Colorado State vs. Tulsa 2013: Rams looking for first win of season

Wesley Hitt

Colorado State is taking on a Tulsa team that may not be as potent as thought.

Game: Colorado State University Rams at Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Where: Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium and Case Athletic Complex (newly renovated in 2008, seats 30,000) Tulsa, Oklahoma

Date/Time: Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 5;00 PM MST (7:00 PM EST)

TV: CBS Sports Network (Comcast - 412/846, DirecTV - 221, Dish - 158) - Locally, Colorado State fans are invited to watch away games at TAPS (165 E. Boardwalk Drive).

Radio: ESPN 105.5/102.3 Denver, KREL-AM 1580 ESPN Colorado Springs, KSIR-AM 1010 in Fort Morgan, KRFD-FM 94.5 in Sterling and KNZZAM News Radio 1100 in Grand Junction.

On-Line: CBSSports GameTracker

Weather: 97° F, with a low of 71°. 0% chance of rain with wind 8 mph out of the South/South East

Odds: Colorado State (0-1, 0-0) are 10-point underdogs to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (0-1, 0-1)

Series: Tulsa leads the series with the Rams 4-3-0, but the Rams have won 3 of the last 4.

Sagarin PREDICTOR Power Rankings: Colorado State Rams: 63.37 / Tulsa Golden Hurricane: 73.29

Coaches: Bill Blakenship (19-9) for Tulsa and Jim McElwain (4-9)

CSU hasn't won a road game since the double overtime victory against Utah State on September 24th, 2011. The Rams have yet to win a road game under coach Jim McElwain.

Last Week's Overview: Neither team can be happy with their opening games this year. Tulsa QB Cody Green was hurried by the Bowling Green defense and completed 17 of 34 passes for a total of 172 yards (5.1 yard average and a QB rating of 37.0) in the loss to the Falcons. Green was replaced in the fourth quarter by Dane Evans who went 3 of 7 for 50 yards and had the only Golden Hurricane touchdown on a 27-yard pass to Derek Patterson. Senior Carl Salazar also missed two makeable field goals. The Falcons won 34-7 in front of a crowd of 18,142.

Colorado State is coming off of a lackluster performance against a very beatable BCS foe, the University of Colorado Buffaloes. In losing 41-27, the Rams handed former SJSU head coach Mike MacIntyre his first win as the CU coach and the Centennial Cup. Dave Baldwin's vanilla offense was kept in check for most of the game garnering 16 first downs, 295 total yards and going 2-14 on third down. Two costly turnovers really cost the Rams as the defense gave up 509 yards (400 yards passing by Connor Wood). The only bright side for the Rams was special teams, which was started by Joe Hansley's 74-yard punt return for a TD and then Thomas Coffman's 84-yard return set up Kapri Bibbs for a rushing touchdown.

Key Injuries:

Colorado State:

[WR] 09/03/2013 - Charles Lovett is upgraded to probable Saturday vs. Tulsa (Knee)

[RB] 09/03/2013 - Donnell Alexander "?" Saturday vs. Tulsa (Hand)

[WR] 09/03/2013 - Joe Hansley doubtful for Saturday vs. Tulsa (Ankle)

Tulsa:

[DB] 08/28/2013 - Marco Nelson out indefinitely (Academics)

[CB] 08/16/2013 - Darrell Williams out for season (Knee)

[DT] 08/16/2013 - Jack Jewell out for season (Academics)

Who to watch, Tulsa:

With Cody Green (6'-4", 247 lbs.) struggling against Bowling Green Bill Blankenship elected to give Dane Evans (6'-2", 200lbs.) a try, which resulted in Tulsa's only score of the night. Derek Patterson was one of four Golden Hurricane receivers with 3 receptions or more, (Jordan James had 3 receptions for 58 yards, Keyarris Garret had 5 for 54 yards and Trey Watts had 5 receptions for 33 yards) but the only one for 45 yards and a TD. Patterson also had a fumble on the Bowling Green 2-yard line. Only three of Tulsa's main pass receiving corps are over 6-0:  Freshman TE Tyler Wilson is 6'-7", 248 lbs., junior WR Keyarris Garret is 6'-4", 207 lbs. and senior WR Jordan James is 6'-2", 203 lbs.

