Colorado State found a way to win when they needed it in the worst way.
Rams head coach Mike Bobo and his boys did what they were designed to do; run the rock relentlessly, which worked all day long against UTSA. It wasn’t just that they ran well because they wanted to, CSU basically had to run the ball due to graduate transfer-turned-starting quarterback Faton Bauta’s lack of accuracy on most of his throws on Saturday.
As evidence, at halftime CSU racked up 193 rushing yards compared to only 73 passing, and 45 of those passing yards came on one play, Bauta’s best throw of the day to Elroy Masters, just before the break.
Let’s be clear, it’s not that Bobo abandoned the pass game altogether, he did everything in his power to get that phase of the offense going. That included burning the redshirt from off Collin Hill’s back, playing the true freshman in the fourth quarter.
“I wasn’t real reluctant when we couldn’t complete a pass,” Bobo said of playing Hill and ending his redshirt possibilities. “He worked all week with the twos, him and Nick split time. We felt he had the better week. And felt if we were struggling throwing the ball we’d give him an opportunity.”
Hill immediately completed an 11-yard pass for a first down, probably the second-best Rams throw all day to Bauta’s bomb, but the youngster nearly threw an interception a few plays later. Two drives later, Hill completed a 15-yard pass to Masters for a key first down, but then Bauta came back in the game to run the ball and handoff. After a Hill handoff to Izzy Matthews up the gut, Wyatt Bryan capped that important drive with a 48-yard field goal and the 23-14 lead late, the eventual winning score.
All contest long, the passing game didn’t work, save a few plays here and there. Bauta finished the game 6-17 for 82 yards, overthrowing multiple intended receivers, while throwing some passes short, too. Hill ended his first college action only 2-6 for 26 yards. Luckily for Bobo and the Rams, the running attack was incredibly effective.
Dalyn Dawkins led the way with 15 carries for 68 yards and a score, while Izzy Matthews (12, 49 yards), Faton Bauta (4, 39 yards), Marvin Kinsey (7, 19 yards) and even Detrich Clark (3, 36 yards) all saw carries as well. Everyone – it seemed – ran for gains against the UTSA Roadrunners as the Rams played they were supposed to Saturday. In all, eight Rams rushed at least once in the game for 220 yards and two scores.
Dawkins’ energy was contagious, it seemed, as his fellow backs followed his lead from the first week and into this, first home game. He posted a 14-yard long run as his lengthiest of the day, including a strong 4.5 yard per carry average Saturday.
“That’s what we do, really, we do it every day in practice,” Dawkins said. “It feels good to actually get out there and execute.”
Izzy Matthews, who looked better than he has since the season started, shimmied and shook on two straight plays in the second quarter to earn his first rushing touchdown of the year. Though, as Bobo explained after the win he still isn’t hitting the hole with the explosion the head coach would like to see.
Attendance wasn’t stellar in Fort Collins Saturday — 20,673 officially — but those who filled seats at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium were witnesses to not only the dazzling display by Rams running backs, but also Colorado State’s offensive line’s improved play. The unit blocked as a group on Saturday, opening holes for Dawkins and Co. repeatedly. Although, we’d be wrong to not tip the cap to Nolan Peralta, CSU’s starting tight end who was brought on to block for Dawkins’ running score in the first quarter, a toss left on fourth down which Peralta sprung.
“That was big for us, to come out and run the ball early,” Bobo explained. “It was big for us, the tempo we played with in the first half, we played extremely fast. Think they got tired a little bit…The ability to run the ball like we did definitely helped us and opened up some things.”
What those 20,000 fans witnessed, also, was some dreadful defense by the Rams, especially in the first half. UTSA was able to do what they wanted on offense, even on those crucial third downs. The Roadrunners converted 8-18 3rd downs and kept hanging in the contest all the way into the fourth quarter. But, overall defensively, CSU stopped UTSA on all seven possessions in the second half, which helped the Rams hold onto the win, their first victory of the season.
“That’s what we need to do as a football team, is get better, week in, week out,” Bobo said. “It sounds simple but that’s the way you go about doing things. We’re not even close to a finished product.”
Next week, the Rams (1-1) host the University of Northern Colorado Bears (1-0) at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium. That game is scheduled for a 2 p.m. kickoff.