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Colorado State's defense the reason Rams hung in against Alabama

Bernard Blake and many other Colorado State defenders played very well in the Rams loss to Bama Saturday.
Bernard Blake and many other Colorado State defenders played very well in the Rams loss to Bama Saturday.
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For Colorado State against No. 1 Alabama, defense was demonstrative.

Jim McElwain may have been hired for being 'Bama's offensive coordinator during two National Championship runs, but it's the Rams defense that kept it a close contest for much of the game.

Aaron Davis, Bernard Blake, Shaq Barrett, Calvin Tonga and Kevin Pierre-Louis; these were the stars and playmakers for CSU Saturday.

Davis brought it all game long and he finished with a team-leading 11 total tackles. Eight of those were solo slobber-knocking hits, and many came on crucial third downs. One of the biggest came on a third and seven from the Rams' nine yardline. A.J. McCarron connected with tight end Kenny Bell, and Davis made sure to hit him hard, disallowing a first down. The Crimson Tide ended up going for it on fourth and earning a touchdown, but it didn't take away from Davis' big play.

Blake, the cornerback, was solid in coverage for most of the contest, even against bigger and faster 'Bama receivers. His interception of McCarron came at a crucial point in the third quarter and led to a Colorado State field goal. Blake jumped the out route, caught the ball and pinned it against his shoulder pad for the team's only forced turnover. Later in the contest, he came up with a huge stop on a third down, and the Crimson Tide were 0-6 on third downs at that point of the game.

Barrett, the linebackers' senior leader, came up with 1.5 tackles for a loss and a QB hurry. His best play of the day came when he speed-rushed a likely All-American left tackle to sack McCarron.

Like Barrett, Tonga was a force to reckoned with all night. Many believed the biggest mismatch would be up front, but Tonga pushed into the Alabama backfield multiple times, recording one tackle for a loss.

And sophomore safety Pierre-Louis proved the situation – in front of 101,000 fans – wasn't to big for him, flying to the ball and recording a second-most eight total tackles on the day.

Amazingly, the Rams held Alabama to 0-8 on third downs before the Crimson Tide finally converted one with less than four minutes to go in the game, and they kept it a close contest, at 17-6 after three quarters.

Everyone that follows college football believed 'Bama would blow out Colorado State, and while the game was 31-6 at the finish, we all know it was much closer a contest throughout.

The defense was domineering by CSU, even forcing the Tide to go for it on fourth down to score. Against many other teams, a field goal would have been settled for there, and it will benefit the Rams to come up with more goal line stands against future opponents this season.

They played emotionally-charged, focused football, realizing they can play with the best of the best. That will only lead to confidence building as the Rams play UTEP this Saturday and Mountain West foes the rest of the season.

In the end, this is fantastic news for Colorado State fans.

The defense has come alive and they're listening to Al Simmons and Marty English, the co-defensive coordinators that have dialed up blitzes when necessary and taught an undisciplined unit to play with attention to detail.

Likewise, special teams has played at a notably high level all season, besides that missed block that led to the blocked punt and Alabama's first touchdown of the day.

Rams fans can take solace in knowing McElwain's offense – or Dave Baldwin's, if you wish – will come along, even if that means benching Garrett Grayson or for Coach Mac to take over play-calling. Colorado State won't struggle forever on offense, and when they can get it working, this will be a good all-around team.

Until then, the defense has to carry CSU, and their multiple playmakers have proven to be capable of just that.

And while Colorado State didn't win the game, it was still a win for the program.

They gained the respect of many media members in Denver that laughed at their chances before they played No. 1 'Bama, it was great national exposure for the football program and university, as well as earning the needed $1.5 million pay check.

The Rams certainly did not “lay down” to Alabama, and they will feed off this game the rest of the year.

More CSU Rams:

Colorado State – Alabama recap: Rams bested by 'Bama 31-6

Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. Follow Rich on twitter (@RichKurtzman) for all your CSU Rams news and opinion.