FORT COLLINS — The first full season of Steve Addazio’s tenure as head coach of the Colorado State Rams began with a thud Friday night at Canvas Stadium.
The Rams, who went 1-3 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, were generally manhandled by South Dakota State, a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Divison I-AA) power.
The Jackrabbits, who lost to Sam Houston in the FCS national championship on May 16, rolled over the Rams 42-23 in a lightning-delayed affair that followed a fierce thunderstorm.
“Obviously disappointed,” Addazio said. “We had an electric night here with one of largest crowds, opening-day crowds, and it was a heckuva atmosphere. I appreciate the student body and all the fans. Obviously, I don’t feel like we played at the level we’re capable of playing at.”
He added: “You got to be able to run the football, and you got to be able to stop the run. They averaged 7.1 yards a carry in the run game, which is totally unacceptable and hard for me to understand how that happened.”
SDSU amassed 466 yards against a veteran FBS defense that returned its entire defensive line. Running back Pierre Strong Jr. and wide receiver Jadon Janke each scored two touchdowns and quarterback Chris Oladokun, a graduate transfer, threw for two TDs and rushed for another.
The Jackrabbits’ defense limited CSU’s running game to less than 80 yards until the reserves stepped in late. The Rams gained 202 of their 462 yards in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
It was the Rams’ third loss to an FCS opponent in the past 10 years. They fell 22-7 to North Dakota State in 2012 and 35-19 to Illinois State in 2018.
“I’m confident in this team, I’m confident in the players that we have. One game isn’t going to change the whole season. I’m fired up about this team,” said CSU All-American tight end Trey McBride, who caused 13 passes for 116 yards. “We just have to play together more. When the defense was high, the offense was low and when the offense was high the defense was low. That’s unacceptable. Lot of things we can learn from this game. Lot of positive things. But I still believe, truly in my heart, that we’re a championship football team.”
CSU, which trailed 21-10 at halftime, helped dig its own hole early in the second half when Addazio declined to punt on a fourth-and-1 from the Rams’ 38-yard line. Addazio’s staff called for a run up the middle and David Bailey, a senior transfer from Boston College, was stopped for no gain and SDSU took over.
Two plays later, the Jackrabbits led 28-10. Oladokun hit tight end Tucker Kraft in the left flat for a 21-yard gain before Oladokun found Janke for a 17-yard touchdown in the right flat.
“That’s my call,” Addazio said of going for it on fourth down. “I take responsibility.”
He added: “We’re a physical football team and you have to be able to get fourth and eight inches. That didn’t happen. That’s upsetting to me.”
Later in the third quarter, Colorado State quarterback Todd Centeio fumbled near midfield. Linebacker Caden Johnson recovered at the Rams’ 46-yard line and, seven plays later, Isaiah Davis scored on a 2-yard run to make it 35-10 with 1:29 left in the third quarter.
The teams traded touchdowns early in the fourth quarter as most of the 32,327 spectators had seen enough and left the stadium.
SDSU used a balanced offense to amass 280 yards in taking a 21-10 lead into halftime. After going three-and-out on their first series and missing a 39-yard field goal on their second, the Jackrabbits scored touchdowns on their next three possessions.
First, Strong raced down the left sideline for a 48-yard TD to cap a three-play, 71-yard drive with 2:22 left in the first quarter. At that time, the Rams had just 19 yards of offense.
Strong’s TD might have served as a wake-up call for CSU, which answered on its ensuing drive. Bailey, one play after gaining two yards on a fourth-and-1, capped an impressive 17-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run with 11:51 left in the second quarter.
The Jackrabbits answered with a long drive of their own, going 75 yards in 12 plays to take a 14-7 lead. Janke was left wide open in the right flat and caught an easy 10-yard touchdown.
After CSU cut the deficit to 14-10 on a 35-yard field goal with 1:27 left in the second, SDSU scored 38 seconds later. Two plays after Oladokun and Janke hooked up for a 46-yard pass play to CSU’s 12-yard line, Strong scored from that spot on a run up the middle.
The Rams, trailing 21-10, got down to the Jackrabbits’ 22-yard line but chose to attempt a field goal with nine seconds left. Kicker Cayden Camper’s 40-yard attempt went wide.