Coaches knew de­fense would take time to jell

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Bro­hard

boise, idaho» One al­ways hopes. Marty English cer­tainly did, but even the Colorado State de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor ex­pressed pa­tience at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son. He knew at that point it was go­ing to take time. How much, no one was re­ally sure, but the hope is it hap­pens sooner rather than later.

As a unit, the Rams’ de­fense sees what it has been do­ing lately and thinks it could have been there all along. Buck line­backer Evan Colorito said as much last week, but then thought again.

“OK, let me re­phrase it. I think we thought we should have been do­ing it all year, but I think the thing is we were young, we had a lot of in­ex­pe­ri­ence,” the ju­nior said. “I mean, I didn’t re­ally have that much ex­pe­ri­ence com­ing into the sea­son and I think skill-wise, and just the way we played dur­ing camp, we knew we were all ca­pa­ble. The games is what we needed un­der our belt.”

So true, with only two de­fen­sive starters re­turn­ing — se­nior line­backer Kevin Davis and se­nior cor­ner­back Tyree Sim­mons. Both have been solid this sea­son, Davis with his team-lead­ing 101 tack­les, Sim­mons tied for the team lead with six pass breakups. They not only pro­vided strong play, but lead­er­ship and guid­ance as the rest of the group caught on.

The Colorado game was an eye-opener, and English said at the time he thought CSU’s de­fense was ready for more than it could pro­vide. As the sea­son played out, the Rams hit that point. Colorito wasn’t the only one get­ting the hang of be­ing a starter and play­ing an en­tire game. Jake Sch­lager had to do it. So did Josh Wat­son, Braylin Scott, Tre Thomas, Jakob Buys and Dar­nell Thomp­son. The list was ex­ten­sive. So were the lessons. “It has paid off tremen­dously down the stretch,” Sch­lager said. “We’re not go­ing to make any ex­cuses for how we played at the be­gin­ning of the year, but just that added ex­pe­ri­ence, the added op­por­tu­nity we’ve got­ten through­out the course of the year has def­i­nitely helped at the end of the year.”

The over­all num­bers are not all that pretty, al­low­ing 404.1 yards of to­tal of­fense and 213.1 rush­ing yards per game — but they im­proved in the fi­nal five games.

What had been un­likely early be­came pos­si­ble late.

“I wouldn’t say it wasn’t pos­si­ble. You al­ways have hope that some­times things are go­ing to click a lit­tle bit faster than they did,” CSU coach Mike Bobo said. “They didn’t, and you had to go through grow­ing pains and the grow­ing pains were tough. But what en­cour­ages me is that there was im­prove­ment each week with them and how they ap­proached it.”

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