By David Keeler
It would be difficult to determine the 2017 season’s biggest surprise for Colorado State.
“We were all a little bit stunned. We all know how good we are,” said CSU defensive end Chris Nwoke. “We knew the talent was there but the work wasn’t there.”
The 2017 Rams won’t be a surprise. They were leading the Conference USA East Division for the entire campaign only to lose four conference games on the final day. But, if there’s any team prepared to hang with the likes of Navy (and last year’s West division champion SMU) and Tulsa (then the defending champ), it’s this CSU bunch.
“It comes down to focus. If you focus on how you’re playing, you’re not going to lose any games,” said senior offensive tackle Adam Bisnowaty. “We all work hard, we all put in hard work. You have to look in the mirror and say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ That’s why we’re in the (peanut) gallery.”
While the Rams (10-3) knocked off Georgia Tech in Atlanta to claim the outright East Division title and a New Year’s Six bowl bid, they truly unleashed their fire Monday.
On Tuesday, they had one of the most intense practices imaginable.
“The thing that stands out is they got after it, we had the best spring of football I’ve ever seen,” said Colorado State assistant head coach and running backs coach Dana Kanno. “I had two weeks off, I had a three-hour nap and that three-hour nap caused me to get upset.”
So that sucked the energy out of Kanno.
The Rams charged hard to the finish to finish the last 60 minutes of spring ball off strong.
“I went out there and checked out the intensity, the energy, the passion of this team. In Florida, that’s all I have seen,” Kanno said. “But I saw it in-state and then I went out there today.”
Among the items on Kanno’s wish list: quick-strike offense, improved defense and an improved kicking game.
The intensity of practice may be one reason the Rams are being asked about a lot of things they aren’t able to control.
“It’s the media and it’s social media. I don’t know why they’re looking for quotes from certain players, talking about certain stuff,” Bisnowaty said. “We have so much more control over how we’re going to perform on Saturday.
“We can control our preparation this week and week-to-week.”
CSU will take on fellow New Year’s Six bowl qualifier Eastern Washington this week before their first road game of the season, at BYU.
The Rams are banged up in the secondary, and they are facing a BYU offense that passed for 544 yards on the road against Utah State, including three touchdown passes of at least 60 yards.
“My first thought is it doesn’t change a whole lot,” said CSU defensive coordinator Marty English of how Colorado State will match up against BYU. “Their speed in the passing game, there isn’t too much that we are going to be able to have a lot of responses for them.”
CSU’s passing attack will be in good hands.
Freshman Frank Maile will start at quarterback, with first-year starter Nick Stevens looking to build on a production that included 12 passing touchdowns and more than 1,300 yards.
“All of our assignments will be like (no) instructions. There are a lot of hand signals and it’s not going to affect our effort,” Nwoke said. “We have to be patient. It’s all about execution in everything. If we execute every play the way we’re supposed to, everything will be fine.”
Run the football. In short, the Rams will have to pound BYU into submission to have a chance at beating the last two quarterfinalists from the Mountain West Conference.
“I see a lot of positives,” Nwoke said. “We are going to be better. We should know what (we can) bring to the table. We have to execute.”
Nwoke doesn’t see last year’s run to the New Year’s Six bowl berth as a hindrance.
“All you can do is come back and take it in the right direction,” Nwoke said. “We have to take care of business.”
Sports on 07/28/2018