Colorado State, sitting at 3-3, has reached a pivotal point in their season as they face UTEP (3-3) in El Paso, Texas today.
The Rams are coming off back-to-back losses–a heartbreaking homecoming defeat to San Jose State and a 50 point blowout at the hands of Boise State–they don’t want it to become a trend.
Starting tight end Crockett Gillmore echoed that sentiment this week saying, “I think every game is a must-win, but especially coming off a two-game losing streak, you don’t want to make it three.”
Yes, CSU is still hopeful of making a bowl this year, as both Gillmore and Pete Thomas said this week. And if they want to realize that goal, the Rams need this win today.
It’s such an important contest that head coach Steve Fairchild called it a must-win during his press conference this week, knowing if his team loses today, they could lose confidence for the rest of the season.
Overall, Colorado State needs to play more consistently if they want to win this game and that starts with bringing the energy from the first kickoff.
The team has had its fair share of slow starts, including its last two losses. Three weeks ago against San Jose State, CSU allowed the Spartans to march down field quickly to take the lead. Last week it was the offense that was downright offensive early, going three-and-out on their first five drives.
Offensively, the Rams are at their best when both the running and passing game are clicking. It’s what Fairchild said he hopes they have today; a balanced attack.
Thomas to Gillmore and Lou Greenwood through the air should be prominent connections today, while CSU would really like to see Raymond Carter and Chris Nwoke get something going on the ground as well. Over their last two games, the Rams’ two running backs gained a paltry 125 yards together, they must be much more productive this evening in El Paso.
On defense, CSU will be happy to have the return of Mike Orakpo, who suffered a concussion last week but has been cleared to play against UTEP. Orakpo leads the Rams in tackles (46) and also leads his team vocally on and off the field. And while Colorado State gets back a key player on D, they will be without starting safety Ivory Herd after Herd violated team rules and was suspended indefinitely this morning.
The team they face today in UTEP, is very similar to the Rams.
The Miners score more (29.0-23.3) and allow slightly less points against than CSU (28.3-31.2), while the Rams hold the advantage in the turnover department (+6 – -2).
UTEP’s offense is a difficult one to gameplan for as they have utilized three quarterbacks and they’ve had three different men lead the team in single-game rushing yards. Last week, Joe Banyard flew down the field on a 72-yard run as the Miners cruised to a 44-7 rout of Tulane.
On defense, UTEP does well against the pass and they intercepted four throws last week alone. CSU’s Thomas will have to make smart decisions from the pocket or risk turning the ball over multiple times.
And since this game figures to be so close, a deciding factor could be special teams–an area UTEP excells in. The Miners are No. 5 in the nations in kickoff returns and Vernon Frazier is one of the best returners in all the land, taking four kickoffs 40-plus yards this season already. Kicker Dakota Warren is 9-15 on the year in the field goal department and UTEP blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone last week as well.
This will be a close contest, and because the Rams need the victory so badly, they will win 35-31.
The game kicks off at 6 p.m. MT.
Viewing the game
Today’s contest will not be televised in Colorado. If you live in Fort Collins, head to Taps Sports Bar and Grill where they will be showing the game on a big screen. If not, you can access the game through UTEP’s website, although you will have to pay $9.95 to watch it.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, and Swoosh Nation.
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