Defense shows out in Millen’s return, Rams take conference win


Euan Peart, KCSU Sports

On Saturday afternoon in Fort Collins, the CSU Rams hosted the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors in a defensive bout between two conference opponents. Each team headed into the game was hoping to move up in the Mountain West standings. The Rams’ 14-0 second half effort would bring them all the way back from a 10-point deficit at halftime to win the game 17-13.

Although they won, the Rams’ game was one defined by the team’s inexperience. The mistakes of both the coaching staff and players began to add up as the day went along. From mismanagement of timeouts to false starts and offside penalties, the Rams  put themselves through plenty of unnecessary torment throughout the evening.

By the third minute of the second quarter, coach Norvell had taken his second timeout of the three allotted to his team in the first half. The Rainbow Warriors would take advantage of this cavalier approach to timeouts in order to score them their first and only touchdown of the game.

Beginning at the 12:32 minute mark of the second quarter, the Hawai’i touchdown drive was made up of seven back-to-back no-huddle plays that would gain a total 65 yards before forcing the Rams to take their final first half timeout at 8:07. The Rainbow Warriors punched in the touchdown after the Rams’ timeout just 42 seconds later on the game clock. The Rams’ inexperience would also lead to penalties called on the team, which resulted in two Hawai’i first downs and the loss of a total 50 yards in the game.

Additionally, the Rams would only convert two of their four red zone trips into points. Norvell went for it on fourth down from within ten yards of the end zone three times. On all three tries, the Rams were unsuccessful in converting. Luckily for the home team, one of those failures was saved by a Hawai’i offsides penalty and the Rams’ running back, Avery Morrow, was able to score on the next play.

Coach Norvell did show some guts and trust in his team as he opted to go for it on fourth down a total of six times, converting half of those plays. The biggest play of the game for the Rams came on fourth down during their touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. It was fourth and three from the Hawai’i 33 and the Rams were down 13-10 with three and a half minutes left in the game. Rams quarterback Clay Millen would find star wideout Tory Horton for a 13 yard gain on the play, which would be the catalyst for the Rams to score their second touchdown of the game on a 10-yard rush from Morrow.

The Rams defense played stellar once again, forcing three fumbles in the game – though they were unable to recover any of them – along with forcing Hawai’i to punt five times. The team punctuated their second half shutout with an interception by defensive back Ayden Hector to end Hawai’i’s drive in the final moments of the game.

Though this game was full of mistakes, inexperience and uninspired football, the Rams were able to put together their second win of the season and first win at Canvas Stadium. They are now 2-1 in conference play and 2-5 overall. The team has proven to be stubborn and a tough defensive group in these last three weeks in conference play. With this win against Hawai’i, it seems okay to have hope for this team for the rest of the season.

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