Much to the casual viewer’s disgust, an ugly and largely dysfunctional affair quickly materialized between Colorado State and Toledo on Saturday.
But that doesn’t matter for the CSU football team. Coach Steve Addazio’s team didn’t need action to look good.
As two-point road underdogs with key injuries on both sides, whose chances of triumphing seemed like a pipe dream ahead of the Week 3 clash, all the Rams needed was a shot to grab their first taste of victory this year.
With a dominant defensive display while delivering just enough on offense, the Rams got the opportunity. And that was not all. Addazio’s team pulled the long-awaited bunny out of the hat after shocking the Rockets with a 22-6 win at Glass Bowl Stadium.
“Honestly, I’m just happy we won,” said junior tight end Trey McBride. “We’re going to fix what we need to fix this week. But ultimately we needed a win, and we got it. So I was happy that this team got away with it. Now we know what we are capable of and we are excited to take advantage of it.
As previously mentioned, in a contest where the two offenses essentially decided to take a day off, the CSU defense outclassed a unit from Toledo that entered the festivities just after the impressive lockdown of Notre Dame No. 12.
While penalties of 10 to be exact hampered the Rockets throughout the game, the Rams’ defensive line and linebacker corps provided equal adjustments for the hosts.
Baffling Toledo out of the gate, CSU forced the Rockets to hit four of their first five possessions as the first half ultimately ended in a 3-3 stalemate after Toledo gathered just 38 yards in total.
“I thought our defense had played the lights,” Addazio said. “We really improved there. We played a big pass-rush. We were playing with a lot of young guys at the back, and they played well. It was just a really gritty performance from our defense. I’m proud of our team as a whole and how they fought today. It’s only a brick, but it was an important brick to hit the road.
The detrimental defensive disruption only increased as the Rockets’ typically powerful offense ended the game with just 284 yards under their belt, the lowest total CSU has had an opponent since losing the West. of Illinois in 2019.
Notably, the Rams fiercely smothered Toledo running back Bryant Koback as the junior averaged 1.9 yards per touch after running around CSU Canvas Stadium for 228 yards in 2019.
Gambling aside, the green and gold also put pressure on Rockets shooter Carter Bradley accumulating six sacks and 10 total tackles for the loss. Senior Dequan Jackson led the way with 13 eliminations, the most team count, while linebacker Mohamad Kamara added a career record 3.5 TFLS with 2.5 sacks.
“We just bought,” Jackson said. “We have had a great week of training. We kind of knew what they were doing and we had a few more meetings to defend ourselves. We went out and played the lights. I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. We played physically, fast and kept believing.
The Rams also proved powerful in high school, where rookie Jack Howell seized the opportunity of his first career start amid Logan Stewart’s first-half absence posting nine tackles.
Overall, CSU built as strong a performance as one could ask for in defense.
“Jack Howell is going to be a hell of a player,” Addazio said. “He has good football in his blood. His dad was a great player, and he’s going to be a great player. He’s just gonna grow up from here. We play with a lot of young people there, and that’s good. They will develop.
Offensively, to anyone’s surprise, star tight end Trey McBride pulled off another 100-yard outing while hitting nine of the 11 passes completed by quarterback Todd Centeio in 27 passing attempts.
The Rams successfully leaned on running back David Bailey throughout the final stretch after wishing they had done so last week. Helping CSU dictate the timing of the possession battle, Bailey turned 30 carries into 132 yards.
Still, when it comes to points, the offense didn’t hit much to write about. That’s where the special teams arrived on Saturday.
Namely, providing the only touchdown of the game, Thomas Pannunzio made his way to pay dirt for a 70-yard third quarter score to push the visitors ahead 13-6, an advantage CSU never gave up. .
“I waited a whole year for another chance at (punt return),” Pannunzio said. “So it felt good. I just saw that they gave me about five feet of space, and I knew I could make a game out of it. Then I hit a few holes and went from there.
Initially, the Rams used rookie Gerick Robinson as a starting pitcher on Saturday as all-round junior Dante Wright sidelined while treating a knee injury. Robinson made a pair of punters in the first half, one of which saw Toledo split the amounts for three runs thereafter.
As expected, CSU then made a change. And Pannunzio certainly did not pass up the opportunity.
Speaking of opportune opportunities, kicker Cayden Camper certainly thrived trying to regain his team’s confidence after botching his two tries last week against Vanderbilt.
With three kicks from 42 yards or more, the junior was a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals in Toledo. During the last week of training, CSU made it a priority to create chaos and distractions during Camper’s kicks so that he could learn to function under pressure.
Well it worked.
“We addressed the problem this week in training,” said McBride. “We put him in difficult situations. We had the whole team shouting in his ear. We had guys running past him and throwing things at him. I mean, we’ve probably put him under the most pressure he’s been under in his life. And he went out and showed it. A lot of the kicks are mental, and he’s managed to turn the tide. “
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