The Colorado State Rams sit at 3-4 and are looking on the outs of a bowl game with some missed opportunities against a easy schedule. The Rams will need to upset Wyoming and SDSU or Air Force to reach the magical 6 win mark. They are favored against UNLV but at this point who knows. The Rams were getting looked at as a 7 win team by some and now might be lucky to get 4. The injuries have hurt, Mychal Sisson in particular. Steve Fairchild is on the hot seat more then ever because of his love of the screen pass, I think he has another year at least with his recruiting starting to show up and Pete Thomas as an upper class man. What is happening to Pete Thomas though?
This was suppose to be his breakout year after he shook off the freshman jitters. He was the only true freshman to start all his teams games last year. A very good freshman year that saw some very good stats. 64.7% completion percentage with 221 yards per game. Both of those were 2nd in the conference behind Andy Dalton and Ryan Lindley respectively. His TD to INT ratio was the only bad mark on his record at 11-13. Those freshman mistakes were suppose to disappear and turn into touchdowns. Pete Thomas was primed to step up with his experience and a better grasp of the playbook. So what happened?
Catch the rest after the jump...
So far Thomas has dropped in every category. His completion % down a tick to 62%, his yards down to 192 a game. His yards per attempt are down. His TD-INT ratio at a poor 6-7. This is all over the same amount of attempts per game, 32.
Can't blame the running game as they are averaging about the same per carry with 3.42 this year compared to 3.47 last year. I think the offensive line has played even better this year then last in regards to protecting Thomas. The sacks per game are down from 3.67 to 3.29. We will get back to that number later though.
The receivers should take some of the blame. His tallest threats have been no shows for the most part in Marquise Law and Byron Steele. He is dealing with freshman Thomas Coffman, Lee Clubb, and Charles Lovett. Returning leading receiver Lee Greenwood has been inconstant and is still just 6 feet tall on a good day.
On the plus side for the receivers Joe Brown has replaced Zac Pauga as his favorite check down receiver. Crockett Gillmore has put his name out there with some of the best tight ends in the conference and nation. Despite the lack of big bodies Thomas' targets are very quick and can get open. See the Boise St game where Raymond Carter, Lee Greenwood, and Coffman all got behind their defender but Thomas missed possible touchdowns or big gains.
This leads me to the two big issues. Play calling and Thomas. The play calling hasn't put Thomas in the best position for his skill it would seem. Thomas throws a nice deep ball, can read the middle of the field as good as any QB I have seen for CSU. Thomas isn't good at faking the screen pass and has issues with the throws that require some extra umph. He can make the throws because of his decision making but sometimes he puts to much touch on his passes.
Play calling should follow something like Boise St and Kellen Moore. Lots of crossing patterns where Thomas can read a defense quickly and make that decision where he can get his receivers in space. Right now the CSU offense is very vertical or screen pass. There isn't much in the way of routes up the middle or across the middle. Where is the basic slot receiver or tight end beating the LB across the field? Hitting him about 5-10 yards and letting him run or just getting those 7 for a first down? It would seem its all streaks and out routes.
Thomas needs to get his accuracy back up to last year or even higher. Thomas was 70% after his first three games but has been under 60% all but 1 game since. He has only cracked the 200 yard mark twice all year. The 2nd year QB needs to find his touch, which can mean throwing the ball as hard as possible on some routes to sneak it in. The speed of the ball plays into the timing of the routes. It doesn't matter if you release the ball on time if you float it when it needs to get there lickity split.
Thomas has to get rid of the ball some times, he is maturing there but 3+ sacks a game is to many. Thomas has shown some ability to escape and move around the pocket. He needs to perfect that skill to open passing lanes and maximize yardage. Running is nice but with his speed it isn't a skill until he uses it to help the passing game.
I still believe Thomas is the key the turning CSU around. You don't plateau as a true freshman, the gains might come slower then we wanted but Thomas will get better. He needs some more experience and some help in the play calling and receiver department. The sophomore slump might be a real thing, just ask Jake Heaps and his 3TD - 6INT ratio and 55% completion percentage which landed the 5-star recruit on the bench at BYU.