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Getting to Know the Colorado State Rams' Defense


Here are the Colorado Offensive and Colorado State Defensive starters for the 2008 Rocky Mountain Showdown. Both teams have redshirt freshman in the starting lineup with the Rams having two, SLB Mychal Sisson and LCB Brandon Owens. The Buffs have G Blake Behrens in the starting spot but as we all know, true freshman Max Tuioti-Mariner could find himself with plenty of playing time by game end. Here is the Rams official depth chart and here is the Buffs.

A look at the defensive units -

Defensive Lineman

The first thing that jumps off the page at me from looking at the starting lineups is that the Rams are a lot smaller than the Buffs in the trenches. The defensive ends give up about 65lbs each to Solder and Miller, whom should be able to keep up with smaller quicker ends due to their athleticism. DE Hill, NG Rupp and DE Portoff played in all 12 games last year and had 62 solo tackles and the in the infamous and subjective assisted tackle department, they had 72 additional tackles. DT Whittier did not play much last year and had only 1 tackle to his name. The defensive line had 8 sacks last year with Hill accounting for 5.5. Hill looks to be there most explosive pass rusher and will probably be the focus of the Buffs, if they are worried about any of the defensive lineman. Buffs LT Nate Solder is very athletic so I don't expect him to have a major problem and with Devin Head slotted at the LG spot, his experience should be able to help with any twists and stunts the Rams may throw out there. Against the Buffs, Hill and Pottorff had 2 unassisted tackles last year each and total of 10 total tackles between them. You give the advantage to the Buffs offensive line here and even though the Rams have some experience in Rupp and Hill, CU C Daniel Sanders neutralized Rupp last year. All in all, this should be a nice transition for the Buffs as they still try to nail down starting guard spot. Check goes to the Buffs here.

Defensive Backs and Linebackers

The Buffs look like lockdown corners compared to the inexperienced and depth-lacking CSU corners. Starting CB Nick Openneer played in six games last year, accounting for two tackles and the other starting corner, Brandon Owens, is a redshirt freshman. A relatively experienced and athletic Buffs WR trio of Smith, Williams and McKnight should be able to have their way with the smaller inexperienced corner backs of Colorado State. Openneer has been slowed all camp by an ankle injury with his ability to play still in jeopardy. Frankly, only FS Klint Kubiak, DL Tommie Hill and LB Jeff Horinek worry me on the CSU defense. Klint Kubiak was hurt most of last year but he played well in the CU game before getting hurt in the second game of the year. Horinek was the leading tackler off last year's team with 94 combined tackles and will be the teams main hope at stopping the rushing attack of the Buffs. Safety Pagnotta and LB Brewer are also formidable players with Rocky Mountain Showdown experience. Pagnotta had probably his best game of the year against the Buffs with a half a sack, 8 total tackles and an interception. Redshirt freshman Mychal Sisson rounds out the linebacker corp.Overall, I like how our WR match-up with their CB's. CSU has two solid safeties but I still feel that the Buffs will have their way up front.

Here are some overall team stats

Rushing yards and rushing yards/carry against CSU last year jump off the page at me. If the Buffs are able to get 4.9 a carry, it will be a good day in Denver. Opponents outscored the Rams by 35 points last year in the first quarter, something the Buffs need to do to make unproven QB Billy Farris beat them instead of getting into a possession game where the Rams have two strong horses at running back.

SCORING 304 369
Points Per Game 25.3 30.8
Yards gained rushing 2341 2784
Yards lost rushing 341 297
Rushing Attempts 521 507
Average Per Rush 3.8 4.9
Average Per Game 166.7 207.2
TDs Rushing 15 27
Att-Comp-Int 317-197-15 333-209-7
Average Per Pass 8.0 7.5
Average Per Catch 12.9 11.9
Average Per Game 212.2 207.9
TDs Passing 18 15
Total Plays 838 840
Average Per Play 5.4 5.9
Average Per Game 378.8 415.2
FUMBLES-LOST 9-7 28-15
RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS 18-36 50% 33-53 62%
Score by quarters Pts
Colorado State 1st Qtr 65
Opponents 1st Qtr 100
Colorado State 2nd Qtr 82
Opponents 2nd Qtr 70
Colorado State 3rd Qtr 64
Opponents d=3rd Qtr 90
Colorado State 4th Qtr 93
Opponents 4th Qtr 106

In last year's game, the Buffs were dominated in the time of possession category by about 15 minutes, running 23 less plays and allowing Kyle Bell to run the ball 40 times for 135 yards and a touchdown. I look for the Buffs to reverse last year's numbers and set out to dominate on the ground and wear down the CSU defense. Last year, the Rams gave up almost 5 yards/carry for a whopping 207 yards/game. I think either way, on the ground or threw the air, the Buffs should have the advantage.

With inexperienced corner backs and seasoned veterans at the safety positions, I look for the Rams to play a lot of zone especially with Riar Geer out. Devenny has a chance to have a huge game as the safeties will be rolling over the top of the corner backs to assist. If the Rams want to win this game, I expect them to be aggressive with the line backing corps. I think CSU recognizes the fact that they can't let Hawkins sit back in the pocket and pick apart the corners with a skilled group of receivers. Once again, this sets up well for Devenny at tight end and freshman RB Rodney Stewart on slip screens and misdirection plays. On the flip side, the Buffs should be aggressive but no out of control. Lets remember that CU's CB's aren't excellent either and CSU is more talented on the offensive side than the defensive side. CU will come out and be aggressive at the beginning of the game, attacking the corners to try and get ahead early. Then I think they will use the big boys up front in Miller, Solder and Sanders to establish a strong running game and wear down the Rams up front. The worst case scenario is to let the Rams do what they did last year and keep CU's offense off the field and control the time of possession. Also, the Buffs can't let the hurry up offense be detrimental to the their game plan. A lot of quick three-and-outs would play right into the hands of the Rams and keep them within punching distance of pulling off the upset. The Buffs need to get up early, make Farris beat them and then showcases the Sumler/Scott/Stewart trio. If the Buffs win the time of possession, Buffs win the game easily.

Picture above courtesy of