September 1, 2010

On the Matt: Keys to victory against CU

The wait is almost over as Colorado State kicks off the 2010 football season against in-state rival Colorado on Saturday in the Cinch Jeans Rocky Mountain Showdown. With each team coming off of 3-9 seasons in 2009, both are looking to bounce back on the right foot.

This week On the Matt, Senior Analyst Matt L. Stephens breaks down Colorado State's keys to victory against CU.

Just block:

With the exception of Jake Gdowski and Mark Starr, the Colorado State offensive line is very inexperienced, losing four starters from 2009 to NFL training camps. So far this fall, that has shown as freshman quarterback Pete Thomas has not been given very much time to throw the football when the Rams' offense is running against the first team defense.

However, as CSU appears to be struggling when it comes to pass blocking, clearing holes for the ground game is a whole other story.

If the CSU offensive line gives Thomas adequate time to make decisions in the pocket and allow the Rams to be two-dimensional, the team's chance to win will skyrocket.

Good old fashioned defense:

The obvious strong suit for CSU this year is its defensive, specifically the linebackers. With the return of Ricky Brewer from suspension along with Mychal Sisson and Alex Williams rounding out the starting three, Colorado should have a hard time successfully running the ball. Not to mention both Mike Kawulok and Chris Gipson have starting experience from 2009.

The secondary is looking stronger than expected thanks to sophomore cornerback Marcus Shaw making a case to start, along with freshman Shaq Bell.

Defensive line is a bit banged up, mainly defensive end C.J. James, but the Rams have added a lot of athleticism at DE with Broderick Sargent, Crockett Gillmore and Davis Burl.

Youth can't play young:

The Rams are very young this season and appear to be the only NCAA FBS team to be starting a true freshman under center on Saturday.

Also, head coach Steve Fairchild has announced that CSU will play seven freshmen in the season opener against Colorado. Those young and inexperienced players have to step up and play like veterans.

Turn Hansen into Hawkins:

This will be the first Rocky Mountain Showdown for CU starting quarterback Tyler Hansen, taking over for senior Cody Hawkins who has started the past three seasons under center.

Just like CU will surely do to Thomas, CSU must try to get Hansen on his back as early and often as possible to attempt and fluster him-just like the Rams successfully did in 2009.

While Hansen is definitely more experienced than Thomas, this is arguably the biggest game, and definitely the biggest stage, the Buffs' quarterback has played on in his career. Make him earn every yard.

The kicking game:

With so many question marks surrounding the Rams' offense, there's a chance that CSU won't be able to put the ball in the end zone very often. If that is indeed the case on Saturday, CSU needs to get some consistency from kicker Ben DeLine;. If not him, then backup Chad VanderMolen will need to play to his potential.

I expect this to be a very close game and special teams could easily be the difference.

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