When Jordan Noyes knocked his first field goal attempt in a Rams uniform through the uprights, giving CSU a 3-0 lead, it seemed like a new era could be upon us.
But the facade of preseason optimism would slowly fade away, as Colorado State waited longer and longer to strike back against a potent Washington State offense. The Cougars score kept climbing, and the Rams simply didn’t have a response until the game was out of hand.
In a game that could’ve been a showcase of how far the Jay Norvell led Colorado State program had come since their 3 and 9 campaign last year, it turned into a disappointing, but familiar letdown for the 31,497 Ram fans in attendance.
While Washington State was far more explosive on both sides of the ball than anyone could’ve predicted, there’s still no sugarcoating it. The Rams got blown out by the Cougars, again.
9:27 - 38 yard FG by Jordan Noyes
Washington State 0 - Colorado State 3
7:35 - 1 yard TD run by Cameron Ward (Janikowski PAT)
Washington State 7 - Colorado State 3
11:34 - 3 yard TD pass from Cameron Ward to Kyle Williams (Janikowski PAT)
Washington State 14 - Colorado State 3
0:00 - 55 yard FG by Dean Janikowski
Washington State 17 - Colorado State 3
11:18 - 3 yard TD run by John Mateer (2PT attempt failed)
Washington State 23 - Colorado State 3
10:50 - 37 yard interception return by Jaden Hicks (2PT attempt failed)
Washington State 29 - Colorado State 3
14:50 - 12 yard TD pass from Cameron Ward to Nakia Watson (Janikowski PAT)
Washington State 36 - Colorado State 3
14:38 - 98 yard kickoff return TD by Kobe Johnson (Noyes PAT)
Washington State 36 - Colorado State 10
11:22 - 25 yard TD pass from Cameron Ward to Josh Kelly (Janikowski PAT)
Washington State 43 - Colorado State 10
11:12 - 75 yard TD pass from Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi to Justus Ross-Simmons (Noyes PAT)
Washington State 43 - Colorado State 17
5:57 - 20 yard TD pass from Brayden Fowler-Nicolisi to Dallin Holker (Noyes PAT)
Washington State 43 - Colorado State 24
0:42 - 1 yard TD run from John Mateer (Janikowski PAT)
Washington State 50 - Colorado State 24
FINAL: WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS 50, COLORADO STATE RAMS 24
By the Numbers
Cougars 466 passing yards // 8 20+ yard plays for Wazzu
In a game where CSU’s secondary needed to make plays, they simply didn’t. Cam Ward was toying with the defense for most of the night, throwing for a career high 451 yards, as well as leading the Cougars with 40 rushing yards (and a QB sneak TD). The brand new receiving core performed well for Wazzu, with Lincoln Victor (11 catches, 168 yards) and Josh Kelly (7 catches, 97 yards, 1 TD) making big plays all game. Simply put, the DBs were unable to stop the pass.
Rams 37 rush yards (1.9 YPC)
Granted, Colorado State had no choice but to abandon the run game once they were down by over 30, but it was a non-factor regardless. Avery Morrow led the team with 29 rush yards on 11 carries, and North Dakota State transfer Kobe Johnson only had 16 yards (though his kick return TD was the highlight of the night for Rams fans). Going forward, the run game will need to impact the game more if CSU wants to get to a bowl game.
Silver lining time. The Rams scored more than 20 points for the first time in 650 days. The curse is no more! Clay Millen disappointed, but backup freshman Brayden Fowler-Nicolisi showed some real promise. He had 210 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 75 yarder to Justus Ross-Simmons. Yes, he had a bad interception, but his performance was enough to warrant a real discussion about who the starting QB will be @ Colorado. Tory Horton was solid (9 catches, 81 yards), but he was nearly invisible in the first half. JRS led the team with 123 yards, and tight end Dallin Holker had an encouraging debut (5 catches, 47 yards, 1 TD). While the offense took too long to get going, at least they did put up some numbers. It’s an improvement from last season, even if it didn’t affect the outcome.
Clay Millen was the guy who could’ve elevated the Rams offense to another level. His play against Washington State did nothing to get him closer to that. He missed multiple open throws, didn’t get a 3rd down conversion after the first drive, and threw a pick six on a checkdown that was the final nail in the coffin. His poor play, combined with Fowler-Nicolosi’s solid efforts in relief, makes you wonder if he’ll get the start against Deion Sanders and Colorado. The OLine only allowed one sack, but they were overmatched, which likely contributed to the lack of a run game. The weapons all showed flashes, from Kobe Johnson’s electric house call on a kickoff, to Justus Ross-Simmons making several big plays, but the offense still couldn’t get on the scoreboard until it was far too late.
While not entirely their fault, Colorado State’s defense got worse and worse as the game went on. They had no answer for Cameron Ward’s playmaking abilities, allowing him to pick up first downs on the ground and pick them apart through the air. Though they forced two red zone fumbles to get them out of jams, they weren’t able to do much when the ball was in the air. Ward had plenty of clean pockets, and seemed to find the open man on every play. Safeties Jack Howell (16 tackles) and Henry Blackburn (14 tackles) were almost always making the final stop, signifying how many times a Cougar carried the ball into the second level. The offense needs to give them a chance to catch their breath, no doubt, but the defense also has to make more plays for the Rams to be successful.
The Special Teams
More silver linings, every phase of the special teams made some noise. Kobe Johnson’s kick return TD was the Rams first since 2019. Utah transfer Jordan Noyes hit his only field goal attempt and all three extra points. Paddy Turner may have had the best game out of anybody, averaging 48.6 yards per punt across his five boots, including two of them landing inside the 20 yard line. At least one group got through the game without scrutiny.
The Rams have a week off before taking on Deion Sanders and Colorado, which is quite the blessing, considering how much they need to figure out after what was a stinker of a season opener.
Will Clay Millen still be QB1? Can the OLine come together? When will the defense start wreaking some havoc?
We’ll see how Norvell and the staff adjust going into a potential top 25 team in the Buffaloes. After the show they put on against the defending runner-ups in TCU, the Rams have a heck of a task trying to slow down Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter.
Until then, try your best to focus on the positives. The wide receivers are as advertised. Jack Howell is still a tackle machine. And the Rams still have 11 games to play.
May the rest of the season go better than Saturday night did.
What were your takeaways from the game? Let us know in the comments down below!