Know Wyoming’s foe: CSU Rams
LARAMIE -- There's no sugarcoating it -- the numbers are downright ugly.
Colorado State was supposed to feature one of the top passing attacks in the country this fall. Jay Norvell and his staff packed the Nevada playbook and brought it with them to Fort Collins this offseason. They promoted an aerial assault. It appeared they had the quarterback and outside weapons to get the job done, too.
That never materialized.
A pair of top targets, Melquan Stovall and Dante Wright, have left the program. So has Ty McCullouch. Tory Horton is holding up his end of the bargain with 50 catches for 797 yards and six touchdowns, but rhythm has been an issue through the Rams' first nine games of the season.
There's a main reason why.
CSU's young, battered offensive front has allowed 43 sacks. Yes, 43. That's the second-worst mark in the nation. Only Akron has left its quarterback hanging out to dry more with 49 through 10 games.
It's as ugly as it sounds.
In last week's 28-16 loss at San Jose State, starter Clay Millen was dropped nine times. The final one knocked him out of the game. It also came courtesy of one of his own linemen.
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Most of that is nothing new for the freshman signal caller, who has been on the receiving end of 38 of those takedowns. In a home loss to Middle Tennessee, he also went down nine times. A week prior at Michigan, the Wolverines got to Millen on seven occasions.
Norvell said this week, Millen will be "good to go" Saturday despite leaving the game against the Spartans with an apparent head injury.
Offensive football, whether it's a run-heavy attack like Wyoming operates or an explosive, air-it-out scheme like the one CSU is supposed to run, it all starts with the big guys up front.
Here are some other frightening stats. Rams' fans, look away:
* Third-down conversions: 22-of-116 (19%), 12th in the Mountain West
* First downs: 14.3 per game, 12th in the Mountain West
* Penalties: 71 for 619 yards, 68.8 yards per game, 11th in the Mountain West
* Red-zone offense: 8-of-18 (4 touchdowns, 2 turnovers), 12th in the Mountain West
* Scoring offense: 12.9 points per game, 12th in the Mountain West
* Total offense: 278.7 yards per game, 11th in the Mountain West
* Rushing offense: 89.7 yards per game, 11th in the Mountain West
You may have guessed, there are 12 teams in the league. Ouch.
CSU has yet to score more than 19 points in a game this fall, and to the surprise of no one, is a minus-four in turnover margin.
"I think what he's done is looked at what they have in their toolbox and made the most of what they have," UW head coach Craig Bohl said when asked if Norvell's offense in Fort Collins looks like the one he ran at Nevada. "Yeah, there are elements of it, but then you see other elements that they're looking at and saying, 'OK, we had this at Nevada -- I think they had like four NFL receivers -- (CSU) has good receivers but they probably don't have four of them. Then, certainly the running game is much more pronounced than what it was in Nevada."
Here are some other things you need to know about Wyoming's 114th meeting with CSU, which will kickoff at 5 p.m. Mountain Time Saturday inside Canvas Stadium:
* Head coach: Jay Norvell (1st year at CSU) 2-7 overall record
* Offensive coordinator: Matt Mumme (1st year); Defensive coordinator: Freddie Banks (1st year)
* Record in 2021: 3-9 overall, 2-6 in Mountain West play
* Offense in 2022: Average 12.9 ppg, 278.7 ypg (89.7 rush, 189 pass)
* Defense in 2022: Allow 31.7 ppg, 392.4 ypg (154.6 rush, 237.9 pass)
* Key Returners - Offense: Clay Millen (QB - 113-160, 1,266 yds, 6 TD, 5 INT), Avery Morrow (RB - 121 rush, 626 yds, 4 TD; 11 catch, 41 yds), Tory Horton (WR - 50 catches, 797 yds, 6TD), Justus Ross-Simmons (WR - 15 catches, 271 yds, 2 TD), Tanner Arkin (TE - 11 catches, 103 yds)
* Key Returners - Defense: Jack Howell (DB - 88 tackles, PBU, 3 INT, FF), Dequan Jackson (LB - 65 tackles, 2 FF), Cam'ron Carter (LB - 58 tackles, 0.5 sacks, INT, FR), Mohamed Kamara (DL - 33 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 2 FF, FR), Ayden Hector (DB - 27 tackles, 5 PBU, 3 INT, TD)
* Overview: The vaunted air-raid attack deployed by Norvell and Co. has taken a backseat. That will happen when you can't keep your quarterback off his wallet. CSU has shifted its focus from trying to fit a round peg in a square hole to putting the ball in the gut of Avery Morrow, who is proving to be one of the most explosive running backs in the Mountain West. During the Rams first four games of the season, the junior from Seattle carried the ball just 22 times for 69 yards. The script has been flipped ever since. Morrow has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four of the last five outings, including a 168-yard night against his former team in Reno. There have been glimpses of what this offense could eventually look like under offensive coordinator Matt Mumme, the son of Hal Mumme, who started the air-raid attack alongside Mike Leach. When Millen has time in the pocket, he is completing better than 70% of his throws. Fifty of those have gone to former Nevada teammate, Tory Horton, who is still one of the top pass catchers in the west. Horton has 797 receiving yards and six touchdowns. This Rams' squad is young and still attempting to establish its identity under a first-year head coach. Six players have left the program with intentions of entering the NCAA Transfer Portal. Flux is the name of the game south of the border.
* Thoughts on CSU: "Obviously a big week. You know, I think we utilized the bye week in a real positive fashion. We made sure we continued to work on fundamentals and spent a great deal of time working on CSU. We were also getting our players back in a healthier state ... In reference to CSU, I'm really impressed. They're an improving football team. You know, San Jose State -- as you guys know -- is really talented. They had several opportunities to win the game, so you're looking at a football team that I think is improving and coach Novell has done a good job with them, continuing to have their team stay in the fight. In that game, they made a lot of plays with big yardage and overcame a lot of long yardage plays. Millen, the quarterback, is throwing the ball well. He also can make plays with his legs. Horton is a big-time receiver that made several big plays in that game. Not only that game but a lot of them. Morrow, I think, is one of the more talented running backs in our conference. I mean, he runs hard with his pads low. He has great balance and he does a great job with yards after contact. He's got enough speed to make big plays. Ross-Simmons is another receiver that has continued to make big plays, as well. So, they have some big-play receivers ... They had a heck of a shot to win. I know they were disappointed. Over on defense, I think they're really well coached. Their defensive coordinator is a guy that had played for us when I was at NDSU, Freddie Banks. He's done a great job. I really want to acknowledge his work. Adam Pilapil, one of our former players, is coaching linebackers, as well. They're an impressive front seven, their secondary is in position and they're solid in the kicking game. So, we're going to need to play well. I think our team is positioned to give a great effort, but as you get in these games, they're really special. So, we're excited about the opportunity to play CSU." - Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl