As the two-score road underdogs on both sides of football, the Colorado State Rams weren’t given much of a chance on Saturday.
But thanks to an impressive defense, and just enough offence, the Rams dealt a blow to their first win of the season, upset 22-6 of the Toledo Rockets at Glass Bowl Stadium.
“I’m glad we won,” said CSU junior tight end Trey McBride. “We’ll fix this week what we need to fix. But ultimately, we needed a win, and we got a win. So I’m glad this team came. Now we know what we’re capable of.” And we’re excited to make it.”
In a contest where the two offenses clashed, a CSU defense that suffered early season defeats to South Dakota State and Vanderbilt went toe-to-toe with No. 12 Notre Dame in a 32-29 loss to Toledo a week later. pressed after leaving.
While penalties – 10 to be exact – hindered the Rockets throughout the game, the Rams’ defensive line and linebacker corps provided a similar fit for the hosts.
CSU (1-2) forced the Rockets to punt on four of their first five possessions as Toledo ended the first half stalemate at 3-3 after scoring only 38 total yards.
“Our defense shone the light,” CSU coach Steve Adazzio said. “We really improved there. We played a great pass-rush. We were playing with a lot of young guys in the back end and they played well. It was a really great performance from our defense. I got a good look on my team. Proud of and how he fought today.”
Defensive disruption continued in the second half as the Rockets finished with just 284 yards, the lowest total CSU has had an opponent since defeating Western Illinois in 2019.
Notably, the Rams ran Toledo for 228 yards in 2019 at CSU’s Canvas Stadium after two years running behind Bryant Koback (1.9 yards per touch).
CSU also dismissed Rockets quarterback Carter Bradley six times and made 10 tackles for the loss. Senior Deacon Jackson led with 13 tackles, while fellow linebacker Mohammad Kamara added a career-high 3.5 tackles (2.5 sacks) to make up for the loss.
“We just bought,” Jackson said. “We had a good week of practice. We knew what they were doing, and we had a few extra meetings to defend. We came out and turned on the lights.”
Freshman Jack Howell also rose to the occasion early in his career in the secondary, with nine tackles to fill Logan Stewart’s first-half absence.
“Jack Howell is going to be one hell of a player,” Addazio said. “He has great football in his blood. His father was a great player, and he was about to be a great player. He’s just going to grow from here.”
While the offense struggled to score points, CSU got the big day from McBride (nine receptions, 109 yards) and David Bailey (30 carry, 132 yards).
However, the game’s only touchdown came on the special teams – a 70-yard punt return from Thomas Pannunzio in the third quarter that gave the Rams a 13-6 lead, which they never gave up.
The Rams had new Garrick Robinson as the punt returner to start the game in place of junior Dante Wright, who was out with a knee injury. After Robinson muffed a pair of first-half runs, one of which led to a Toledo field goal, CSU switched to Pannunzio.
“I’ve been waiting a whole year to get another shot at (punt returning),” Pannunjio said. “So good. I just saw they were giving me five yards of space, and I knew I could make a play out of it. Then I drilled a few holes and I left.
Kicker Kayden Camper returned from a tough game against Vanderbilt (two missed field goals) on Saturday, adding up all five of his field goal attempts. This involved three kicks of 42 yards or more.
“We addressed the problem in practice this week,” McBride said. “We put him in difficult situations. The whole team was screaming in our ears. We were running in front of him and throwing things at him. I mean, we probably put him under the most pressure in our lives. And he came out and showed it to her. A lot of kicking is mental, and he was able to turn it around. “