident as he placed the ball where his receiver could make a play.

On the team’s very next drive, there was Hill hitting Gallup in the numbers as he split between a cornerback and a safety, exhibiting perfect timing and exact accuracy on the pass. Then he connected with Gallup again, on a 16-yard fade touchdown. 28-0, CSU.

Another drive, another touchdown pass from Hill when he threw it to Robert Ruiz on a 16-yard out route. 35-0, Rams.

And, with only 41 seconds left on the clock before halftime, head coach Mike Bobo decided to not simply kneel the ball, but to push it down field with the freshman in charge. In four plays, he moved the team 50 yards and into field goal range, where Wyatt Bryan knocked home a career-long, 53-yard field goal.

Not only was it positive to gain experience in the hurry-up, last-second drive before a half ends, but it also shows the coach’s confidence in the young man. 38-0 CSU at halftime and it was all but over at that point.

Hill finished the game 21-27 for 315 yards and four touchdown passes, a 224.7 rating. Could you ask for a better first-start performance out of a true freshman? It’d be hard to fathom one. The only time he looked like a true freshman was when he was being sacked in the fourth quarter but inexplicably decided to pitch it to no one and fumble the ball. He luckily recovered so it didn’t hurt the team.

“We haven’t played that well at quarterback this year,” Bobo said. “We’ve been inconsistent in the passing game. And, we were able to get consistent, able to have balance. 324 yards passing, 245 yards rushing.”

Collin Hill was who everyone hoped he would be. He was confident, smart, played within himself but also took a few risks which paid off when he connected on those huge passes downfield. Hill has all the tools to physically perform consistently, including a strong arm and even has wheels to run the ball when he needs to take off. The velocity on his passes were the best we’ve seen all season from any of the quarterbacks as was his accuracy, which included out routes, back-shoulder fades, the fade on the touchdown and bombs.

On the day, Hill connected with nine different receivers and all four of his touchdowns went to four different men. Compare that to last week, when only three Rams caught passes for a mere 108 yards passing total.

Simply, with Hill at quarterback, this was a different CSU team. A dangerous CSU team.

After the game, Bobo said Hill is the quarterback moving forward for the Rams and multiple offensive players said that will bring “consistency” to their offense and the attack. Robert Ruiz called Hill their “field general,” a tremendous term of endearment for a freshman after one game.

Simply, he can do it all and he showed it all day long against the Bears. Will it be more difficult to make some of those throws against better talented defensive backs, the ones Minnesota will sport out onto the field next Saturday? Definitely. But, Ram fans should feel confident the passes will be there, as Hill showed the ability to lead receivers, which keeps their momentum going towards the goal line. His accuracy, despite his inexperience, was stellar; look for that to continue as he plays more down the stretch of this season.

For now, Collin Hill is 1-0 as a starting quarterback and his Rams are now 2-1.

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