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Rams survive strange start, beat Utah Tech 41-20 on Ag Day

Colorado State’s air raid offense was so lethal that only multiple lightning delays could slow them down. It worked, but not for long!

It wasn’t as smooth as the Rams planned it to be, with two lightning delays and turnovers halting their early momentum, but they got the job done. The passing game is reaching new heights every week, and the defense flipped the switch in the second half to snuff out any chance of an improbable upset. Jay Norvell and Colorado State are .500 going into conference play, and there’s no reason that win percentage can’t keep rising.

Scoring Timeline

1st Quarter

10:45 - 21 yard TD pass from Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi to Tory Horton (Wolff PAT)

Utah Tech 0, Colorado State 7

6:15 - 76 yard TD pass from Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi to Tory Horton (Wolff PAT)

Utah Tech 0, Colorado State 14

0:06 - 24 yard FG from Connor Brooksby

Utah Tech 3, Colorado State 14

2nd Quarter

14:42 - 33 yard TD pass from Kobe Tracy to Beau Sparks (Brooksby PAT)

Utah Tech 10, Colorado State 14

12:15 - 4 yard TD run from Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi (Wolff PAT)

Utah Tech 10, Colorado State 21

4:44 - 8 yard TD pass from Kobe Tracy to Beau Sparks (Brooksby PAT)

Utah Tech 17, Colorado State 21

3rd Quarter

7:28 - 52 yard FG from Connor Brooksby

Utah Tech 20, Colorado State 21

0:58 - 2 yard TD run from Vann Schield (PAT failed)

Utah Tech 20, Colorado State 27

4th Quarter

11:18 - 42 yard TD pass from Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi (Wolff PAT)

Utah Tech 20, Colorado State 34

6:59 - 6 yard TD pass from Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi (Wolff PAT)

Utah Tech 20, Colorado State 41

By the Numbers

BFN’s 462 pass yards, Horton’s 227 REC yards

This game had the chance to open the record books if the offense was potent enough, but no records ended up being broken, sadly. That being said, BFN and Tory Horton put on quite the show. Fowler-Nicolosi’s 462 pass yards are good for third all time, making him the only freshman in the top 10. Horton’s 227 receiving yards are the most by a Ram since Bisi Johnson had 265 in the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and he now sits at seventh all time. Both players are steadily climbing the conference statistical leaderboard, as well. Horton leads the Mountain West in catches and receiving yards, as well as being tied for first in TD catches with six. BFN is third in pass yards and TDs, despite playing two less games than the QBs above him, as well as leading the conference in rate stats such as completion percentage, pass yards per play, and passing efficiency rating. Stats aren’t the end all be all, but they clearly show that this offense is capable of being one of the most explosive offenses in the Mountain West.

24.4% of tackles came from freshman

Lots of players had impressive outputs, namely Chase Wilson racking up 15 tackles, but the overall presence of multiple freshmen defenders was what stuck out the most. Combining for almost a quarter of the Ram’s tackles, with Nuer Gatkuoth and TJ Crandall being the only starters, the depth and talent of the classes that Norvell has signed were on full display. In his postgame presser the morning after, he pointed at Jaylen Gardner, Buom Jock, and Kennedy McDowell (along with Gatkuoth and Crandall) as young players who are working their way into the starting lineup. Of course the talent of the Trail Blazers must be taken into account, but there is no reason to not have lots of optimism for the future of this defense.

3 Turnovers (2 INTs, fumble)

As many big plays as BFN made, his three turnovers were the driving force behind Utah Tech being down just one point halfway through the third quarter. The first two turned into half of the Trail Blazers points, with the third being not entirely Fowler-Nicolosi’s fault (the throw was batted into the air) and didn’t hurt them too badly since they got the ball back four plays later. Not to downplay how much the offense has improved with him running the show, but BFN is tied for the most INTs thrown in the conference and hasn’t had a game with no turnovers. If that continues to be a problem as Colorado State gets into conference play, it will almost certainly end up costing them a game or two.

Eye Test

The Offense

While the double dose of lightning delays slowed the Rams’ offensive momentum considerably, they dominated the final twenty minutes of play with twenty unanswered points. 586 total yards is their most since 2021. Fowler-Nicolosi won MW freshman of the week for his electric performance, and while it wasn’t perfect, it’s miles ahead of where the offense has been in the past. The run game was surprisingly efficient without both top running backs, Avery Morrow and Kobe Johnson. Vann Schield had 67 total yards and a touchdown run, and true freshman Damian Henderson II made a solid debut with 31 yards on 4.4 yards per carry. The pass catchers were phenomenal, with Tory Horton and Dallin Holker adding some length to their highlight reels, and a potential breakout game for SMU transfer Dylan Goffney (4 catches, 73 yards). Most encouraging of all, this was the first game of the year the offensive line didn’t allow a sack! Again, take the competition into account, but it appears as though every offensive position group is improving week after week.

The Defense

There’s room to grow for the Rams’ defenders, but the way the defense finished the game gives the impression that they’re turning the corner. Mohamed Kamara continues his DPOY campaign with 8 tackles, 3 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks. Nuer Gatkuoth and Grady Kelly also played well, though the Trail Blazers did have the best running game on the field, which is a bit concerning. Chase Wilson has locked up the starting MLB spot, going from first time starter to leading the conference with 46 tackles, and veteran Justin Sanchez has excelled as CSU’s weakside linebacker, extending his streak of games with 5+ tackles to four. The secondary was solid, holding Utah Tech to under 200 yards passing and getting Jack Howell his first interception of the year. The two touchdowns allowed were mistakes, sure, but the overall perception of this defense shouldn’t change. They have depth and star power on multiple levels, and will be a tough assignment for any Mountain West team that is in their path.

The Special Teams

The specialists didn’t have too much to do today, but it was a good day at the office, overall. The return game was fine, with Louis Brown IV having his best day yet since stepping up to take over at kick returner. Ashton Wolff filled in for Jordan Noyes (who pulled a muscle in practice and will hopefully be back for Utah State), and went 5 for 6 on extra points. Paddy Turner’s lone punt was a 48 yarder.

Going Forward

Entering conference play, there is still a fair amount of unknown surrounding this Rams team. They’ve clearly improved from last year, but are they actually capable of making a bowl game? Can the offense stay this hot, and if so, how many games could CSU win? If not, will the defense be able to bail them out?

The Mountain West opener in Logan will show us how good this team can be. See you at 6 PM MST for the Rams road test against a Utah State team that also just won their second game.

What were your takeaways from the game? Let us know in the comments down below!