CSU defensive players remain positive, but expect results

Starting the 2018 season with back-to-back losses was obviously not ideal for Colorado State football. The Rams first lost to a conference opponent at home and then got smacked in the mouth by a fierce in-state rival. Now CSU has an even tougher task of rebounding for a pair of SEC matchups with Arkansas and Florida. 

With such a brutal start to the season, coaches and players could very easily throw in the towel, especially when the majority of the hometown fans have already jumped ship. Head coach Mike Bobo is preaching a message of positivity in the locker room though, and that mindset has been big for keeping up morale around the program. 

"I feel like we can be a good football team, but you have got to stay together and to work. And sometimes even when you work as hard as you can, you have setbacks," Bobo said. "And what are you going to do when you have a setback? You've got to get up and continue to work."

Bobo explained that there are plenty of examples of teams that started the season with multiple losses, before ultimately turning their season around. According to the fourth-year head coach, the way to do that is by consistently putting in hard work in practice and keeping a level head. 

Since the team was defeated by CU on Friday, Bobo has liked what he has seen from his team over the last few days of practice. He wants players to make less mistakes, lock down their roles schematically and generally be more disciplined. But Bobo believes that players are in the right mindset to grow after getting humbled in the first two games. 

"Defensively, that is fitting in the right spot (and) showing up on the perimeter. Those kind of things," Bobo said. "The attitude is good but just because we have a great attitude, if we are not disciplined with the details and being consistent in running our scheme, then we are not going to have a chance to improve. That's what I want to see is improvement this week."

According to some of the defensive players, the guys on that side of the football have bought in to what the coaches are preaching. The defensive players are finally focusing more on taking care of business and less about talking about their game.

"I think we have responded well," senior cornerback V.J. Banks said. "There is a lot more energy, a lot more pad popping and a lot more pursuit to the ball. We are actually doing what we said we should do."

Senior cornerback V.J. Banks stands on the sideline before an early September matchup with the University of Colorado.   PHOTO:   Justin Michael

Senior cornerback V.J. Banks stands on the sideline before an early September matchup with the University of Colorado. PHOTO: Justin Michael

 

Banks explained that the first two games were eye opening for a lot of the guys in the locker room and showed them that the effort level has to change if they are going to start producing results. The defense as a whole had a successful training camp, but the first two games proved they were not the stout unit they believed to be.

After a humbling experience, Banks is pleased with the changes he is starting to see, but also knows that with CSU's next two opponents, having a successful week of practices means little if the team does not go out and execute. 

"At the end of the day, you can practice well but what counts is how you play under the lights, so we will see how we play Saturday," Banks said. 

Banks is not the only Colorado State defensive player that has liked what he has seen this week though. Sophomore defensive tackle Ellison Hubbard, who is widely beloved around the locker room for his infectious smile and constant positive attitude, is also pleased with how the team is responding through adversity. 

Sophomore defensive tackle Ellison Hubbard (No. 98) chases down Hawai'i QB Cole McDonald (No. 10).   PHOTO:   Elliott Jerge

Sophomore defensive tackle Ellison Hubbard (No. 98) chases down Hawai'i QB Cole McDonald (No. 10). PHOTO: Elliott Jerge

"We are focused more on action now," Hubbard said. "We are going to prove that we can do something, rather than saying 'oh yeah, we are going to win'. So, we have got to show it and that is what we are doing in practice. We are keeping that positive energy, but everything is about action."

A win for the program would be big for the team's confidence, which according to the players will always take a dip with any loss. But more than anything, a win over an SEC opponent would restore some faith with the Colorado State faithful.

The fans are understandably frustrated with the team's performance in the first two games of the season. So, now the defensive unit wants to prove the doubters wrong and bring back some of the excitement that surrounded the program before the season began. 

"A victory would show the fans," Banks said. "We know we are good. We know we have not been executing, but we know what we are capable of."

When asked to describe what the victory would mean for the CSU players, Hubbard said it would be exciting because that would mean that they finally put everything that they have been working towards, together. It would also be exciting because it would have the fans believing in them again.

"We would have everyone believing in us and knowing we can actually win," Hubbard said. 

The CSU defense and the rest of the 2018 Rams will look to win back the support of the fans against Arkansas this Saturday. Kickoff at Canvas Stadium is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. The Razorbacks are only the second SEC team in history to travel to Fort Collins.