READY WITH URGENCY
Rams prepare for tough season
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.
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.