September 5, 2011

Monday Morning Quarterback: New Mexico

The Rams finally put an end to their road losing woes this past Saturday by eeking out a 14-10 victory over New Mexico in Albuquerque. Today, we take a look back at what worked, and what didn't work in Coach Steve Fairchild's opening game in his fourth season at the helm.

What worked

• Colorado State's defensive line, and more specifically Nordly Capi, had a performance to remember. The Rams tied a team record with ten quarterback sacks. This is especially impressive considering that they had 21 in all of last season. Capi set an NCAA FBS record with 4 forced fumbles, including the decisive strip of and recovery of a Tarean Austin fumble with under 30 seconds remaining to seal the win for CSU. Capi came off the bench to replace and injured Broderick Sargent in the first quarter and overcame an early dead-ball
personal foul penalty, en route to 3.5 sacks.

• The defense as a whole put on an admirable performance, causing six fumbles and recovering three of them. Defensive Coordinator Larry Kerr's newly installed 4-1-6 caused havoc for UNM's offense at times. With only 10 points given up on the road, nothing but kudos are given to a defense that had struggled mightily in past years.

• CSU traditionally has been a poor second-half performing team. On Saturday, the Rams overcame a halftime deficit and succeeded in not allowing a single point the entire second half. The fact that this team showed some character and heart in not only coming back to take the lead late, but then refusing to give it up, is encouraging that they are indeed a different team from last year's 3-9 club.

• Quarterback Pete Thomas again proved to be extremely accurate, going 22-26 with a score. Perhaps even more impressive is his "0" in the interception column, which is something he is looking to improve on since last season.

What didn't work

• The running game never got going. Raymond Carter and Chris Nwoke combined for 25 carries for 98 yards. Putting it into better perspective, two of their runs went for 30 and 24 yards, respectively, meaning they averaged fewer than 2 yards on their other 23 rushing attempts. Give credit to an improved New Mexico front four, but the Ram offensive line failed to create much of a push up front for CSU's running backs. Also curious is the lack of any carries for Derek Good, who often showed flashes of big play ability in fall camp. The Rams need to do some tweeking before next week's UNC matchup if they expect to run the ball with effectiveness.

• Special teams failed miserably. Ben Deline missed two sure field goals, Momo Thomas fumbled on a punt return, and normally consistent Pete Kontodiakos had a 19 yard punt, which led to a subpar 34.8 yard average. Deline doesn't have the strongest leg, but the senior is typically reliable from short range. Special teams has to improve if this team expects to win more ball games this season.

• Pete was certainly accurate, but only 178 yards on 22 completions isn't exactly mind-blowing. The long-range passing game couldn't get going, and although that could be attributed to a lack of running game keeping the defense off balance, this has to be an area that CSU improves on. The weapons appear to be there, but the receiving corps needs to grow up in a hurry if Thomas is wants to put up bigger numbers.

Plays of the Game

Two plays in particular were huge in the Rams' victory. Certainly Capi's game-ending forced fumble and recovery is one of them, as it was the climax of a career day for the sophomore defensive end. Lobos tackle Korian Chambers never seemed to figure out how to stop Capi's speed rush, and it resulted in a huge season-opening win for the CSU program. The other play of the game was a goal line stop by Davis Burl that led to a fumble and recovery by Ivory Herd at the one-inch line. Had New Mexico scored there, the game likely would have taken on a whole new identity as the Rams struggled to put points on the board.

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