WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Kelly Lyell, who covers Colorado State football for the Fort Collins Coloradoan about Saturday’s Border War with the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
Follow on Twitter: @KellyLyell
Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.
How is Colorado State mentally and physically after its 34-27 homecoming loss to San Jose State? From comments from coaches and players it appeared that was a tough loss for the squad to take.
It was an unusually tough loss for the Rams. It was the conference opener and a chance to get a fresh start after going 2-3 in nonconference games. It was an opportunity to build on the momentum gained from wins over Cal Poly and UTEP, sandwiched around a strong showing in a loss at top-ranked Alabama. There were 26,022 fans — the largest crowd at Hughes Stadium since last year’s Boise State game — there for them to win back after four disappointing seasons in a row.
Plus, they blew a second-half lead in a game they went on to lose again, just as they had done in the first two games of the season against Colorado and Tulsa. It was a real setback for the Rams.
Physically, it took a toll, too, with star linebacker Shaquil Barrett suffering an ankle sprain that has made him questionable for the Border War, and nose tackle Josh Lovingood, a true freshman who made his first start while senior Calvin Tonga deals with “some personal issues” suffering a foot injury that could require surgery. Tonga isn’t expected to play this week, either, so the Rams will be down to a rotation of their third-, fourth- and fifth-stringers at nose tackle.
How has the progression of junior quarterback Garrett Grayson been? His numbers seem to be solid, and what has happened for him to be the guy at quarterback for the Rams this season?
Grayson has bounced back nicely from a shaky start. His numbers have been hurt by dropped passes — 13 in the first two games and another five or six against San Jose State. Three of the four interceptions he’s thrown have hit receivers right in the hands only to bounce off into the hands of defenders. He’s done a better job in recent games of progressing through his reads faster, getting the ball off quicker and with more accuracy, and knowing when it’s best to simply throw it away to avoid a sack or tuck it and run for a short gain.
The defense gave up a lot of big pass plays against San Jose State. Has that been a problem this season and what has led to some of those big plays, and how concerned is the defense facing a quarterback like Wyoming’s Brett Smith this week?
CSU’s defense has been hurt by big plays, particularly in the passing game, all season, and it’s a huge concern this week against Brett Smith and the Wyoming offense. The Rams have had two quarterbacks pass for more than 400 yards against them — Colorado’s Connor Wood and San Jose State’s David Fales — and last week gave up touchdown passes of 83, 77 and 62 yards.
Coaches and players insist the problems that have led to these big plays are little details that they can fix, but it appears they have some significant problems in communication and knowing their assignments. On at least three long touchdown passes this season, there hasn’t been a defender within 15 yards of the receiver.
Wyoming has won four straight in the series. How does that sit with the players and coaches in the program and will that be a motivational factor for the players this week?
CSU’s seniors have never held the Bronze Boot, and that seems to be a sore spot with most of them. They say they’re determined to bring it back to Fort Collins at least once in their careers. It will be a huge motivational factor for the Rams this week.
How do you see this game playing out and what’s your predicted final score?
I don’t think CSU’s defense can stop Brett Smith and the Wyoming offense, based on the troubles they’ve had so far this season. They let San Jose State’s Fales run for 46 yards on seven scrambles, and he’s not a running quarterback, like Smith. Their pass rush was pretty much non-existent once Barrett went out against San Jose State, and their secondary hasn’t shown it can stop a decent passing attack.
I’m guessing the Boot stays in Laramie for another year, with the Pokes winning 41-27.
Cowboys game day
Game: Colorado State (2-4 overall, 0-1 MW) at Wyoming (4-2, 2-0)
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, Laramie
TV: ROOT SPORTS
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KOWB (1290 AM) Laramie
Tickets: Brown & Gold Outlet, 1802 Dell Range Blvd.; gowyo.com; UW Athletics Ticket Office, 877-996-3261.