With Collin Hill out for the year, CSU’s offense will look different going forward

Nick Stevens. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Colorado State Rams’ worst fear became a reality when it was revealed that true freshman quarterback Collin Hill will been sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

The injury occurred late in the third quarter when Hill took off on a 19-yard scramble, finishing 1 yard shy of converting a third and 20.

Nick Stevens entered the game and helped propel the Rams to a 31-24 comeback victory over the Utah State Aggies, evening up Colorado State’s record at 3-3.

With Hill under center, the Rams’ offensive attack was tilted towards passing the football, something head coach Mike Bobo wanted to fix. Following the 38-17 loss to Wyoming, he noted Hill threw the ball too much, saying, “I don’t want to throw it 41 times.”

During that 107th Border War, the 41 passes were a career-high for Hill in his third start, as were the 370 passing yards. But with CSU running the ball for just 111 net yards, the offense was far too unbalanced for Bobo’s liking.

With Hill as the starting quarterback, the passing game was strong. In the four games Hill started this season, the team averaged 286 passing yards and two passing touchdowns per game, compared to 184.5 on the ground.

In the Rams’ first two games, with Stevens and Faton Bauta getting most of the reps, the story was nearly the opposite. Not only was the offense’s attack offensive – scoring a mere 30 points – the passing game was basically non existent. In those two games, Colorado State passed for an average of just 85.5 yards, while running for 191.5.

We saw that trend continue Saturday night when Hill was injured and Stevens entered the game: CSU’s play-calling was 11-7 in favor of running the ball near the end of the game. Of course, it should be noted that CSU was looking to run some clock, up a touchdown, but we also know Mike Bobo loves to run the ball.

So, with Nick Stevens at quarterback, you can expect to see more running. It’s not that Stevens can’t throw the ball — he played well as the full-time starter in 2015 — but the Rams will likely lean on the run more now that the personnel has changed a bit.

What will make it easier to run the ball is the fact that Dalyn Dawkins and Izzy Matthews look like they’re finally healthy.

Dawkins, who was playing through an injured hamstring, led all Rams runners in the victory last Saturday with 14 carries for 125 yards, a remarkable 8.9 yards per carry average. He started out hot, exploding through the line of scrimmage on the Rams’ first drive of the day, which should’ve resulted in a touchdown but the team could only come away with a field goal. Late in the game, his 56-yard run set Colorado State up at the 15-yard line, and two plays later Matthews ran in from 10 yards out.

Matthews, who has been battling a bum ankle, looked like his old self Saturday, too. He finished the game with 73 yards and two scores, the game-tying and game-winning.

If CSU leans on the run more in the second half of the season, which they likely will, Matthews and Dawkins will be key to earning enough wins to secure the program’s fourth straight bowl appearance.

At 3-3 overall, the Rams only need three more wins. Though, one this week seems unlikely against No. 15 Boise State, in Idaho, a team Colorado State has never beaten.

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