Each week Colorado State defensive end C.J. Onyechi will share his viewpoints on the team’s performance, as well as the upcoming week. Learn more here on how to contribute to RamNation’s NIL fund for C.J. and future student athlete partners.
Tough loss Saturday to Utah State. Defense again played very well, but the team could not come away with a win, losing 17-13. As a team, how do you guys pick yourselves up off the mat after a tough loss like that where you had a chance to win and fell short?
We aren’t going to let one team beat us twice. We as leaders must build our team back up after a tough loss so we can move forward to our next opponent. I think we all saw the positives in the game so we know we aren’t too far away from where we want to be. Every week since our bye week we have gotten better and better in my opinion. We just have to put more focus on the little things, like limiting penalties. Some say a game like that can define a season, but we are just taking every game week by week and getting better.
The defense performed very well, but struggled stopping Utah State fourth-string QB Bishop Davenport who entered the game due to injuries to Cooper Legas and Levi Williams. He only completed 3 of 9 passes, but his ability to scramble and run 11 times for 44 yards helped Utah State take the lead and the win. What did you guys do differently, if anything, to try to slow down his running game?
Well, we had the advantage of playing fast quarterbacks in the first couple games of the season, so dealing with a quicker quarterback wasn’t new to us. But give credit to #7. He was by far the best quarterback to play that night and he got the better of us on some plays. He was reading our ends, so when we realized that, we changed our technique and he started handing the ball off a lot more.
The team has been plagued by penalties, including another 10 penalties for 90 yards Saturday, with a few on the defense. What do you attribute the team having so many penalties to?
Penalties are a part of the game, but I agree we had way too many, and I truly believe if we cut those penalties in half, the outcome of the game is way different. Some of the calls were questionable, but the penalties we had in crunch time with the game coming to a close, are inexcusable. We have to be more disciplined.
You, Cam Bariteau, and Mo Kamara have been relentless on the D-line, and overall, the defense’s performance over the past two weeks especially has been very good. This team is looking reminiscent of the Denver Broncos, where the defense is shining, but offense just hasn’t been able to do its part consistently. Does it put more pressure on you guys to be perfect game in and game out knowing the offensive firepower just isn’t there right now?
The other leaders on the D-line raised the standard of our group going back to the bye week. We were doing well, but well wasn’t good enough. We decided as the offense continues to find its identity and get better, we would pick up the slack. And all the guys have really bought in. Their work ethic week in and week out continues to get better even when I ask more of them. So, we put the pressure on ourselves because we know that pressure makes diamonds, and we are striving to get better every week.
Over 35,000 fans packed Canvas Stadium Saturday for the fourth-largest crowd in stadium history. What were your impressions of the Homecoming atmosphere?
It was crazy. I loved the environment. I saw a post that we were actually ranked as one of the best game day atmospheres that week and I am not surprised. We felt the energy for sure and we need that energy every game. Even some of the opponents from last week spoke about how it was hard to play with all the fans energy. Playing in Canvas Stadium with a packed crowd is something you can’t really put into words. I wish we could’ve given the fans a win, but this week we will do everything in our power to make that happen.
Sitting at 1-5 overall and 1-1 in Mountain West play, hopes of bowl eligibility and a conference championship are becoming slim. How do you guys maintain your motivation and level of play that you’ve had over the past several weeks?
I don’t see things as slim. We still have six games ahead of us to play our ball. We still have the same motivation as the beginning of the season to compete for a conference championship and that is what will continue to drive us through the rest of the season.
What can you tell us about your game plan to defend Hawaii and its run-pass-option-style offense and what do you expect from your team Saturday?
We plan to play how we’ve played the last two weeks. Based on film, we see a lot of opportunity in our pass rush plan. They have good running backs that we have to shut down in order to make them one dimensional. The QB isn’t a runner, so we believe we can get after him and disrupt the pass game.
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.