Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Coloradoan: CSU's defense is credible, but needs to step up early to beat California


Overall, Colorado State University's defense did a credible job in the opening game against the University of Colorado.   The Rams limited CU to 330 yards, grabbed two turnovers and gave the offense enough opportunities to win the game. However, an old bugaboo - painfully slow starts - still haunts the Rams as they prepare for Saturday's game against No. 10 California. CSU looked confused and overmatched in the first two drives of the game, surrendering six-and four-play touchdown drives in the first quarter as CU jumped out to a 14-7 lead. The Rams were pretty good after that, but the early lapses proved costly.  "That's just not acceptable," junior safety Klint Kubiak said of the early CU scores. "We had that same problem last year. We've got to come out ready to play from the start." Part of the problem was confusion caused by some new wrinkles in CU's offense. Still, with nine returning starters, the slow defensive start was somewhat surprising. "I thought we had worked our way out of that phase," senior defensive tackle Erik Sandie said. "We've got to learn to start fast and finish even faster."

CSU defensive coordinator Steve Stanard said the Rams didn't adjust quickly enough to the speed of the game. It's difficult to simulate game speed in practice, he said, so defenses often take a series or two to adjust during games. That has to change, he said. "We need to pick up our practice tempo. We need to go fast and keep going fast during practice," Stanard said. "If you practice slow that becomes part of your routine, and that's hard to change once you get into the game. "I hope that game woke us up. We're not good enough to just show up and beat people. We've got to scratch and fight and focus as hard as we can to be successful." The Rams certainly can't afford to get stuck in the starting gate against Cal. The Golden Bears have blazing team speed, as evidenced by their 45-point, 471-yard outburst in their opener against Tennessee.

DeSean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins are big-play receivers, and running back Justin Forsett ran for 156 yards against Tennessee. Quarterback Nate Longshore, who threw for 241 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the opener, is the trigger man for one of the most explosive offenses the Rams, or anyone else, will see. The Rams, though, say they are much more focused on themselves than they are the Bears. They made a number of alignment and assignment errors against CU, and correcting those problems are their goal this week. "We definitely have some problems we need to take care of this week in practice," senior cornerback Joey Rucks said. "Our thing on defense has been starting late. Against these guys, we've got to come out fast and play almost perfect to give ourselves a chance."


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