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Ask a Colorado State writer: Physical running game, ‘attacking’ defense await Boise State

·9 min read

The Boise State football team will find itself in a must-win situation at Colorado State on Saturday (5 p.m., CBSSN).

The Broncos (3-4, 1-2 MW) already have two Mountain West losses on their record, which makes the climb to a fifth straight appearance in the conference championship game a treacherous one. A third loss would make it all but impossible, especially with road games at Fresno State (6-2, 3-1) and No. 21 San Diego State (7-0, 3-0) still on the schedule.

Boise State and Colorado State (3-4, 2-1) have played every year since 2011, and the Broncos have yet to lose in the series. They will have their work cut out for them in Fort Collins, Colorado, though.

The Rams lead the Mountain West and rank No. 2 in the country with 30 sacks this season. Colorado State’s defense is also giving up just 100 rushing yards a game, which ranks No. 3 in the conference. Offensively, the Rams are led by tight end Trey McBride, who ranks No. 2 in the conference with 55 catches and No. 3 with 637 receiving yards.

Kevin Lytle, Colorado State beat writer for The Coloradoan, sat down with the Idaho Statesman to preview Boise State’s game at Canvas Stadium.

Colorado State head coach Steve Addazio’s teams at Boston College were known for their physical rushing attack. Did he bring that mentality to Fort Collins?

That’s definitely the mindset. He talks about winning the trenches on both sides ... which is obviously a normal coach thing to say, but it’s truly his main thing. They want to win there, being run heavy, and then with the run game, use that to spread into the vertical passing game with play action and all that. But it all starts with the run game.

(Colorado State has) had some injuries on the offensive line, but if everyone was healthy, three of the five starters would be guys he brought in as transfers to get that going right away. David Bailey, the starting running back, is a transfer from Boston College, who followed Addazio here. So it’s pretty clear that is the main philosophy: run hard, run heavy, and make teams try and slow you down for four quarters. He talked a lot about that last week, saying maybe the first half isn’t always going to be great, but you can wear a team down and really dominate in the fourth quarter.

Colorado State ranks No. 4 in the Mountain West with 172.3 rushing yards a game. What makes the Rams’ rushing attack so hard to stop, and who carries the load?

David Bailey is definitely the No. 1 back. Frankly, the only reason his numbers are a little down is he was hurt in the first series of the game against Iowa and missed some time with that, coming back kind of slowly. But he looked fully healthy last week against Utah State, so he’ll get the bulk of the carries. I expect him to be at least in the 25 (carry) range every game. And then behind him, they’ve had some changes. Marcus McElroy was in the mix but he transferred out. A’Jon Vivens was the No. 2 but he got hurt. I don’t expect him to play this week. So now Jaylen Thomas is the second guy, and behind him would be Christian Hunter, a guy who was moved to defensive back earlier this year and has moved back with some of the attrition. But it’s going to be David Bailey pretty heavy.

He’s physical, and he’s a guy that likes to attack a defensive player and make them pay for trying to tackle him. He’s not the speediest. He’s probably not going to break 80-yard touchdowns, but he’s one of those running backs where you see a play and think there isn’t much of a hole there, and you look up and he’s 5 yards downfield because he’s just hard to take down. He was hurt last year at Boston College, so his numbers weren’t great. But the year before, which was Addazio’s last year at Boston College, he had nice numbers. He’s a guy that has played in a lot of big games and has a nice resume, and he can do some good things for CSU.

Midseason report card: Boise State is off to a historically slow start to the season

What does quarterback Todd Centeio add to the offense?

He can move around the pocket, escape the pocket and make things happen. Last year, he was a guy that really struggled in limited action. He won the job, started the first game and got pulled, and dealt with some injuries. Colorado State only played four games because of COVID-19 last year, so there was limited opportunities, but he completed less than 50% of his passes and didn’t look up to the level.

This year, he’s been really good. He’s really good on short and intermediate passes. Early in the season, he kept missing on deep balls, but he’s been really good at that the last couple weeks. He’s hit a couple of big ones. He had one last week at Utah State that could have changed the game. He hit the receiver but the receiver dropped it. He’s really grown his game in pretty impressive strides from a guy that last year couldn’t complete much of anything. This year, he’s at 60% and he’s a pretty diverse threat.

