Another Monday, another disappointment to talk about. This time around, it wasn't exactly a terrible performance by the offense, at least the stats won't say so, but this loss can't be completely blamed on the defense either. I know that doesn't sound right, but just keep reading. I'll explain.
Much like a week ago against UTSA, the UTEP defense was put to work first against Colorado State. And, much like a week ago they gave up a touchdown within just a couple of minutes.
The offense would respond, engineering a solid, sustained drive with a mix of both the pass and the run, and nearly seven minutes later, the game was tied at seven. That however, would be the lone bright spot for the offense the rest of the half.
The defense would come up with a stop on CSU's next drive, but the offense would go three and out, and the defense was put right back on the field. A little more than two minutes later, the Rams would take the lead on their second touchdown of the day.
Once again, the offense was given the ball, and once again they went three and out, putting the defense right back to work. That trend would continue as the Miners would punt on four straight possessions, and would hold the ball for just over 10 minutes combined on those possessions.
During that stretch, the Colorado State offense would put up four straight touchdowns, and by the half, the Rams led 28-7. At the time, that seemed like an insurmountable deficit, but the truth was the game was just getting started.
On the first play of the opening drive of the second half, the Miners took a shot deep for Jordan Leslie. That shot was connected on, and just 11 seconds into the third quarter the score was 28-14.
Four plays into the Ram's first drive, the UTEP defense forced and recovered a fumble, giving the Miners the ball with just 47 yards to paydirt. Once again, they dialed up the deep ball, and Jordan Leslie hauled it in for another score, bringing the game to 28-21.
The defense again continued to respond, and play well in the moment. On the ensuing drive, they allowed Colorado State just five yards, and forced them into their second punt of the day.
This time, the Miners would use a bit more clock, 2:17 to be exact, and after the Ram defense started to double Leslie, Jameill Showers went opposite of him and hit Ian Hamilton with a strike on a crossing route. Hamilton would take the ball to the one yard line, and Showers would punch it in from there.
And so, the game was tied at 28 with 8:01 left in the third quarter. But, that was about the time Colorado State started to wake up. Their offense would work their way down the field on their next possession, but again the UTEP defense stepped up, and held them to a field goal attempt.
CSU kicker Jared Roberts would miss his first kick of the year, but the Miner offense seemingly had nothing left in the tank. The offensive line began to get eaten alive, Showers began to do a fairly poor job of feeling pressure, and the offense just completely stalled. In fact, they went into reverse.
That offensive possession, following the missed field goal, resulted in a safety. The ensuing offensive possession, ended with a fumble, and the one that followed that ended with the Miners turning it over on downs.
And, much like the first half, with the offense sputtering, so went the defense. Colorado State would score touchdowns on each of their final four possessions in the game, and in all reality put the game away. The Miners would tack on a couple of late, virtually meaningless scores, and the game would end 59-42.
Anyone notice a trend in all of that? Its becoming more and more apparent that as the offense goes, so goes the defense. Yes, its evident that this defensive unit is young and inexperienced, and is struggling to find any consistency in the 4-2-5.
But, when called upon, they are making plays. Its just tough for any defense to be asked to continually go out there and get stops when your offense is doing little to help.
I'm not trying to make an excuse for a defensive unit that just gave up 59 points and 591 total yards to a very mediocre Colorado State team. But I am willing to step out on a limb and say that if the offense would've done their job after that missed field goal, we very well might be talking about a win right now.
Yes the defense struggled in the first half, but they clearly came out and did their part to start the second half. The offense gave the team momentum with quick strikes and the defense kept it going with forced punts and turnovers. That momentum, however, was killed with a safety and fumble on back to back possessions, not by our young defense.
So, while I feel that much of our problems on Saturday began with a lack of production from the offense, I also feel that our problems are rooted much deeper than that. More than anything here, I blame the coaches.
I understand that we are supposed to be a power rushing team, and these aren't the air it out days of Mike Price anymore. But, I also understand the game of football a bit, and realize that you have to take what the defense gives you. We've faced nothing but suspect defenses, who struggle against the pass, yet for some reason, we don't take advantage?
We've got an extremely capable quarterback in Showers, and playmakers, not only on the outside in Leslie and Hamilton, but in our tight ends as well in Eric Tomlinson and Kevin Perry. Take advantage of that!
Yes, we've also got some extremely talented running backs, but our most experienced isn't even in the game! There's no question in my mind that Aaron Jones is going to be an absolute star for the Miners, and he's already showing that with some gutsy performances as a true freshman. But he is just that, a true freshman!
Give him some time. Open the game up for him through the air. That's where our experience is. We did it versus New Mexico State, airing it out early, and it worked out perfectly for us, as it opened up the run game in the second half. We simply cannot just go out there and ask Jones to carry the ball 25 times.
To make matters worse, our play calling has been suspect, and our game planning heading into contests seem to be completely off base. There's no question that thus far this season we are getting outplayed, but more than that we're being outcoached.
I look back to a 3rd and medium play that we had late in the second quarter on Saturday, in Colorado State territory. Instead of looking to pass and get ourselves back in the game, we ran it, and punted it away. In fact, we ran it three straight times on that drive. It was practically raising of the white flag. We've seen that type of play calling on multiple occasions this season, and to me its a prime example of what is wrong with this team.
The bottom line is, this team has to get back to work, but also has to get back to the drawing board. The offense cannot simply disappear for quarters at a time, and the defense must learn how to tackle! More than anything though, it would help if this coaching staff would put them in better spots, and help them use their strengths to their advantage. If they don't, its going to be a much longer season than its already becoming.