At 3-5 on the current season, Colorado State must win and win now.
Luckily for the Rams, three of their final four games are at home for the first time since 1973, and CSU can take all the Hughes home field advantage they can get.
Colorado State has been anything but great as of late, losing four straight games and putting themselves in the desperate position of needing to nearly win out.
This week, San Diego State University (5-3) comes into Fort Collins with one of the best running games in the entire nation, led by sophomore Ronnie Hillman. Hillman’s running is absolutely amazing, he’s gained 100+ yards every week but one, including 437 yards and five touchdowns in the last three weeks. On the year, Hillman has amassed 1,198 yards and 13 scores, and the 5’10” 190-pound back is explosive, able to take the ball the distance to the end zone.
CSU head coach Steve Fairchild was quick to praise Hillman saying, “There’s no question he’s a very, very talented back; great vision, great speed, knows how to set his blocks up. Last year I think he came on the scene with those two receivers, not that they’re not good at receiver this year, but he’s the first option. You can tell if they can get him going; that’s what they would like to do.”
And what the Rams would like to do is stop Hillman. The only problem is that CSU is prone to giving up big plays and big games to opponents on the road. Colorado State gives up 226 yards per game on the ground and is 2-4 this season when an opponent runs for 100-plus yards, meaning it’s of the utmost importance that they tackle.
“We’ve just got to get more hats to the ball,” explained Fairchild. “We’ve got to wrap up a little bit better. It’s an attitude thing, too. You’ve got to fly around.”
While sophomore linebackers Mike Orakpo (tackles) and Shaquil Barrett (tackles) have stepped in to lead the Rams in tackling, there’s no doubt the team has missed its senior leader at linebacker in Mychal Sisson. Sisson broke his ankle while playing on the punt return team against Northern Colorado in Week Three, and he’s been out ever since. But, the Rams may get a boost on that side of the ball as Sisson was running with the scout team, without even a brace, and will be a game-time decision Saturday.
On offense, Chris Nwoke has been the lone bright spot for the Rams in the last two games. Nwoke ran for 93 yards and a TD against UTEP, 156 yards and a score two weeks ago against UNLV.
Fairchild described his running style well this week saying, “He is that type of back that there’s not a lot of pretty. He’s going to wear you down, so the more carries he gets I think the better chance he has of wearing down second-level defenders and the better he feels. He can just get in a groove; that’s the way those types of backs are. Obviously the more we can get him the football the better he is going to do.”
SDSU is also deficient on run defense, giving up 197 yards on the ground, which CSU must exploit if they hope to snap this four-game losing streak Saturday.
Also important is the turnover battle as Colorado State is 0-3 when negative in the turnover department,
2-0 when on the plus side. The Rams must value the ball and not give it away to the Aztecs to enhance their chances of winning.
CSU and SDSU kickoff at 4:06 p.m. MT at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins. The game can also be seen on The Mtn.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, and Mile High Hoops.
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