Arkansas' RPO offense will test the discipline of Colorado State
- If Colorado State football wants to record the program's second-ever victory over an SEC opponent Saturday, slowing down Arkansas' versatile RPO attack is going to be key.
In the Razorbacks' Week 1 victory over Eastern Illinois, Arkansas had 433 total yards of offense in an efficient 55-20 victory. Arkansas did the majority of its damage through the air but the threat of the quarterback tucking the football and taking off downfield really kept EIU off balance.
Much like the Razorbacks are anticipated to do against CSU on Saturday, the Arkansas offense worked with two quarterbacks last weekend. Ty Storey completed 12-of-17 pass attempts and finished with 261 yards and three touchdowns. Storey also carried the ball three times for 15 yards and one touchdown in what was a breakout performance for the junior QB.
Sophomore quarterback Cole Kelley also received significant snaps in the win. Kelley had a quiet, but efficient outing, completing 9-of-12 pass attempts for 92 yards and one touchdown.
Scheming for two different quarterbacks is obviously not ideal after the defensive performances the Rams had in the first two games of the season, but luckily for the Rams, Storey and Kelley essentially run the same packages.
No matter what quarterback is under center on Saturday, if CSU lets the Razorbacks move the ball in chunks through the air, the Rams are going to be in trouble. CSU is currently allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 77 percent of their pass attempts and have allowed offenses to throw for 378 yards per game.
"We need to (record) some sacks," sophomore defensive tackle Ellison Hubbard said. "We have to start getting to the quarterback more, and really showing our strain and effort. Then we will be good to go."
If Arkansas is able to get the passing game going early, it is only going to put the defensive front seven in an even worse spot. The Hogs are going to have a significant size advantage up front and they also have an extremely talented running back duo with Devwah Whaley and Rakeem Boyd in the backfield. Arkansas only rushed for 87 yards as a team in last week's victory, but that had more to do with the team's success through the air.
Limiting either of these aspects is going to be a tough test for a Rams defensive unit that has desperately lacked discipline so far this season. But making Arkansas one dimensional and controlling the pace of play would set this team up for success and give the Rams a chance of competing against a stiff opponent at home.
"It is simply on us. We have to execute," senior cornerback V.J. Banks said after practice. "We have got to be more focused and we have to commit more when we see something. We've been kind of hesitating and not wanting to mess up. If everybody is going full speed and doing their job, even if someone does mess up, there should be a whole gang of guys right there."
The other big factor for defensive coordinator, John Jancek's unit is going to be making tackles in the open field. Whether it is a running back trying to get to the edge or a wide receiver running with the football across the field, CSU simply cannot afford to continue to let opposing offenses break off explosive plays.
Head coach Mike Bobo has spoken ad nauseam about CSU's inability to limit big plays over the last few seasons and the Rams have certainly been burned by them in 2018. Hawai'i had 15 plays of at least 15 yards on Aug. 25 and CU scored touchdowns with plays that went 36 yards, 48 yards, 49 yards and 89 yards in the victory. That does not even include CU's red zone scores or drives that ended with field goal attempts.
Based on what we have seen in the first two games, the Rams have the talent on offense to at least compete in the Mountain West this season. But until this team improves defensively, the ceiling for what they can accomplish will not be very high.
The coaches and players have liked the effort that has been given in practice so far, but Saturday will be the chance to see if it translates or not. One thing if certain though, the Rams are not showing any signs of intimidation after a slow start to the season. Not even with two SEC opponents on the schedule.
"I think it is just a matter of going out and playing tougher football than they do," Hubbard said. "We have two SEC teams coming up and they might be bigger, but it doesn't matter to me because we are all playing the sport of football. So we have to go out there with more heart and play harder."
PHOTO: Elliott Jerge