This recap could simply be the stat line for Kapri Bibbs, that is how dominating his performance was. His 312 yards set a new single-game rushing record at Colorado State, and he added four touchdowns on the ground to remain atop all of Division-I football. All of his touchdowns came in the second half, and two of them took the lead for the Rams. He averaged over 10 yards a carry with runs of 59 and 85 yards, both going for touchdowns. Despite Bibbs explosive performance, the game was close until the fourth quarter and deserves some retrospection.
In a game with the 87th ranked Rams defense going against the 108th ranked Nevada, the first half was surprisingly uneventful. The Wolf Pack did a good job holding Kapri Bibbs in check, and picked off an errant throw from Garrett Grayson to end a quick-moving CSU drive. On the opposite side, the Rams' defense proved they could prevent a dual-threat quarterback from gouging them by keeping Cody Fajardo to short scrambles when he left the pocket. Other than a single scoring drive midway through the second quarter, the defense answered their critics in the first 30 minutes.
Whatever sense of hope the two defenses instilled in their fan bases in the first half was quickly abandoned in the first four minutes of the second as big plays from each team led to scores. Bibbs started it off when he finally found a hole big enough to burst through and went for 39 yards to the endzone. Not to be outdone, Fajardo held it on an option and ran 68 yards untouched just over a minute later.
The Rams and Wolf Pack would trade field goals and the lead before "The Kapri Bibbs" show started.
On his own 41 yard line, down 17-16 to a tiring Nevada defense, Bibbs took the handoff 59 yards and it would be all Rams from there. Bibbs would add two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, while Nevada would fail to score again as the Rams went on to win comfortably after trailing with a minute left in the third. In the third quarter alone, Bibbs nearly ran for more yards than Nevada did all game with 154 yards to their 164. In the second half he tallied 260 yards, which would be good for 13th in the nation in rushing yards per game...for an entire team. Chew on that one for a bit.
The headlines and record books will read Bibbs' name, but Grayson had a very 'McElwain' like performance. He had an early mistake, but did a good job managing the game after that. He let Bibbs do the heavy lifting, but completed key passes when they were needed. On the day he finished 20/27 with 239 yards and single interception. It was his fifth straight game with an interception, but that is a product of how much more comfortable he is taking chances throwing the ball, which is much improved from the Colorado and Tulsa games.
With a performance like Bibbs had, you have to give credit to the offensive line. Weston Richburg, Jordan Gragert, Jared Biard, Brandon Haynes, and Tyler Sambrailo have made significant improvement from last season to now and are a big part of the Rams' success this season.
The problems with drops that plagued the receivers early this season have mostly gone away with a few exceptions.No one stood out statistically as Grayson distributed his 20 completions to eight different targets. Rashard Higgins had a quiet game with only two catches, but both featured great displays of athleticism. Tight ends Crockett Gillmore and Kivon Cartwright combined for four catches, but Gillmore seemingly ran over half of Nevada's population on one of those for a big first down. Sure-handed Joe Hansley had the most receptions and yards with 6 and 63. But the big play came from Thomas Coffman who had a Top 10 worthy grab when he laid out for a 41 yard reception.
We finally saw Shaq Barrett return to form as he registered two sacks to bring his season total to 9.5. Saftey Trent Matthews and defensive end Joe Kawulok also got in on the fun with a sack each.
The key for the defense in this game was the secondary being able to hold a threatening quarterback in check, and they mostly lived up the call. Veteran Shaq Bell stepped up huge and made several big plays to stop Nevada drives, including three tackles for loss. Standout freshman special-teamer Jake Schlager got his first major action and had his ups-and-downs, but showed promise for his youth. Overall, the defense only allowed 247 yards through the air, but more importantly did not allow big plays to hurt them.
Junior linebackers Max Morgan and Aaron Davis continued their dominating senior seasons with their 90th and 86th tackles, respectively.
What Needs Improvement?
After a performance like the Rams had, it is hard to find a lot of things to work on, but there were still some flaws to polish if they want to pick up two more wins and a bowl.
With two option heavy offenses left on the schedule, Colorado State will need to improve on that aspect of their game. They were able to prevent Nevada from ripping off big chunks of yardage, but the Wolf Pack were able to consistently get three or four yards out of a rush as they averaged five a carry. Kasey Carrier, Cole Gaustche and the New Mexico offense put up 451 yards a week ago and will be fighting for their bowl lives come next Saturday. The Rams will need to work out the kinks if they want to stop the number two ranked rushing attack in the country.
What to Build On?
After this weekend, the Rams have the 30th ranked rushing attack in the country and the number one running back by touchdowns. The run game has looked dominant more and more throughout the season and now they face the 122nd ranked Lobo run defense. The stage is set for a Bibbs field day as he chases down even more records.
The Rams continued putting pressure on the quarterback which may not play as big a role against New Mexico, who only threw it three times last week, but will certainly be important against Utah State. The Rams now have 22 sacks on the season, good enough for 34th in the country.
What does it feel like Ram fans? This Saturday, it will be November 16th and the Rams will be playing a meaningful game, not just for the opponents, but for themselves. New Mexico is at 3-6 and will need a win this weekend if they want to remain in contention for a bowl game. Despite the roller coaster ride they have been on this season, the Rams are 5-5 and control their destiny with three games left including two against the weakest opponents in the Mountain West. There will be a lot of emotion in Saturday's game and high stakes.