CSU offense comes from behind to beat defense in annual spring game

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The Colorado State football team took the field for the final time this spring on Saturday, holding its annual Green and Gold Spring Game. In front of a crowd of about 5,200 at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium and on a beautiful spring afternoon, head coach Mike Bobo called it a successful way to cap his second spring season in Fort Collins.

“That was a great day,” Bobo said. “I loved the fan attendance. I loved the clinic they had for the kids beforehand. It was great to come in and see the kids giving our guys high fives. It’s always good when you can play any type of game. I know it’s a spring scrimmage but the support there for our football team was good to see and I thought the guys came out and competed hard.”

Despite a slow start, the Gold team, made up of the Rams’ offense, defeated the Green team – CSU’s defense – by a score of 64-47 using a hybrid scoring system that awarded defensive points for tackles for a loss, three-and-outs, turnovers and more. The offense could also earn points for long plays and multiple first downs in a drive, in addition to traditional scoring.

The Gold team managed just one first down on its first six drives and struggled to move the ball against a stout defensive front early. The offense’s first drive ended after just six plays when senior defensive back Tyree Simmons intercepted Nick Stevens’ pass. It wasn’t until the second quarter that the offense got the board, when Wyatt Bryan connected on a 37-yard field goal. However, that would be the first of eight scoring drives, featuring five touchdown passes and three field-goal makes.

Senior transfer Faton Bauta led the way for the Rams offensively, completing 16-of-29 passes for 203 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. With Izzy Matthews limited and Bryce Peters out with injury, Dalyn Dawkins and Johnathan Lewis saw the majority of the action at running back, picking up 147 and 85 yards, respectively. Sophomore John Freismuth, a product of nearby Loveland High School, was the Rams’ leading receiver, tallying five catches for 147 and a touchdown before leaving in the fourth quarter with an injury.

Nick Stevens and freshman Collin Hill also saw significant time at quarterback during the scrimmage, while redshirt freshman J.C. Robles acted primarily as a wildcat quarterback. Stevens, last year’s second team All-Mountain West quarterback, completed 8-of-20 passes for 90 yards and one touchdown and two picks, while Hill completed 10-of-18 for 156 yards and a touchdown.

“If you don’t have competition, guys won’t push themselves,” Bauta said about the quarterback competition this spring. “There’s just something about competition that you need to have. I’ve been doing this for the last five years of my life so it’s nothing new, and I’m going to go about it like I always do.”

When asked about the progress the program has made under Bobo, Stevens was vocal about the improvement of the team from last year to today.

“I definitely feel like I have more experience at the end of spring ball this year than I did last year,” Stevens said. “Last spring was the first time we actually got to run those plays. I’m actually a lot more excited this year about the offseason and the work that these guys are going to put in. We definitely have a lot more momentum going in after our second year with our spring game. We have a lot to look forward to.”

Defensively, Jake Schlager and Patrick Elsenbast paced the Rams with 10 tackles apiece, while Simmons, Demontrie Taylor, and Kevin Davis each recorded an interception. The defense also posted an impressive 12 pass breakups, with JUCO transfer A’Keitheon Whitner and junior Kevin Nutt, Jr. each logging a pair.

“I feel like the defense did a pretty good job,” said Simmons, who served as the defense’s captain. “You saw people laying on the ground on offense, you saw interceptions and fumble recoveries, and you saw a little excitement. I feel like the defense came out here ready to play and we had a good day.”

The scrimmage caps CSU’s 15-practice spring season and leads the Rams into summer workouts and fall training camp, which will begin in August.

“Overall, I thought it was a very good spring,” Bobo said. “We got better every day individually. I thought we got better as a football team, offensively and defensively, and got some good work in on special teams. We’ll take the first part of next week and meet with our players and talk about things that they’ve got to improve on, finish out the academic year strong and then get ready to have a great summer.”