The Colorado State Rams failed to execute on what may be the most important factor that comes with facing an SEC opponent on the road: Do not beat yourself.
Well, the Rams sure did beat themselves.
The miscues began early and withered away every possibility CSU had to gain momentum in the first half.
Special teams was the main culprit here. The normally decent unit shot itself in the foot early on and simply couldn’t patch up the wound.
After the Rams’ defense forced a key three-and-out to begin the game, CSU was given the opportunity to put points on the board first. However, the Gators’ defense returned the favor and forced the Rams to punt from deep in their own territory.
Ross Reiter delivered an acceptable snap to sophomore punter Ryan Stonehouse, however, the punter couldn’t handle it and was tackled before being able to boot the ball down field.
The result was a Florida field goal, giving the Gators an early 3-0 lead. SEC opponents tend to take advantage when non-Power 5 opponents make mistakes, and that was the case on Saturday. It was the first of many occasions in which Florida generated points off of CSU miscues.
Senior kicker Wyatt Bryan set the all-time Colorado State scoring record against Arkansas last week and even though the Rams entered a hostile environment in Gainesville, FL, Bryan couldn’t have entered the game with more confidence.
Bryan failed to put that confidence on display in the first half against the Gators for the most part, though. The kicker had a chance to even the score at 3-3 on the drive immediately following Florida’s field goal. He was set up with a relatively routine kick from 40 yards out and botched it, missing the uprights wide right by what seemed like a mile.
Later in the half, trailing 6-0, Bryan shanked his second field goal attempt of the afternoon from 53 yards out to the left. Of course, that is a much more difficult field goal to convert from that distance, but keep in mind Bryan split the uprights from 55 yards away against Arkansas. The kicker needed to bring his A-game to “The Swamp” but he didn’t.
Florida took full advantage of the short field they were set up with after the miss. Junior running back Jordan Scarlett took a handoff 30 yards to the house a few plays later to give the Gators a 13-0 lead.
Minutes later, Stonehouse was eaten alive by Florida’s special teams once again. CSU blockers were non-existent on a punt attempt as Gator defenders burst through the line, blocking a punt and falling on the ball in the endzone for a touchdown.
Florida’s first 20 points of the game were the result of either a CSU turnover or missed field goal.
That is simply inexcusable for the Rams. CSU certainly shot itself in the foot against the Gators.
Besides the special teams’ performance (or lack thereof), questionable offensive play calls willingly dug a hole for the Rams that they could have avoided.
Obviously, head coach Mike Bobo would love to see something positive from his running back unit, but they again were silent all Saturday afternoon. Production on the ground would absolutely help his offense, however, when facing a defense as effective as Florida’s, it is probably best to stick to your strengths and air the ball out.
Instead, CSU unnecessarily forced the run game and didn’t stray away from trying to establish the run despite negative results.
The Rams attempted to get senior running back Izzy Matthews involved in each of their first three offensive plays, although, Matthews combined for only four yards on those three plays.
After coming out and connecting with junior wide receiver Preston Williams for 21 yards on its second offensive drive, K.J. Carta-Samuels handed the ball off on two consecutive plays. Each went for a short gain and stalled CSU’s progression.
The Rams even put the ball on the ground four straight plays trailing 27-0 late in the first half, which was a very interesting attempt to take a goose egg off the scoreboard for CSU. The Rams ended the first half with three total rushing yards.
The thought process on offense clearly should have been pass, pass, pass for CSU against the Gators. It’s also worth noting that, when running the ball, the Rams should have involved more of their playmakers outside of Matthews.
Matthews has essentially done nothing in terms of filling the void that Dalyn Dawkins left at running back. The senior had eight carries for 17 yards against Florida, and this season, Matthews is averaging a mere 2.9 yards per carry and hasn’t rushed for more than 63 yards in a game.
It is evident that sophomore Rashaad Boddie and junior Marvin Kinsey Jr. both possess skill at the running back position. It’s time for Bobo to start leaning on those two backs more frequently. Doing so may or may not be successful, but Matthews isn’t getting the job done. A change needs to be made.
Kinsey took over in the later stages against Florida when Matthews proved to be a bit more effective. The junior finished with 79 yards on 15 carries, including a 28-yard scamper.
In the end, inexcusable mistakes like the punt-fumble, punt-block touchdown and other special teams miscues helped sink Colorado State on the road. But, questionable play-calling, also hurt the Rams in a game they should learn many lessons from.