Each week Colorado State defensive end C.J. Onyechi will share his viewpoints on the team’s performance, as well as the upcoming week. Here is the debut installment. Learn more here on how to contribute to RamNation’s NIL fund for C.J. and future student athlete partners.
RN: The defense gave up 44 points, but it was a unit that looked really good at times. The 23-0 deficit at halftime could have been much worse if the defense hadn’t made three stops inside the redzone. Your defense also did a good job of avoiding big plays for the most part., etc. How did the defense perform in your eyes? What were some of the good things you saw? What improvements does the defense need to make?
C.J.: Well to me even if we played lights out, I would still feel like we have room to improve and that’s exactly how I felt after this game. I believe our defense played well considering the circumstances, but there were clear times that we didn’t play up to our standard. I don’t believe we were overpowered or out talented, but I do believe we made some mistakes that Michigan took advantage of. That’s what’s different when playing a ranked opponent. Those plays that you give up are way harder to get back so it’s important to be sound every snap. One thing I was very impressed with our defense was that for many of our players on the defensive line and in the back seven, this was their first real college football game. They all stepped up to the plate and let it fly which was fun to see. As a defense we just need to pay more attention to detail moving forward and that starts in practice!
Michigan rushed for 234 yards. Three rushers had 50+ rushing yards in the game, including QB J.J. McCarthy, who came in the second half. Coach Norvell said the Michigan O-line “leaned on us and we got overpowered a couple of times in our line.” Is that what you felt happened?
Like I said we had some young guys who stepped up to play and were introduced to college football against one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. I don’t want to say we were overpowered but we may have been over-experienced. As we start getting more games under our belt as a defense, I believe the sky is the limit for us.
There was a stretch in the game where the offense struggled to sustain drives and the D was on the field a lot. Could you sense the defense wearing down a bit? (Especially with the hot temperatures?)
There was a drop off in our defensive play from the beginning of the game to the end, which is natural in most cases. One thing I can say out of experience is that playing over east is way different than playing over west. But nonetheless, we as a defense have to work to get in better shape to last all game which will naturally happen by the way we practice and play games this season.
You had five tackles (three solo) and a QB hurry. (No other D-lineman had more than two tackles)…and Mo Kamara had the only sack of the day, so pressure was tough to come by. Coach Freddie Banks wants the defense to create pressure without blitzing. What is it about Michigan’s O-line made that tough…and going forward what can your D-line do to create more pressure?
Though only one sack was registered I believe we were in the quarterback’s face a lot through out the game. Pressure is our M.O. on defense so we want to be better, but that also means we have to do better on first and second down so that we can force some third-and-long situations to show what we can do as a D-line.
For a lot of guys, they may have been a little wide-eyed going into the Big House. But you played there just last year (in a 20-13 Rutgers loss to the Wolverines) and made your first collegiate start there as a sophomore in 2019. Were you able to lend any advice to your teammates?
I for sure gave my teammates insight on what I had learned through my experiences playing them in the past. For one, I told them it is going to be a cool experience, so take it all in. But I also told them to look at it as an opportunity. Our game was not only in front of 100,000 people but literally millions watching live on ABC. I told them to let it fly and leave everything out there on the field or “Burn the Boats” as we like to say over here. Also, I told them to ignore the hype, because they are student athletes just like us who go through the same issues, same workouts, and same practices everyday.
What was the team’s emotion/mindset after the game?
A loss is always going to be difficult to get over, but Coach Norvell gave us a “24-hour” rule. The 24-hour rule states that no matter win or lose we have the next 24 hours to either celebrate or be sad. After those 24 hours are up we officially move on and figure out how to get better for next week! I believe this rule will help us be humble when we win and not get down on ourselves when things don’t go our way.
Do you feel this experience will make the team better? What do you expect from your team heading into the Middle Tennessee game?
I think this was a good experience for our team. We are a brand new team with 59 players, including me, joining the family in the spring or later. With this experience I think we finally grasped who we are as a team and how we can improve on all aspects. Sometimes it takes a difficult test to make you realize what you need to study more. Heading into Middle Tennessee, I expect us to play with more attention to detail and use our strengths to our advantage.
What is your personal focus going into the Middle Tennessee game?
As a D-line, we came to the consensus that we are behind the ball in regards to the goals we made for sacks. This game and this week of practice we will be focusing on improving certain aspects of our pass rush and watching our opponents to see and use their weaknesses for our advantage.
About our student athlete
Christian “C.J.” Onyechi is a fifth-year senior from New Jersey who starts at defensive end for the Rams. He is studying Communication & Technology (in the in the Journalism and Media Communications department). You can read all of his “C.J.’s Endpoints” features here.