Written by Paul Fritz
Fort Collins, CO – The Colorado State Rams started their 2018 season on Saturday night at Canvas Stadium with a disappointing loss against the University of Hawai’i by a score of 43-34. Though the offense struggled mightily in the 1st half, the Rams eventually settled in scoring 27 points in the 2nd. They did not, however, have enough time to close the gap against Hawai’i.
Both teams scored touchdowns on their first drives of the game, which indicated potential for a classic offensive battle. However, on the following drive, Rams senior quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels threw an interception to the hands of cornerback Eugene Ford. Carta-Samuels did bounce back from this to complete his next 6 passes, but a combination of penalties and failing to put together multiple big plays in a row kept them from getting back on the scoreboard. On the last play of the half, Rams kicker Wyatt Bryan missed a 45-yard field goal attempt, preventing them from cutting the deficit, as the Rainbow Warriors went into the locker-room leading 23-7.
While the Rams were contained on their side of the ball, Hawai’i and quarterback Cole McDonald were able to accomplish their game plan. Scoring above 10 points in 3 quarters is really what made the difference for Hawai’i to steadily pull away from the Rams.
On the Rams first scoring opportunity of the 2nd half, Bryan squandered yet another field goal further increasing the score-gap. At this point with 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter and the score 30-7, there was still theoretically enough time to recover and put together enough successful drives for a comeback. The possibility for that seemed all but gone on the next drive as quarterback McDonald completed a 55-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cedric Byrd, increasing the deficit to 30. McDonald finished the game with 418 total passing yards and 3 touchdowns.
Colorado State Head Coach Mike Bobo said about the offensive success for Hawai’i, “They did a good job of keeping us off-balance. They were a balanced football team. They were able to run the ball for 200 yards and throw for 400 against our 5 man box. They took advantage of mismatches in man-to-man coverage. Really, anything they did worked. (…) The quarterback counter, we had no answer for that all night long.”
The Rams eventually found a hole through the Hawai’i defense when Carta-Samuels connected with receiver Preston Williams who shoved multiple defenders off of him to take the ball 69 yards down the field. Carta-Samuels and Williams completed the drive with a 7 yard touchdown, bringing the score to 37-14.
Once the Rams successfully stopped Hawai’i on the following drive, Carta-Samuels had found his rhythm. On 1st and 10 from their own 42 yard line, Olabisi Johnson reeled in a 58-yard pass for a touchdown that suddenly saw the Rams back in the game with the score at 37-20. After a failed attempt at the 2-point conversion, it looked to be a case of “too little, too late” for Colorado State. This especially appeared to be the case after the Rams failed to capitalize on a recovered fumble caused by safety Braylin Scott.
With UH’s offense now struggling to add to their score, the Rams were given more opportunities to build a legitimate comeback. Preston caught his 2nd touchdown on a 26-yard pass and all of a sudden with 8 minutes remaining, the Rams were back in it. The Rams miraculously brought the deficit all the way down 40-34. In the end, there simply wasn’t enough time for the Rams as Hawai’i strategically ran down the clock and closed out the game with a 35-yard field goal by Ryan Meskell.
Regarding his team’s shortfall, Coach Bobo said, “We just did not play well together in all 3 phases tonight at any consistent time of the game. We have a chance, then we give up a big play or we make a penalty on offense.”
Overall, the Colorado State offense demonstrated plenty of firepower behind the arm of Carta-Samuels, who threw for a school record 537 yards and a total of 5 touchdowns. On his team’s performance tonight, Carta-Samuels said, “We showed a lot of good fight in the end, we did a lot of good things offensively. I mean I thought we were going to win. Seriously. I legitimately thought 100% that we were going to win. (…) I’m excited; this was really a true test just to see what kind of team we are. We’re not gonna lay down and give up on the rest of the season.”
Colorado State has no choice but to put this behind them and turn the page because they are taking on rivals Colorado Buffs in the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The game will happen this Friday at 7:30 pm and can be seen on CBS Sports. The Hawai’i Warriors will head back home to take on Navy in hopes of stringing together back-to-back wins.