C.J.’s Endpoints: “Aloha” to 2-1 in MW play

C.J. Onyechi - C.J.'s Endpoints - RamNation.comEach 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.

Congrats on the second win of the season! Who has better dance moves, you or Coach Norvell?

Coach Norvell by far. Coach was bringing out the moves I hadn’t even seen before. He even hit the “Griddy.” That moment will live in my head forever. We are going to do everything in our power to have more moments like that this season!

This game could have gotten away from you guys with the offense struggling in the first half. But the defense held Hawaii to a couple field goal attempts rather than touchdowns, allowing the Rams to hang around. You gave up 13 points in the first half, but as a defense said you didn’t want to allow a single point in the second half. And then you shut them out, allowing only 38 yards in the half. Tell us about that halftime chat and what was the turning point in the game for the defense?

As soon as we got into the locker room at half time, we were all talking strategy. Although we only let up 13 points, if we hadn’t messed up on a couple plays, they never should have scored. We made corrections and talked about all the things the were showing us out there. Finally, Coach Freddie Banks gave us a riveting speech that gave us the confidence to go out there and shut them out.

Looking strictly at defensive statistics, there weren’t any standout performances. There were no sacks and just two QB hurries. There were only three tackles for loss and one forced turnover. So, what made the defense so special in this game and able to completely stymy Hawaii?

Though there were no spectacular performances, our defense played a great game. We only let up 13 points and completely shut them out in the second half. For the defense we were running, the ball was coming out fast, which limited our pass rush, but we definitely affected the QB. Our back seven did their thing and forced Hawaii into third-and-long situations and allowed us to play our ball and force them to make incompletions. So, although there was no star of the day, the defense played together and showed what I believe was one of our best defensive performances.

You’ve talked about how the O-line has been improving when you face them in practice. They allowed zero sacks against Hawaii and have been opening up the running game. What’s been the difference with that group?

Those guys have really stepped their game up. Coach Bill Best challenged them in the bye week to turn things around, and they have done that tenfold. Even through various injuries, they’ve stepped up and now are finally playing as a unit. Their progress in the run game has opened the offense up so much and they get better every week. I think the difference is just their trust in each other and having the right guys in the right positions.

CSU has allowed less than 15 points per game in three Mountain West games, showing it is a top defense in the league. But there are some good teams coming up on the schedule, including a game at Boise State this week – a team that CSU has never beat. What are some keys for the defense this week after watching film of Boise State?  

Shutting down their QB run game has been a huge emphasis for us. Number 10 (redshirt freshman quarterback Taylen Green) is one of the more dynamic quarterbacks we will have played against when he’s running the ball. Our goal is to shut down the run game and force him to throw. They’ve generated a lot of offensive yards running the ball, so making them one-dimensional will force them to do things they aren’t as successful at. We feel like this game is going to come down to who plays the better defense, and with our plan, I am very confident.

You’ve maintained each and every week that the season is not over and that you still have big, attainable goals ahead of you. We’re seeing a team the past few weeks that is believing that. Do you feel a shift in this team, gaining confidence and momentum?

Yes. Every week this team is getting better. We are trusting in our talent, in the coaching and in our team. The biggest thing we aren’t doing is panicking. We all have personal goals and team goals, but I think instead of mainly focusing on those goals we are taking everything day by day and focusing on the little things to be successful. If we keep doing that we will like the results at the end of each week and at the end of the season.

Coach Norvell was quoted after the game saying: “We have a really supportive team. Guys are really fighting for each other. I’m really proud of their growth the last three weeks.”
Dequan Jackson added: “Seems like it’s getting a little smaller, but it’s getting more competitive. We’re coming together, That’s what it’s all about. Not everybody that started with us will finish with us. But as long as we keep growing together, all we need is in that locker room.” You’ve made comments here about the strengthening of the locker room…it seems you all grow together with each week. What is it like being with this group of teammates?

It is crazy to say that we are gaining confidence as a team despite the team getting smaller every week. Even so, the team is as strong and supportive as I’ve ever seen it. On the other teams I’ve been a part of around this time of the season, guys are checking out, getting tired of the process, complaining about the cold, etc. But our guys look more motivated than ever. We have everything still in front of us and I truly believe the guys that have stayed are going to do their best to achieve the goals we set in the beginning of the year.

Were the State Pride unis as fire as you thought they’d be?

100%. By far my favorite uniforms. And I love them even more since we got the W in them. They were actually ranked #2 in best uniforms in all college football from this past week, and we honestly should’ve been #1. Hopefully, they’ll let us keep those jerseys after the season.

Tell us in your mind why you guys can beat Boise State.

I feel we just want it more. We are major underdogs in this game and you can tell that our team felt some type of way about that. We want to prove the doubters wrong. We want this to be the first CSU team to beat Boise State. Also, this game decides the leader of our division so we are taking this game very seriously and personal. This is the most locked in I’ve seen our team this season and I can’t wait to see us let it fly this Saturday.

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

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