Rocky Mountain letdown: Colorado State “embarrassed” in Showdown

Nick Stevens sacked in 2016 Rocky Mountain Showdown. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.

Well, this is embarrassing. Especially if you’re a Colorado State fan.

Don’t take it from me, ask head coach Mike Bobo.

“It’s embarrassing,” Bobo said of the blowout loss. “I told [the team] we embarrassed our name … The bottom line is we got our tails whipped tonight. We’ve got to realize that and we’ve got to look down deep within each other, coach and player, and figure out a plan to move forward in eight days.”

For CSU football, nothing went well to start the 2016 version of the Rocky Mountain Showdown. The Rams looked like they were lost on the side of a mountain without their shepherd.

On the other hand, for the University of Colorado, it was a perfect storm of greatness, making them look like a national championship contender through 30 minutes of play.

Here’s how terrible the Showdown began for CSU: The Rams couldn’t earn a first down for 19:30 of game time, all the while allowing the Buffs to score 24 unanswered points. Finally, Colorado State did earn that elusive inaugural first down of the contest, but then starting quarterback Nick Stevens stared down receiver Marcus Wilson, who was triple covered, yet the QB still threw the ball and was picked off. Colorado capitalized with another touchdown and led, in dominating fashion, 31-0.

At halftime, this game was all but over. It couldn’t end quickly enough for Mike Bobo and the Rams.

Colorado State’s play-calling lacked creativity, running the ball up the gut and missing on short passes as their offensive line was dominated by CU’s defensive line. So much so, that on one of Stevens’ drop-backs during the first half, tight end Nolan Peralta completely missed Buffs defensive end Jimmie Gilbert, who blindsided the quarterback and forced a fumble.

CU controlled the entirety of the game, marching for a field goal to start the second half. CSU finally got something going, it seemed, until that drive was slowed to a 4th and 8 attempt and Stevens floated the ball over the fullback Dalton Fackrell for a second interception of the game. He forced that ball, too.

Stevens, who was named starter by practicing better than Georgia graduate transfer Faton Bauta, was all over the place Friday night under the bright lights of Mile High Stadium and on the television cameras of ESPN. He locked in far too many times on receivers – which was a downside of his play last year as well – and still threw the ball when those receivers were covered by multiple defensive backs.

“We took a while to get a first down,” Stevens said after the loss. “And they were executing on offense … It definitely felt like nothing was going right for us until we got our first first down, which was probably four, five, maybe six drives, which is not good.”

Nothing went right. No offensive play went as designed – save Dalyn Dawkins’ 18-yard run on a sweep which was blocked well by Peralta and the line – and there was no way Colorado State could come back from 34-0. It was a debacle at Mile High Stadium, one which sent the CSU students home midway through the third quarter.

Finally, down 37-0, Stevens was pulled, finishing the game 6-of-20 for 31 yards and two interceptions. The backup Bauta gave the offense a spark as basically a second running back. He kept one for 24 yards to push the Rams into the red zone, then he completed a pass to Wilson in the end zone for the team’s first score of the day, three seconds into the fourth quarter.

Dawkins was basically the lone bright spot for the Rams’ offense for most of the game, and Bauta came in to give the attack some life with misdirections and roll-outs. All the while, CSU’s defense lacked execution, even though their effort was there all night. Colorado State’s offensive line – which should be a strength – was bullied time and time again by the Buffs’ defensive line and front seven, failing to open enough holes early in the game, which forced CSU to play from behind all day long.

At the end of the day, Colorado State was dominated in all three phases of the game, especially on offense and defense. This was the worst loss of the Mike Bobo coaching era, which just kicked off its second season on the wrong end of a 44-7 blowout.

Certainly, Bobo and his boys must go back to the drawing board, watch film and dissect what exactly went wrong all night long. There is no room for a “rebuilding” season in college football, Bobo knows that, and he understands momentum which has been built over the last three years with three bowl appearances cannot be squandered now.

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