Colorado State vs. Middle Tennessee State
Location: Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 23rd at 5 PM (Mountain Time)
Television: ESPN+ (no linear TV option available, subscription necessary)
Streaming: plus.espn.com (subscription necessary)
Radio: thevarsitynetwork.com // Create an account, scroll through active game feeds to Colorado State broadcast, or follow Colorado State and select their active broadcast
Head-to-Head: These two teams have only played once prior, last year in Fort Collins. The Blue Raiders steamrolled Colorado State to go up 34-0 early in the third quarter. The Rams scored 19 points before the buzzer sounded, but the damage was already done. Norvell and Co. will look to even the series, while Rick Stockstill tries to avoid his second 1-3 start in the last three years.
Three things to look for:
- Can BFN stay hot?
In his first career start, under the brightest possible lights, Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi ran the Rams offense better than anyone has under Jay Norvell. His three interceptions were rough, sure, but his deep throws were oftentimes accurate and his decision-making was impressive. The Aledo, Texas native has a knack for finding his playmakers in space, something that Clay Millen was struggling to do.
If he’s able to keep his momentum going through the rest of the season, BFN could be in the running for MW freshman of the year. That’s a big if, though. He’s only entering approximately his seventh quarter of being a starting quarterback, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a
regression in his play, even if MTSU is the weakest defense he’s faced so far.
- How effective will the pass rush be without Mo Kamara (for the 1st half)?
The defensive line bounced back from a lackluster performance in week one, sacking Shedeur Sanders four times and racking up six TFLs. Mohamed Kamara was particularly dominant, but his overtime targeting penalty will keep him on the sideline for the first two quarters on Saturday. How much of the rest of the DLine’s success can be attributed to the focus the Buffs had to give to Kamara? Will they be able to get to the quarterback before he comes back in? These questions will define this game. The Blue Raiders won’t light up the scoreboard (117th points per game, 104th pass yards per game,116th rush yards per game), but they won’t beat themselves. The Rams need to pressure QB Nick Vattiato and get in the backfield consistently to get their first win of the year.
- Can the Rams avoid self-inflicted wounds?
Colorado State finished the Rocky Mountain Showdown with a whopping 17 penalties, which is their most since at least 1999 (no penalty stats available past then). The constant holding and personal foul calls are more responsible than anything for the Rams letting the upset slip through their fingers. The offensive line and secondary must be more disciplined for this team to be successful. They get their first chance to right the ship in Murfreesboro.
Turnovers will also be a deciding factor in who comes out victorious. While BFN can’t be blamed for his last interception, since it was a last gasp heave in double OT on fourth and long, the other two were avoidable. The red zone pick from Shilo Sanders was at minimum a ten point swing. Dallin Holker’s red zone fumble at the beginning of the second half was also extremely costly, as it wasted an opportunity for the Rams to go up two scores. The point is, no matter how explosive the offense was, turnovers and penalties trump all of that. If they clean up the mistakes, Colorado State may roll through the Blue Raiders. If they continue to shoot themselves in the foot every other possession, the Rams may be looking at their second straight 0-3 start.
There’s reason to believe this team has turned the corner. The offense was more productive than ever in Boulder, and that was with all the turnovers and penalties. Facing a far less dangerous offense, the Rams should be able to outrun the Blue Raiders. Tempo will be key in this one. If it’s a shootout, that heavily favors Colorado State’s playmakers on both sides of the ball. But if it’s a rock fight, Rick Stockstill’s squad has the advantage. Coming off of back-to-back bowl wins, they know how to win, while the Rams are still learning that skill.
It’s a back-and-forth affair in the first half, with both QBs hitting on long pass plays and making mistakes. Knotted at 17, the return of Mohamed Kamara pays dividends immediately, with him getting a strip sack to open the second half. BFN capitalizes and gives the Rams the lead, one which they’ll never relinquish. Colorado State’s array of weapons shine once again, with Dallin Holker, Tory Horton, and Justus Ross-Simmons all finding the end zone before the buzzer sounds. The offense leads the way to the Rams first win since November 2022.
FINAL: COLORADO STATE 45, MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE 35