Defense dominates in CSU's second preseason scrimmage
Colorado State football is two weeks away from hosting Hawaii in a Week 0 matchup between Mountain West foes. With the season quickly approaching, the Rams held the second official scrimmage of fall camp Saturday night and it was the defense that came up big according to head coach Mike Bobo.
"I thought it was a really good scrimmage. Offensively, they've probably got their head down a little bit," Bobo told reporters.
"The defense has probably got the feel that they dominated it. It was a shorter scrimmage, probably less than a half, but the 'one' defense didn't give up a point, which was awesome to see. I thought they made plays even when they were in the red zone, in situations where they had to make plays."
One of the areas where the Rams have appeared to have quality depth in training camp has been the secondary. Experienced players like Anthony Hawkins, Jordan Fogal, Jamal Hicks and V.J. Banks have brought an increased intensity this summer and have consistently received praise from the coaching staff for their efforts in practice.
The veterans are not the only players that have caught the attention of the Rams coaches though. Bobo has praised a true freshman nearly every single day and that was once again the case again after the scrimmage.
According to Bobo, freshman cornerback Rashad Ajayi made a variety of plays Saturday and had tight coverage throughout. Ajayi had a pair of critical pass breakups in the end zone to put an end to two separate scoring opportunities for the offense. The second breakup came in a one-on-one play against sophomore Warren Jackson in the back corner of the end zone.
"On the last play, to win the game (in that period), it was a ball to Warren Jackson—really good throw by K.J. (Carta-Samuels)—I think Warren had it, and the freshman Ajayi did what he's been doing all camp, played the hands and stripped the ball out," Bobo explained. "It might have been a catch for a split second and he knocked it out. The defense won the game right there, which was good to see."
Ajayi is a player that is clearly earning respect on this team quickly and may ultimately end up seeing the field quite a bit this season.
Along with another strong outing from the secondary, the defensive line and linebackers were able to create pressure and really disrupt the rhythm of the offense. Sophomore defensive end Emmanuel Jones was specifically shouted out by Bobo for his impact in the scrimmage after recording a crucial sack and senior linebacker Anthony Giusti led the defense in tackles with seven.
Fogal recorded the defense's lone interception and It was another example of the top defensive unit responding when the offense had started to create some momentum.
"The offense drove down and had it in plus territory, and then threw it kind of high on a crossing route and Jordan Fogal got an interception... Another stop when they were kind of backed up in field-goal range," Bobo said.
"And then we played a 'plus-10' (from the 10-yard line, going in), had to score and get a 2-point play (and) the offense was able to do nothing there; four plays and out, the defense won. Really, the 'one' defense, even though they gave up a couple plays here and there, were able to bow their neck and get stops, which was really good to see."
In total, the 'ones' and 'twos' each played 32 snaps apiece, while the 'threes' played 23 snaps. "It wasn't a lot of plays, it was kind of in and out, but overall it was a good scrimmage; really good to see the defense rebound and play with a lot of energy, they were really into, it was exciting to see," Bobo said.
Senior quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels received the majority of the playing time Saturday. The graduate transfer from Washington finished the scrimmage 10-of-22 for 123 yards.
Redshirt freshman Justice McCoy was 8-of-17 for 103 yards and a touchdown, and classmate Judd Erickson was 4-for-12 for 45 yards.
Collin Hill played in one series that started at the offensive 30-yard line and led the offense down the field for a touchdown. He also participated in a pair of red zone series (starting at the defensive 10-yard line), successfully finding the end zone each time. Hill finished 5-of-6 for 84 yards with his three touchdowns after not playing in the team's first scrimmage last weekend.
"It was good to see Collin Hill get some action today," Bobo said. "I thought he threw the ball nice. Delivered the ball well. He didn't go with the 'ones,' he went against the 'twos' and 'threes,' and there's a note to be made that the defense when Collin was in there, we were playing base defense and didn't blitz. But he was out there in 11-on-11 action in scrimmage situations to do some things."
CSU will have the day off tomorrow before six consecutive days of practice beginning Monday. Classes start on Aug. 20 and the Rams open their 2018 season at Canvas Stadium against Mountain West foe Hawai'i on Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m. MT.