Run game gains ground
FORT COLLINS» There are no complaints, rather an understanding.
Colorado State’s main running backs returned to the fold, but up front, three starters had to be replaced on the offensive line. A series of injuries led to shuffling from the start of fall camp, and only last week did the Rams start the same five up front for the second week in a row.
The running game has been solid, but as a group — blocker and backs — the Rams know it can be better, and last Saturday they had a chance to really iron out some kinks.
After building a big lead, and behind a defense that had control of the game, coach Mike Bobo turned to the running game for the better part of the second half. It led to 52 rushing attempts, the second-most in his tenure at the school, trailing just the 55-rush effort against UNLV in 2015.
The game also marked the first time the Rams had a back hit the 20-carry mark in a game this season, with both Dalyn Dawkins (21 rushes) and Izzy Matthews (20) doing so.
It was good for all involved because the bottom line is that’s the type of offense Bobo wants, a team that can run the ball even when the defense knows it is coming.
“We definitely want to be established a run team first, before our pass game,” tackle Trea Moxley said. “I think people understand that we do have incredible athletes outside, but we have incredible athletes in the backfield, too. We have a great five guys up front who can move people and allow for big holes. We need to establish dominance in that way. If we can’t run late in a game, we’re not going to win many games. We’re not going to run out the clock with a big lead.”
Despite the number of carries, Moxley felt they struggled more in creating space later than they did early, though the two big runs in the contest came in the second half.
Bobo knew it was going to take time, especially since Moxley missed time in fall camp, as did junior college transfers Tyler Bjorklund and Ben Knox, who both missed significant portions of the spring. As the season has played out, Colby Meeks and Jeff Taylor have had ankle issues, too.
The only constants have been Jake Bennett at center and first-year starter Nicho Garcia at right guard. Moxley has started every game, but either at tackle or guard, and Zack Golditch has started every game, but at one tackle or another, leading to eight different players starting this season.
“When you run it 50-plus times in a ball game, you’re going to be a little bit sore, but I believe we’re built to handle that because that’s how we’ve worked, really since I’ve been here,” Bobo said. “And this past year, a dedication to we’re going to try to be mentally and physically tougher than the team’s we play each week. It’s not necessarily that Saturday, but being able to regroup and do it again.”
Having a set five is good, but Moxley said chemistry is gained even when the group has a reliable seven or eight in the rotation and context and familiarity can be gained. It’s not the rotation that’s at issue, he said, it’s the irregularity of it in practice and games. Now that’s starting to change as the group’s healthy improves.
The backs remain unfazed by what is happening up front. The 4.8 yards per carry is on par with the first year, but lagging behind the 5.3 of last season. But the past two weeks the Rams have rushed for better than 200 yards in a game, the first times they’ve done so against FBS teams.
At the top of the list, the numbers feel right, with Dawkins rushing for 5.5 yards per tote and exceeding the century mark the past two weeks, Matthews at 4.9 per.
“It’s been something that me and Dawk have been waiting for, have been ready for,” Matthews said of the run-heavy numbers against Utah State. “It really helps establish a flow you see you there late in games. Just the more than we can flow and the more carries we get, the better we’re getting. When we do get into November and teams are tired, you’re going to see the run game even flourish more.