Nov. 14, 2012
By Gary Ozzello
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Jim McElwain will never use injuries as an excuse for his team or his program.
McElwain, Colorado State’s first-year head coach, never points toward injuries. Instead, he knows it is a part of the game.
“It’s what we do,” he said. “You keep going. You play the people you have.”
But since opening day, when Colorado State downed in-state rival Colorado, 22-17 to hand McElwain his first career coaching win in Fort Collins, many of the names and numbers of those on the field for the Rams have changed.
For instance, redshirt freshman Conner Smith is now the team’s starting quarterback. Smith, from Richmond, Tex., will make his fourth career start this week when the Rams take on Boise State Saturday on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium.
Smith began the 2012 season as the team’s third quarterback. In the fifth game of the year, starter Garrett Grayson was injured, thrusting senior M.J. McPeek into the lineup for nearly two full games including back-top-back starts. Then McPeek was injured in a game at San Diego State, and in came Smith.
Quarterback isn’t the only spot where the names and numbers have changed.
Offensively, four starters from opening day likely won’t be available for Saturday’s game due to injury. The same is true on Colorado State’s defense.
Of the 11 players to trot from the sidelines to the field to open play in the win over Colorado, four starters are missing, including the quarterback spot.
Running back Chris Nwoke has been plagued by a recurring ankle injury – which he injured in the season opener and has given way to Donnell Alexander. Colorado State has been forced to shuffle its offensive line in the wake of injury, including left tackle Jared Biard, who is doubtful to play the rest of the season due to a leg injury. So, Ty Sambrailo would replace him in the lineup. Guard Jordan Gragert missed last week’s game and may return.
During Colorado State’s 33-11 win over UNLV last week, the Rams won the war but lost a few injury battles.
Zach Tiedgen continues to start at defensive tackle, replacing opening-day starter John Froland. And, Shaq Bell, who can play any of the four spots in the secondary along with the nickel back position, is now in the starting lineup, having replaced Momo Thomas, who was injured earlier in the year.
McElwain has been quick the injuries have given other members of the team an opportunity to compete for playing time.
The Rams will be looking for their third win in the past four games at Boise State. It will be a tall order, considering the host Broncos have been dominant at home during coach Chris Peterson’s tenure.
Still, Colorado State is coming off perhaps its best all-around performance of the year. The Rams scored two defensive touchdowns in the first half to pave the way in the win. Alexander, the freshman running back, gained a career-most 139 yards and scored two touchdowns to aid the cause – a week after gaining a then-best 114 yards at Wyoming.
McElwain knows his team is continuing to progress as the season winds to a close, and he’s anxious to assess the improvement against Boise State Saturday.
Following this week’s game, the Rams close the 2012 season against New Mexico on Nov. 24. That game begins at 5 p.m.
Kickoff time is 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday. NBC Sports Network will televise the game live, with Paul Burmeister calling the play-by-play, Rod Woodson as the analyst and Anthony Herron providing sideline reports. The game will also be broadcast live on the CSU Radio Network, including KLZ 560 in Denver, KCOL 600 in Fort Collins, KSIR 1010 in Fort Morgan and KNZZ 1000 in Grand Junction. Brian Roth calls the play-by-play, alongside analysts David Anderson and Kevin McGlue. Marty Cesario generates reports from the sideline.
Tickets to all home events are available in one of the following convenient manners:
• In person: Tickets can be purchased at the McGraw Athletic Center ticket window, which is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
• On the phone: Fans can call toll free at 1-800-491-RAMS (7267) to purchase tickets to any Rams sporting event.
• Online: Tickets can be purchased 24 hours a day, seven days a week at CSURams.com, the official Web site of Rams Athletics.
Note: Prices do not include fees for processing ($1 per ticket) or delivery - $2 print-at-home, $7 mail and $10 will call.
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