Homecoming presents a special opportunity for the Colorado State Rams.
This Saturday, Jim McElwain's football team can prove their progress, show off their skills and wow the Homecoming crowd at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.
The Rams sit at 2-3 following their bye week which allowed injured players to rest and for Coach Mac to get some hands-on teaching in. A win this weekend, against a 2-3 San Jose State Spartans team, would bring CSU back up to .500, all while kicking off their Mountain West slate of games victorious.
“Very, very, very pivotal,” McElwain said of this Saturday's game. “I don't discount that at all. And yet, every game is a huge game because it's the next game. But in this case, first conference game, Homecoming, another chance for us to get a win going at our own place. I think all of those things are very important.”
Dating back to last season, the Rams have won five straight home games, playing their best in front of their Fort Collins fanbase.
They'll have to play well again against a talented SJSU team that blew them out last year.
The Spartans feature quarterback David Fales, who leads the NCAA's 20th-best passing offense. His 306 passing yards per game are great, although his touchdown to interception ratio (9-7) indicates the senior is susceptible to turning the ball over. Fales' favorite target is fellow senior Chandler Jones, who leads the team with over 500 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, SJSU allows teams to put up lots of points – 28.8 per – meaning this might be a barn-burner inside Hughes, Saturday.
Colorado State's offense finally hit its stride in their last game, putting up 59 points on the UTEP Aggies, the most a Rams team has scored since 1997. And, in their other win of the year, CSU scored 34 against Cal Poly; could we witness a repeat Saturday?
Rams quarterback Garrett Grayson has settled into the season and found his rhythm, throwing for five touchdowns against zero interceptions at home this year. Tight end Kivon Cartwright and true freshman Rashard Higgins have been on the receiving end of all five scores and each will be important this week again.
As will be the rushing attack, which features Kapri Bibbs' 360 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. If CSU can find an offensive balance like they did against UTEP, sustaining drives and scoring points should come easy.
Containing Fales and ultimately putting pressure on him will be keys for the Rams defense, and if they can, interceptions may come.
Turnovers may decide what could be a close game, as could special teams, where Colorado State has flourished on the field. They've scored on a return, blocked a punt, forced fumbles and more; the Rams special teams has the ability to be the x-factor this week.
“It's our opportunity to make a statement, what statement will we make?” McElwain asked during his press conference, Monday. “It's time. That's our responsibility, that's my responsibility. And yet, our guys have got to understand the challenge ahead of us is, at some point, there comes a time where you need to change the way people think. You are responsible for changing the way people think, and think of you. This is our opportunity.”
CSU – SJSU kicks off at 1:30 inside Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium. Homecoming tailgating starts at 10:30 Saturday morning.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. Follow Rich on Twitter (@RichKurtzman) for all your CSU Rams news and opinion.