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Colorado State finds offensive identity in win over Cal Poly

The Rams rack up over 500 yards on offense, but need consistency moving forward.

Chris Nwoke had a big day running the ball for the Rams.
Chris Nwoke had a big day running the ball for the Rams.
Doug Pensinger

The Colorado State Rams picked up their first win of the season Saturday with a 31-17 victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs. There were positive signs -- the Rams picked up 533 yards on offense -- and some discouraging ones, as they allowed a clearly over matched opponent to hang around most of the game.

So what does it all mean? Who knows. The Mustangs are certainly a capable team, but they're an FCS team, and it's always hard to know what to take away from a game against a lesser opponent (even if they did beat Wyoming last year -- sorry Pokes). It would be unwise to read too much into this one. But there are a couple of developments that Colorado State fans should be aware of moving forward.

Garrett Grayson looked competent.

Again, you can slice this up any way you like, but the fact remains that Grayson looked as comfortable Saturday as he ever has. His numbers were very good: 21 of 30 for 297 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and he spread the ball around to eight different receivers. He effective use of play action meant he often had large windows to throw to, and he was accurate when he needed to be.

But it wasn't all good. Grayson had several balls batted down at the line of scrimmage, and when it came time for the Rams to break away in the second half, he led several forgettable drives that lacked any sense of urgency. As Colorado State enters its conference schedule -- can we just skip next week's Alabama game? -- he will need to continue to develop and mature as a passer and leader.

Tight ends exist!

Last time we heard the name of Crockett Gillmore, it was because he'd worked his way onto the preseason Mackey Award watch list as one of the country's best tight ends.

But that was in July, and through two games Gillmore had exactly zero catches.

As in nothing. Nada. Zilch. He might as well be on a milk carton.

On Saturday Grayson rediscovered his tight ends, and Gillmore was a monster, finishing with seven catches for 83 yards and looking almost unstoppable. Fellow tight end Kivon Cartwright, who had only five catches for 24 yards heading into the game, also had a nice day, catching three passes for 53 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown.

With a run-first offense that depends on play-action passes for big plays, the Rams need their tight ends to play a large role. Hopefully for Colorado State fans, Gillmore and Cartwright's afternoon against Cal Poly is a sign of things to come.

There is no number one running back.

I know what you're thinking: Chris Nwoke had 133 yards and averaged 7 yards-per-carry. What more do you want?

But it's not the yards that determine number one status. It's the carries. And while Nwoke was far and away the most productive back Saturday, it's not like he ran away with those. Donnell Alexander -- returning to the lineup for the first time since the opening quarter of the Rocky Mountain Showdown -- had 12, and Kapri Bibbs had 11 to Nwoke's 19.

On one hand, having three capable running backs isn't a problem at all. You can't have enough depth, and three games into the season, the Rams seem to have a very formidable stable in the backfield.

But sometimes a player needs touches to get into a rhythm, and when it came time for the Rams to bury the Mustangs, the shuffling back and forth seemed to disrupt any kind of cohesion on offense. If Jim McElwain is simply playing the hot hand, who gets the ball in the clutch, when Colorado State needs to pick up the tough yards? Right now, it's anyone's guess.

There were a lot of good things to build on in Saturday's game, but if the Rams want to hold their own against the rest of the Mountain West, they have to hope that go-to play makers emerge on a consistent basis.