Border War Q&A

Kelly Lyell has covered Colorado State athletics for the Fort Collins Coloradoan for a long time, and here are the answers to the five questions I had for him leading up to Saturday’s Border War with Wyoming.

Let me know what you think, and we can discus this and many other things in more detail during today’s live chat at 3 p.m. Here is the link to the chat:

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Another RB challenge for Wyoming’s defense

Wyoming’s defense has allowed seven 100-yard rushers this season, and one 200-yard performance by San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman.

It faces another quality running back in Saturday’s Border War game with Colorado State in sophomore Chris Nwoke, who ran for 269 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ loss to Air Force last Saturday.

“Nwoke is a physical runner and they’re blocking well up front,” coach Dave Christensen said during his Monday news conference. “We need to have guys in position and wrap up. If we don’t he’s going to get a lot of yards. … “He runs down hill, he runs guys over and he has good speed. We need to force him to bounce to other guys.”

UW also plans to prepare to see CSU true freshman quarterback Garrett Grayson, who has started the last two games for injured sophomore Pete Thomas. Grayson is more of a run threat than Thomas.

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UW-CSU five things to watch

1. Lead by example: It’s been a frustrating season for every UW player, coach and fan. Sophomore quarterback Ausytn Carta-Samuels may be the most frustrated, and he let it be known after last week’s 42-16 loss at UNLV.

“A lot of miscommunication and we weren’t prepared. We didn’t do a good enough job as a team — players, coaches and everybody. We didn’t do a good enough job to prepare are be ready to win a football game. That’s why we lost. It was evident when we got out on the field. We got our (butts) kicked in all phases of the game. It’s frustrating. It’s very frustrating. … It’s not fun right now.”

Carta-Samuels was called out on these remarks by MountainWest Sports Network college football analyst Kelly Stouffer this week, and Carta-Samuels issued an apology to the network.

Frustration is one thing, but letting them show in public is another. Not only does Carta-Samuels need to play better — along with all of his teammates –but he needs to lead better.

2. Stop the run: Simple concept but probably the most important thing the Cowboys need to do on the field. Colorado State is a pro-style offense that needs its run game to set up its play-action passing attack. We all know UW’s struggles here (go back to the San Diego State game). If UW can slow down the run enough it should neutralize the play-action pass.

3. Pressuring Pete: True freshman quarterback Pete Thomas and started in every game for CSU. He’s thrown for the second-most yards in the MWC, and leads in completions and attempts. He also leads in interceptions. Thomas has improved significantly as the season has progressed. The worst thing UW could do is let Thomas be comfortable in the pocket. The Cowboys must pressure Thomas and not let him get into a rhythm.

4. Better special teams: This area has struggled in recent weeks, especially the kickoff return coverage. But there’s more: ophomore kicker Ian Watts missed an extra point and field goal last week, a UNLV punt hit off a UW player that resulted in a turnover and an onside-kick attempt failed after UW’s first touchdown of the game. The Cowboys need to make more plays on special teams, not give them away.

5. Last chance: We’ve heard all week that the Border War should be enough for players to get up for this game, despite the fact both teams have combined for just five wins. The team that comes out with them most energy and focus likely will win. Does UW have anything left in the tank after losing six straight games? We shall see.

But based on those last six games, it’s hard for me to think the Cowboys will win. Are they capable of winning? Absolutely. But such was the case at New Mexico and UNLV and it didn’t happen. I would like to see UW end on a winning note, but I don’t see it based on the past six weeks, and in particular, the last two weeks.

Final score: CSU 31, UW 17

Hope you will join me for the final live game blog of the season starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Here is the link