Tulsa currently has the 101st ranked offense with 273 yards (220 yards passing and 51 rushing yards) and had its lowest offensive output since September 19th, 2009 at Oklahoma. Senior RB Trey Watts is the kick off and punt return specialist with a 22 yard average on 3 returns of 66 yards on kick offs and 3 punt returns for 15 yards. Senior Ja'Terian Douglas (5'-9", 189 lbs.) was the leading rusher for the Golden Hurricane gaining 22 yards on 12 attempts (1.8 yards average). It seems that the losses of the leading tackler DeAundre Brown, sack leader Jared St. John and leader in interceptions Dexter McCoil, have affected the Tulsa defense more than could gave been guessed. Senior LB Shawn Jackson, senior DB Demarco Nelson and junior DB Dwight Dobbins will have to make up for these losses against an unproven Colorado State offense.

Who to watch, CSU:

According to reports, Jim McElwain was pleased with Garret Grayson's performance last weekend in the loss to the Colorado Buffaloes, so look for Grayson (22/39 for 201 yards, no TD no Int.) to start over Connor Smith and Nick Stevens again this weekend. Despite a devastating fumble, sophomore transfer Kapri Bibbs looks to be moving his way up the depth charts after a rushing for 70 yards on 15 attempts and 2 touchdowns. With last year's leading rusher Donnell Alexander likely out due to a hand injury, it looks like Chris Nwoke is still hoping to regain the form he had in 2011 after a disappointing day at the Rocky Mountain Showdown with 6 carries for 6 yards. Colorado State other scoring threat, returner Joe Hansley (also 8 receptions against the Buffs), is likely out with an ankle injury leaving Thomas Coffman to fill in. On offense the Ram's fans have about given up hope that Crocket Gillmore will get involved in the game, or that the taller, faster receivers like Rashard Higgins (6 receptions for 57 yards and some key drops) will make a difference in the passing game. Instead, the return of 5'-8", 182 lbs. junior Charles Lovett could make a difference for the Rams and provide a spark. TE Kivon Cartwright got involved, but with only 2 catches as did freshman Jordan Vaden with 3 catches for 16 yards.

Redshirt Freshman Hayden Hunt had seven kicks last weekend for an average of 49.7 yards per punt, with a long of 69 yards. Former walk-on place kicker Jared Roberts was solid again going 2/2 and he has a current streak of 8 straight field goals. Special teams was the only area that Colorado State soundly beat the Buffs last weekend, so much so that the Buffs stopped kicking to the Colorado State returners in the second half. Both Hansley (30.7 yards) and Coffman (40.5 yards) lead the Mountain West in punt return average and kick off return average respectively.

While the Rams rank #2 in the mountain west in rushing defense, only allowing the Buffs 109 yards, the secondary was torched by CU's Richardson with 10 receptions for 208 yards and 2 TD's. Sophomore Nelson Spruce also got behind the Colorado State secondary for 8 receptions and 99 yards. If the Rams do not improve in this area, it could be a very long night against a Tulsa team that averaged 34.7 points a game last year. Sophomore DB Kevin Pierre-Louis led the team with 15 tackles last week, which was the 4th most in the MW, followed by junior DB Bernard Blake with 11 tackles (1 for a loss with 2 pass break ups) and LB Aaron Davis. Sophomore LB Cory James was playing well when flagged for a questionable personal foul last weekend that allowed Colorado to extend its lead.

Senior LB Shaquil Barrett's 3½ tackles for a loss in the Week 1 loss to Colorado is the second-highest total in the MW and tied for second in the nation. The Rams put almost no pressure on Woods last weekend and that has to change. Freshman DE Austin Berk (6'-5", 225 lbs.) saw his first playing time last week and Sophomore CB Jasen Oden (6'-1", 208 lbs.) was a playmaker last year for the Rams. Maybe they can step up and make a difference this weekend against Tulsa.

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