Colorado State stood toe-to-toe with a 7-2 San Diego State team on Saturday night in San Diego. This morning, we take a final look at the stat sheet from the game to figure out what worked, what didn't work and what we learned from the Rams' loss at the hands of the Aztecs.
First quarter domination: Colorado State held the ball for 11:30 o the first 15 minutes and a 3-0 lead. The Rams had the ball for 33 plays and gained 120 yards, opposed to the Aztecs' who managed 21 yards on just eight plays. Kudos to the offense for moving the ball and to the defense for their ability to slow the Aztec offense.
Continued improvement in the punting game: Pete KONTODIAKOS is seeing his stock rise this season as his level of consistency does. This weekend KONTODIAKOS averaged 45 yards per kick, with a long of 54 yards and one killed inside the 20-yard line.
Secondary sees growth: Given the fact the San Diego State brought the two best wide receivers (statistically) into this game, the Rams' ability to slow the Aztec passing game to 171 yards shows a good effort. A banged-up Ryan Lindley completed 14-of-23 passes and was intercepted twice. Even more impressive was the fact Vincent Brown was held to three receptions for 40 yards and DeMarco Sampson managed just 23 yards on two catches.
Kawulok steps up: With starting middle linebacker Alex Williams watching from the sidelines, Colorado State linebacker Mike Kawulok stepped in and recorded 10 tackles for the Rams.
Air Fairchild in San Diego: The Colorado State passing game didn't have spectacular numbers in terms of completion percentage (55 percent), but the Rams did pass the ball for 266 yards and a touchdown despite not getting any help from the running game. Pete Thomas completed 22 passes to eight different receivers, including Lou Greenwod, who caught seven balls for 68 yards.
Sisson keeps the Rams in the game: Mychal Sisson had a game to remember and a big part of that was an 88-yard forced fumble/fumble recovery/run for a score with 3:56 left in the third quarter. That score took the Rams from certain defeat to giving them a new life and a shot at the win in the fourth quarter. On the subject of Sisson, his game will likely garner him votes for defensive Player of The Week in the MWC. Sisson accounted for nine stops (one for loss), the fumble forced, recovered and returned for a score, a pass break-up and a sack of Lindley for a four-yard loss.
What didn't work
Toughness on the outside: It would be refreshing to see a Colorado State wide receiver make a play instead of complain about a pass interference call they aren't getting. The fact is, the SDSU defensive secondary did hold, interfere and bully the Colorado State wide receivers through most of this game and the Ram receivers shied away and looked intimidated. It seemed the CSU receivers were more concerned about the calls they weren't getting instead of fighting back and making a play.
0.9: The Colorado State running game faced a rushing defense that was geared to stop the run after being embarrassed by the Wyoming running game the week before. Raymond Carter led the team with 34 yards, Leonard Mason had another 11 and there was even a John Mosure sighting this weekend. Once again the running back rotation was a bit of a mystery with Chris Nwoke going from starter to no rushes in a two-week span.
Another missed kick: The special teams of the Colorado State have been a little inconsistent this season to say the least, especially the kicking game. Saturday evening, Ben DeLine had a 33-yarder blocked in the second quarter. That gives him 15 field goals in 20 attempts this season with three field goals blocked. He has also missed three extra points on the season. With a team still trying to find its way offensively, a consistent kicking game is a must.
Hillman is back: When the Colorado State coaches recruited Ronnie HIllman out of high school at La Habra Calif., they told him they wanted him to play slot receiver. They also said they would like to get him the ball in a variety of ways. Hillman ended up staying close to home, in large part due to the fact the Aztecs sold him on the idea of playing running back. After watching the speedy freshman play tailback this season you have to think he made the right decision. Hillman rushed for 151 yards on the night and was the driving force behind the Aztec offense.
What we learned
While Pete Thomas is getting better, he is not ready to win a game on his own. Frankly, he shouldn't be asked to. The 19-year-old quarterback got no support from the Rams running game (0.9 yards per carry), his offensive line (five sacks) or his wide receivers. Until that changes, his progress and maturity will be stunted.
We learned Colorado State's defense is starting to come together and is improving. We learned even on an off-day for the running game, the Rams can score points. That is more than we knew going into the game and is good news for the Rams' final games of the season against BYU and Wyoming.
Most of all we learned, the Rams may be better than we thought they were. After a rough season of big losses against the best opponents in the conference and big wins over the worst, Colorado State played head-up with a much-improved San Diego State team that left this game with a 7-2 record.