READY WITH UR­GENCY

Rams pre­pare for tough sea­son

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Bro­hard

LAS VE­GAS» Through most of the sum­mer, the buildup has been about the new on­cam­pus sta­dium, as well as a lot of the de­tails.

Colorado State’s Mike Bobo noted that as a head coach, every­thing comes across his desk. But in ad­di­tion to the in­jury and aca­demic re­ports and game plans, there are ques­tions about mu­rals, couch place­ment and chair col­ors, and ev­ery­body needs an an­swer.

Yes­ter­day.

Now that the Rams are moved into their new home, the fo­cus of what’s re­ally im­por­tant to the foot­ball pro­gram takes cen­ter stage, and that’s get­ting back to be­ing a team that can hoist a Moun­tain West cham­pi­onship.

It hasn’t been done by the Rams since 2002, a streak they all want to bring to an abrupt end.

“We’ve still got some work to do to get ready. It’s go­ing to be a tough and chal­leng­ing foot­ball sea­son, but we don’t mind that,” Bobo said Wed­nes­day at the Moun­tain West me­dia sum­mit. “We like the ex­pec­ta­tions. I’d rather be at a place where we had pres­sure. Not a place where there’s min­i­mal pres­sure. That’s not any fun. I like the pres­sure, and I want guys that like it, too.”

The Rams are com­ing off a 7-6 sea­son and have been to four con­sec­u­tive bowl games. But the big step to the top of the heap has been slip­pery.

In 2014, the Rams won 10 games for the first time in 11 sea­sons, but de­spite the post­sea­son ap­pear­ances of late, they haven’t re­ally been in the hunt to win the con­fer­ence ti­tle, let alone the Moun­tain Divi­sion.

In the four years since the con­fer­ence split into di­vi­sions and played a cham­pi­onship game, a new team from the Moun­tain has gone each sea­son, but not CSU.

“That’s been our goal, that’s been Coach Bobo’s goal since he got here is to win a con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship,” se­nior quar­ter­back Nick Stevens said. “I think we’re in a po­si­tion to do so.”

The of­fense has some fire­power with six re­turn­ing starters.

Stevens was hot at the end of 2016 af­ter re­turn­ing to a start­ing role, fin­ish­ing with 1,933 yards in seven starts, throw­ing for 19 touch­downs and just five in­ter­cep­tions. Michael Gallup be­came an all-con­fer­ence wide­out by crack­ing the top three in sin­gle-sea­son cat­e­gories at the school for catches (76), yardage (1,272) and touch­downs (14).

The top two run­ners, Da­lyn Dawkins and Izzy Matthews, re­turn, and Bobo sug­gested they may get Marvin Kin­sey Jr. back from an ACL in­jury sooner than ex­pected. Up front, Jake Ben­nett and Zack Golditch re­turn to form the base for a strong line.

Olabisi John­son is back, as is Det­rich Clark, pro­vid­ing a wealth of tar­gets for Stevens to throw to. Their abil­ity to strike from any point of the field is what catches the eye of New Mex­ico coach Bob Davie.

“They’re ex­plo­sive,” said Davie. “To me, I don’t want to say they’re the most tal­ented . ... They re­mind me in my world of Michi­gan State when I was at Notre Dame. Michi­gan State was Colorado State. Al­ways they had great-look­ing play­ers, very phys­i­cal play­ers, very ex­plo­sive play­ers. When they’re on, they’re on. When they’re hot, they’re hot.

“I’m im­pressed with Colorado State.”

While the of­fense is held in high re­gard, the de­fense has been suspect in re­cent sea­sons. And per­plex­ing. The unit that posted its first shutout in 19 sea­sons also al­lowed more than 200 yards per game on the ground and 30 points per con­test. It was in­con­sis­tent, a com­mon­al­ity for a young de­fense.

With eight starters back and the re­turn of line­backer Deonte Cly­burn, he said the time is now.

“We want to be tough. We want to be mean. We’re go­ing to be real tena­cious and get to the ball with bad in­ten­tions,” said Cly­burn, who had 74 tack­les in 2015 be­fore miss­ing last sea­son with a blood-clot is­sue.

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