Colorado State meets old opponent
It was 1998 when the Colorado State football team last played the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa University. Both schools were members of the Western Atlantic Conference (WAC) and Colorado State won their only meeting that year 34-7.
’98 was a good year for the Rams as they went 8-4 for the season and finished third. Tulsa, however, was on the bottom of the standings and finished with a 4-7 record.
Fast forward to this weekend and things are far from where they were in 1998. Tulsa is now in Conference USA where they are finding themselves at the top of their conference at the end of each year. One of the main reasons for the success in Tulsa is their head coach, Bill Blankenship. Since being hired in 2011, Blankenship has led his team to a 19-9 record and won one of two bowl games that they have played in.
Rams should look to exploit Tulsa’s return defense
Tulsa is coming off a 34-7 loss to Bowling Green. Don’t let the score fool you: Bowling Green has one of the top defenses in the nation and gave the Golden Hurricane a lot of headaches. One of their major headaches was Ryan Burbrink. Bowling Green’s sophomore wideout returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown.
This is great news for all Rams fans. The silver lining in last week’s loss to Colorado was the special teams. They racked up 158 yards and a touchdown in the return game.
Coach Blankenship has seen the film and doesn’t like what Colorado State has to offer, “If you just look at the game, they performed very well in their kick returns and punt returns, I think that was really one of the things that made the game very, very close.” The only bad news for the Rams is that Joe Hansley, who scored that touchdown, is doubtful for Saturday’s game.
Expect Thomas Coffman (returned a kick for 84 yards against CU) to get the majority of the workload in the receiving and returning department. It seems like coach McElwain is taking notes from his NFL friend in Denver, when it comes to injuries. The next man up is a theme in Fort Collins and coach explains it simply; “We’re just going to have to move forward and go get after it.”
Another aspect of this game that the Rams can get excited about is Tulsa’s new offensive line. Coming off one of their best seasons in the run game, Tulsa has had to welcome three new starters to the trenches. Like the Rams last week, Tulsa struggled to get the ball going and only rushed for 51 yards.
Junior guard Jake Alexander was very disappointed with the performance as he told Tulsa World, “That is just absolutely terrible, and for what we did last year … that’s not good enough. We’ve got to take that on our shoulders,”
Along with a struggling offensive line, Tulsa will be missing their top defensive player, Demarco Nelson. Tulsa was hoping the NCAA would reinstate Nelson for the season but they have gone against that ruling. The NCAA hasn’t seen any progress with Nelson and his plans of graduating so they are allowing the team to redshirt Nelson this year. The defensive back was a favorite to win this years Jim Thorpe award (awarded to the top defensive back).
This news will hopefully motivate CSU to convert on third downs. The Rams struggled last week as they only went 2-14 on third down attempts. Coach McElwain believes the problem all lies within execution, ”It’s attention to detail and understanding where those sticks are and why we’re calling that play.” If the offense can get this aspect of their game-plan down, they should be returning to Fort Collins with a win.
Although Nelson is another sigh of relief for CSU fans, both teams are missing key players and have been struggling to get their offense going. Expect this to be a close game that will get decided in the closing minutes of the game. If Colorado State can keep up their defensive communication and do the opposite of what they did last week on third downs, they should be able to pull off the upset.
Colorado State is looking to come back to their “real” home opener next week with a 1-1 record. Tulsa may be an old oil city, but they certainly aren’t a team anyone on their schedule can ignore. CBSsports.com currently has Tulsa in their top 50 rankings in the nation which could be a great win on the road for the Rams. This won’t be an easy task for the Rams and especially since Tulsa now has a new sports ambassador.
Kickoff: 5:00 PM MST; CBS Sports Network