Colorado State tight end Tre McBride ranks No. 2 in the Mountain West with 55 catches and No. 3 with 673 receiving yards this season.
Colorado State tight end Tre McBride ranks No. 2 in the Mountain West with 55 catches and No. 3 with 673 receiving yards this season.

What makes tight end Trey McBride such a nightmare for defenses?

I think he is the best (tight end) in the Mountain West, and I think he’s up there in the country. He’s getting a lot of pub nationally as one of the top guys. Some people have him as a first-round NFL Draft pick. If not there, he’ll certainly be in the top few rounds. Dante Wright is (Colorado State’s) star receiver, but he’s been hurt. With that, they’ve really had to lean on McBride.

If there’s a third-down play, they’re looking for McBride. Anytime they need a big catch, they’re going to him. He has good hands, he’s a strong, physical runner. ... He’s also a really physical run blocker. In modern football, some of those tight ends are really receivers. McBride’s a guy that really loves blocking and the dirty work of it, too. Weirdly, the one place (Colorado State) hasn’t used him much is in the red zone.

What makes Colorado State’s defensive front seven so dominant this year?

Everything on their defense starts with that front. They have some really talented and veteran players there. Defensive line, I think, is one of those positions where you need older guys for both the weight and physicality, and some of the tips and tricks that you learn. It’s really an aggressive, attacking defense, and it’s fun to watch.

(Defensive end) Scott Patchan, who transferred in from Miami, has been phenomenal. He’s one of those when he transferred that you thought he’s a Miami guy and he’ll have some success, but he’s been dynamic. He’s a great pass rusher, but he’s also really good at playing the run.

They’ve managed (defensive end) Toby McBride really well. That’s Trey’s brother. Toby has dealt with a lot of injuries in his career, but this staff has done a good job of managing his work load. He doesn’t get a lot of practice reps because they want him healthy for games, but he’s been good. (Defensive tackle) Manny Jones is another guy who has been around a long time, so you have a really veteran crew there. (Defensive lineman) Devin Phillips has played in a bunch of games, too.

They have the attitude that you want out of a D-line. They’re a bunch of snarling, angry guys out on the field that really want to make opponents pay, and they’ve been doing that. The first two games, they kind of struggled, but they got a fire lit under them and since then, they’ve been dominant.

Colorado State has never beaten Boise State. What would a win over the Broncos mean this year?

It would be huge. It’s one of those things where everyone here knows it and talks about it. In Addazio’s Monday press conference, that was one of the first things he brought up. Even though Boise State is maybe a little down this year, record wise, everything goes through Boise if you want to be one of the top teams in the Mountain West. If you want to be top dog in the Mountain West, you have to beat Boise State.

This year it would be especially huge. The loss at Utah State was damaging, not only with the loss but how it happened. It kind of went viral in college football circles. This one is kind of a Mountain West elimination game, too. Whoever loses doesn’t have a chance (at a conference title). But whoever wins has to feel like they’re still in that mix. This is a really big two-week stretch for CSU with Boise and then a big rivalry game against a Wyoming team that’s really struggling. It’s time to either make the leap up and contend for the division crown or things could really go south.

Are there an COVID-19 protocols in Canvas Stadium?

In the stadium, no. But in Fort Collins and the surrounding county, there is a mask mandate. So if you’re going out to eat, just have that mask with you until you sit down. In the stadium, it’s full capacity and all pretty much normal unless you’re in one of the suite areas or indoor boxes. CSU is averaging about 34,000 fans a game this year, so I think it should be a fun atmosphere.

BOISE STATE AT COLORADO STATE

When: 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Canvas Stadium, Fort Collins, Colorado

TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Aaron Taylor, Jenny Dell). That’s channel 139 on Sparklight, 221 on DirecTV and 158 on Dish Network.

Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)

Records: Boise State 3-4, 1-2; Colorado State 3-4, 2-1.

Series: Boise State is 10-0 all-time against Colorado State, including a 52-21 win at Albertsons Stadium last season.

Vegas line: Boise State by 2.5

Weather: High of 65 degrees, 13% chance of rain, 11 mph winds

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