If one were to rate Colorado State's three phases, the best through three weeks has undoubtedly been special teams.
Forget offense and all those passing touchdowns. Forget physical defensive stands. Special teams have been superlative for CSU thus far.
In the Rocky Mountain Showdown loss, there was a punt return touchdown by Joe Hansley for the first time since 2006 and an 84-yard kickoff return by Thomas Coffman. Last week in the loss at Tulsa, there was a blocked punt and a forced fumble on another punt.
In the Saturday afternoon win, the two spectacular special teams plays came on Cal Poly field goal attempts.
Senior linebacker Shaquil Barrett stepped up huge, tipping a Mustangs' 47-yard attempt to make it come up short. That first one came in the second quarter, and kept the Rams lead at 10 points, 20-10.
In the fourth quarter, after a lengthy and time-consuming drive by Cal Poly, the Rams defense forced another field goal try. Barrett – worn out like everyone else on the field – jumped up and fully blocked his second field goal of the day, this time sending the ball backwards some 10 yards. CSU's lead again stayed at 10 points, 27-17 at this juncture, which gave the Rams some breathing room when it came to crunch time. The team ultimately won 34-17, much in thanks to Barrett's big-time blocks.
“We were close in the first two weeks,” head coach Jim McElwain said of getting blocks before Saturday. “Blocking field goals, a lot of times, it's about effort. It's about desire. It's about how hard you're willing to come off the football. Now, we saw some things in their protection we thought we could take advantage of. Just like you do every week. But to see him (Barrett), go ahead and not just take a play off, that's pretty cool.”
It really was cool, considering Barrett is likely the best player on the Rams' defensive unit, a key senior who's led the linebackers this season and last. He had to be one of the most tired players out there at that point, yet he gave all his effort to make a difference. He saved points from being put up on the board and ignited a spirit in his teammates with the sensational plays.
To wit, following that second block, CSU's offense caught fire and put the nail in the coffin with Garrett Grayson's touchdown pass to Kivon Cartwright.
While Colorado State continues to search for all-around consistency, the special teams continues to play well week-in, week-out, proving to be an absolute asset to the team as a whole.
More CSU Rams: