Utah State football vs CSU takeaways: No offense edition

MA-Football-CSU-6

Well, I don’t know what we expected. Colorado State won in Logan Saturday for the first time since 2011, riding a first quarter scoring spurt to a 27-14 victory. If the scoreboard were the whole story, it really wouldn’t look half bad — that’s a good Colorado State offense. Maybe the best in the conference, in fact. A loss is a loss, but 27-14 is a respectable score between two squads expected to have wildly different seasons. Success (read: bowl eligibility) is still attainable for the 3-3 Aggies, so why not just forget this week ever happened and move on?

Because Utah State’s offense hasn’t proven capable of moving anywhere except straight to the bottom of the Mountain Division, that’s why. Let’s look at this weekend’s winners and losers.

Losers: Forward progress

Here some notable things the Rams accomplished in one quarter of gorgeous Autumn day football:

— A 15-yard TD pass from quarterback Nick Stevens, capping a 7-play 60-yard drive.

— A 5-yard TD sprint from lead running back Izzy Matthews, completing a 6-play 80-yard drive.

— A 33-yard field goal from kicker Wyatt Bryan, following a CSU drive spanning nearly five whole minutes.

In response, the Aggies recorded -5 passing yards and punted three times. Yippee. The start of the second quarter was more of the same. Colorado State scored 24 unanswered points and forced five Utah State punts in a row before the Aggie special teams unit landed a punch. Hometown hero DJ Nelson slipped by a pair of Rams defenders and blocked a punt deep in CSU territory, returning it for six. It would be the best play by an Aggie quarterback all afternoon.

Good thing USU can always fall back on that strong running game.

Winners: The Aggie defense in general

After a rocky start, the unit made quick adjustments and held a team bursting with offensive firepower to just three points from the 9:36 mark in the second quarter through the end of the game. That’s an awfully long time to keep an offense as potent as Colorado State’s out of the end zone, which led many to assume the Rams simply let off the gas.

Let’s go ahead and dispel that notion right now. Even discounting the fact that no coach in all of football closes the playbook five minutes into the second quarter, the Rams were playing on the road in a venue they hadn’t won in for six years. Beating USU was an essential victory on their road to a MW crown. For heaven’s sake, the team was up by only three scores with an eternity to play. I can only assume those trying to discredit Saturday’s defensive effort by insinuating the Rams “stopped trying” with almost three full quarters remaining either love hating this team more than they love rooting for it, or simply didn’t watch the game.

It’s rare to field a defensive unit willing to keep the energy level high after such a dreary start, and yet these Aggies have done exactly that in back-to-back weeks (remember being down 21-7 to BYU?). The Rams threatened to seal the game on multiple occasions — including a full set of downs starting from the USU 9-yard line and ending just two yards shy of the end zone — but never quite scored the dagger touchdown they hoped for. Instead, the Aggies sturdied themselves in the midst of the Rams’ initial stampede, forcing CSU to appear mortal on every remaining drive (punt, punt, punt, punt, missed fg, field goal, downs, downs).

Winners: The Aggie secondary specifically

Utah State’s defense often bent (allowing 509 yards of total offense) but never broke. Star wideout Michael Gallup did his damage (88 yards receiving) but was ultimately kept out of the end zone, and held under 100 yards receiving for just the second time in his last ten games. Gallup currently ranks no. 2 in the country in receiving yards this season (685), providing as strong a test as cornerback Jalen Davis will face all year. While Davis didn’t record any monster interceptions this game, he did play one of the most dangerous receivers in college football to a draw.

Up against a CSU team that can move the ball even against the nation’s best defenses (scoring 23 on Alabama — yes, THAT Alabama) those Aggie defenders on the back end took care of business and kept this game within shouting distance.

Losers: Not to pick on individuals, but…

How do I put this…the guy who handles the ball on every single offensive play needs to be better at getting that ball to the place it needs to go. Yes, the Aggies had numerous issues Saturday. The defensive line hardly touched Nick Stevens, the ground game sucked, and I’m pretty sure every receiver on the roster registered one unforgivable drop. It’s a team sport. Every unit helps the others succeed, I get it. But finishing 17-of-29 for 152 yards and a touchdown just isn’t enough fuel for a real comeback effort.

Kent Myers has to be the guy. And unless Jordan Love is ready to be the guy — and maybe he is — Myers has to be sharper than what we saw last week. He knows it, coach Wells knows it, and I’m pretty sure coach Yost knows it too. Despite the offensive struggles Saturday, this game was a winnable one if not for some poor execution in crunch time. Myers took the field with 1:40 left in the second quarter and 1:37 left in the fourth, netting zero points on each drive. Zero points out of a pair of textbook 2-minute drill drives in a 13-point loss to a solid opponent. That’s the game, folks.


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