Rocky Mountain Showdown: battle of offensive lines
AP Sports Writer
BOULDER, Colorado – The Rocky Mountain Showdown is a battle of the behemoths.
The Colorado State Rams – who face the University of Colorado in prime-time Sunday night on Fox Sports Network when no other college or pro games are being played – have the most experienced offensive line in the nation with a roster that includes 125 career starts.
“That’s a huge comfort thing,” Rams quarterback Grant Stucker said. “All those guys have a combined experience level that’s the most in the country. Everyone on the offensive line has started for two or three years. They’ve seen that picture. They’ve seen everything that has been thrown at them. That’s a comfort to know.”
Blocking for a new quarterback and a bevy of new running backs are returning senior starters Cole Pemberton, Tim Walter, Adrian Martinez and Shelley Smith – although he has a sprained ankle and might be sidelined Saturday night – and junior Mark Starr.
If Smith can’t play, he’ll be replaced by senior Scott Benedict or sophomore Jake Gdowski, who would give the Rams a trio of 300-plus-pounders.
The Rams aren’t your typical spread offense that’s all the rage in college football now. They run a traditional multiple-set, prostyle offense with a power run game.
But gone is conference rushing champion Gartrell Johnson, who set the NCAA record for most combined yards rushing and receiving in a bowl game when he totaled 375 yards against Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl before being drafted by the San Diego Chargers.
CSU’s senior-dominated line will face three Buffaloes linemen making their first college starts.
The Buffaloes don’t have as much experience on their offensive line as the Rams do, but they sport some of the biggest blockers in the country, including sophomore right guard Ryan Miller (6-8, 320 pounds) and massive left tackle Nate Solder, a 6-foot-9, 305-pound junior.
All that size provides problems not only for defenses but for the Buffs’ own quarterbacks, Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins, who stands 5-11.
“If you show me a 6-5 quarterback who can see over Nate Solder, I’m still going to call you a liar because it’s not going to happen,” Hawkins said. “Football’s all about finding passing lanes. I don’t care who you are, there aren’t any quarterbacks the size of our (offensive linemen). We’ve got some big dudes.”
Although Rams coach Steve Fairchild already has announced that Stucker won the Rams’ starting quarterback job, succeeding Billy Farris, Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins kept his starter a secret.
The Rams will start off with running backs John Mosure and Leonard Mason; the Buffs will counter with Darrell Scott leading a loaded backfield that also features Rodney Stewart, Demetrius Sumler and Brian Lockridge.
Scott had a disappointing debut season last year after being touted as the best running back recruit in the country.
This year, he knows the playbook and what’s expected of him, and he also added 10 pounds of muscle.
“It’s going to provide me with that stiff arm I was famous for in California,” Scott said.
Scott provided some fodder for the CSU bulletin boards last month when he declared the Buffs didn’t just want to beat the Rams for a third straight season but, “We want to crush them really, that’s what we want to do.”
Not the most inflammatory of comments, but enough for the Rams to sit up and take notice.
After all, the Buffs’ stated goal of double-digit wins for the first time since 2001 pretty much requires a victory over their arch rivals.
“We have it up on the bulletin board,” Mosure said. “It don’t mean nothing. Words can go only so far. It’s what happens on the field that matters. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see on Sept. 6 if their bark is as loud as they say it is.”