Is Colorado State’s strength finally on defense? A win at Boise State would solidify Steve Addazio’s vision. – The Denver Post

The reputation for Colorado State football over the past decade, fair or not, is a dynamic offense paired with lackluster defense. The Rams score points. They don’t win with defense.

Maybe someone should remind Steve Addazio’s team.

Because entering Thursday night’s road game at Boise State, a program CSU has never beaten, the Rams seem to be doing away with stereotypes.

“When you start talking about Colorado State,” linebacker Cam’Ron Carter said, “you’re gonna talk about defense, too.”

CSU notched its first win of the Addazio era against Wyoming last week. It started on D. Cornerback Marshaun Cameron began the first quarter with a pick-six, and one series later, he stripped the ball from Wyoming quarterback Levi Williams. A Rams’ recovery and ensuing touchdown provided a 14-0 lead — on a night that CSU won by 10 points.

More impressive, though, has been the overall play of the front seven. The Rams have 10 sacks among seven different players. Defensive coordinator Chuck Heater called his defensive line the team’s “bell cow” with senior Manny Jones (2 sacks) and Miami graduate transfer Scott Patchan (2.5 sacks) pacing the unit.

In total, CSU returned eight starters on defense from a year ago. Their experience is paying early dividends.

“We’re older, so we know what’s going on, and we play a lot faster and (more) physical,” Carter said. “We send a lot of pressures to get to the quarterback and make it confusing for the offense.”

The Rams defense can prove it has truly turned a corner on Thursday with a victory at Boise State. The typically powerful Broncos offense has faced challenges this season with three quarterbacks — Hank Bachmeier, Jack Sears and Cade Fennegan — already seeing action due to injuries. Boise State has not announced a starter after the Broncos got clobbered at home by No. 8 BYU last week, 51-17.

Regardless, Boise State’s high-tempo spread offense under head coach Bryan Harsin is still enough to keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night. The Rams know better than most. The final scores from CSU’s last five meetings with Boise State: 31-24, 56-28, 59-52, 28-23 and 41-10.

“There are a lot of motions, shifts, and trying to get lined up on people — probably as much as any team I’ve ever dealt with,” Heater said about the Boise State offense. “Everything from the quarterback to schematically what they do makes it a little bit unsettling as you prepare to defend them.”

CSU’s defense hasn’t been perfect, either. The Rams allowed more than 400 total yards in each of their first two games with secondary coverage busts often leading to chunk yardage. But having a defense that can simply keep CSU in games would be an uncommon luxury in Fort Collins. The new coaching staff sees it as part of a larger culture change.

“What we’re trying to build here is a tough football team,” Addazio said. “Our plan to win, number one, starts with playing great defense.”

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