We continue our Better Know a Foe series of conversations with beat writers who cover the Vandals’ opponents. With the Colorado State Rams coming to town tomorrow, Kelly Lyell of the hometown Fort Collins Coloradoan was gracious enough to answer our questions.
What’s the state of the Rams right now? CSU seemed to be off to a solid start before BYU pretty much took them to the cleaners last weekend. Was that simply a case of being overmatched talent-wise, or are there flaws that the near-upset by Weber State exposed and the Cougars exploited?
Three early mistakes that led to first-quarter touchdowns put CSU in an early 21-0 hole at BYU, yet they still made a game of it in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 28-17 at one point before a long BYU scoring drive did them in. The first two BYU touchdowns came on interceptions that bounced out of the hands of CSU’s leading receiver, Rashaun Greer, given the Cougars the ball deep in CSU territory each time, and then the Cougars blocked a punt, also deep in CSU territory.
It’s hard to say what the game might have been like had the Rams not fallen so far behind so early, because they did not appear to be overmatched too badly in the talent department.
Grant Stucker seems like a serviceable quarterback, but that 6-TD- to-5-INT stat is nagging. Were those fluky aberrations, or is he a pick-prone passer?
As I just noted, two of the interceptions were passes thrown right on the money that the team’s best receiver dropped. Stucker is a first-year starter and still shows it at times but appears to be maturing quickly as the season goes on. He was 31 of 51 for 372 yards and two TDs at BYU against a defense that knew he was going to have to pass frequently because of the big early deficit.
What should we expect from Steve Fairchild’s playcalling?
Fairchild is pretty unpredictable in his play-calling. He likes a good mix of the run and pass but doesn’t always follow the traditional mix of throwing on third-and-long or running on third-and-short. He’s also good for one or two trick plays a game, such as the reverse pass to the quarterback that the Rams used to score a touchdown on in their opener at Colorado.
Who are the playmakers to watch for on offense and defense?
CSU’s play-makers on offense are receiver Dion Morton, a senior who scored 12 touchdowns last year, 10 receiving and two running, and this season has thrown two passes — both for touchdowns. Running back John Mosure also makes plays as a running back, receiver out of the backfield and kick returner. Defensively, the Rams big plays tend to come from linebacker Mychal Sisson and free safety Elijah-Blu Smith, who intercepted a pass in each of the team’s first three games.
Speaking of Elijah-Blu, he seems like a serious threat to any passer, anytime.
He is a threat to any passer. He was a cornerback originally but was moved to safety last fall because of injuries. The new position is probably a better fit, because he’s a hard-hitting, aggressive player. But the cornerback experience helps him get to the ball faster and catch it when he sees a play developing.
The Vandals are probably the best Idaho team in a decade… are the Rams respecting the resurgence, or are people still calling us a cupcake?
CSU is not taking Idaho lightly. Fairchild talked immediately after the BYU loss about the strength of this Idaho team and how he saw speed, strength and an NFL prospect or two on the roster. Any chance the Rams had of overlooking this game went away with their loss last week at BYU and Idaho’s win over at Northern Illinois, a team the Rams know were coming off a win at Purdue.
What concerns you about the Vandals’ matchup?
Idaho’s offensive balance is similar to CSU’s and if the Rams are unable to slow down the rushing attack and force the Vandals into predictable situations they could have trouble. CSU’s defense, however, has been pretty decent this season other than the BYU game.
What’s your predicted outcome?
I expect Colorado State to return to the way it played in its wins over Colorado and Nevada and take this one 35-17.