Saturday night at San Jose State, the CSU football team had its best game of the season offensively. However, missed opportunities cost the Rams an upset victory.
The Rams had a season-high 468 yards of offense and nine plays of 20 yards or more. They had many more in the 15- to 20-yard range.
And while they did score a pair of touchdowns, missed chances, penalties and protection breakdowns made for a long night on the West Coast for the Rams, who fell to 2-7 overall and 2-3 in the Mountain West with the 28-16 loss.
“I think we showed a lot of progress in some areas, and really had some excellent performances by a lot of players,” CSU head coach Jay Norvell said during his Monday news conference. “A lot of guys played extremely hard, especially up front defensively. We’ve been doing that all year.
“Tory Horton and Avery Morrow and several of our offensive players had outstanding games. We did some things that we haven’t been doing. The underlying thing about the game is that we’ve got to stop doing things to beat ourselves, the penalties and the turnovers and the minus-yardage plays.”
Morrow started the big-play extravaganza with a 56-yard touchdown run on CSU’s first possession. The junior running back finished the game with 124 yards on the ground. It was his fourth 100-yard game in the Rams’ last five contests.
In Mountain West play, Morrow leads the conference in total rushing yards and is second in yards per game at 111.4.
Rams receivers Horton and Justus Ross-Simmons got in on the big-play action as well. On his way to 196 receiving yards, Horton had catches of 22, 38, 42 and a 40-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Ross-Simmons had catches of 41 and 26 on his way to 84 receiving yards.
Quarterback Clay Millen finished the game with 261 passing yards. After he was run into by one of his offensive linemen in the fourth quarter, Jackson Stratton came in and passed for 72 yards and the touchdown to Horton.
“I just feel like we are getting better,” Morrow said. “The young guys are learning. I feel like Clay is getting more comfortable. We ain’t got nothing to lose. All we can do is fight at this point. I feel like our goal now is just to finish strong.”
As well as the Rams played offensively and defensively at times, they missed several opportunities to make the game closer than it was while shooting themselves in the foot multiple times.
The Rams were penalized 13 times for 101 yards. Millen was sacked nine times for 58 yards in losses and the Rams’ two quarterbacks each threw an interception when they were inside the San Jose State 30-yard line.
Norvell attributes the demons the Rams dealt with against San Jose State to mental toughness and discipline.
“Probably the most important thing that we have wanted to establish this year is mental toughness and discipline,” he said. “I just don’t think you can play this sport without having those two things. I don’t think there is any issue with how hard we are playing. We are playing hard, but we have to play disciplined, and we have to play focused. We just have to do things better.”
The Rams are running out of time to do those things better this season. They have three games left, including a pair of rivalry contests beginning with Saturday’s Border War game against Wyoming at Canvas Stadium.
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