C.J.’s Endpoints: Goal is to leave this program in better place

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.


First, I just want to pass along our respect and appreciation for what you and your defensive unit brought Saturday night. You said last week that your guys would be “ready for war” and you certainly guys brought it defensively. The team has a “24-hour rule” where you have 24 hours to enjoy a win or mourn a loss. But I imagine this one lingered for a bit longer. Can you explain how you were feeling after this loss?

This game crushed me, I’m not going to lie. This probably hurt as much, if not more, that my high school team losing in the playoffs my senior year. The biggest reason was because we basically handed them the game. The hardest part was being able to cope with the loss and move on because we have just as big of a game coming up this week, and as a leader I want my team to known that we still have a lot to play for these next two games.

Wyoming has now beaten CSU six of the last seven matchups. Did you see or hear about Wyoming players dancing on our logo with the Bronze Boot after the game and chanting “It sucks to be a CSU Ram”? You won’t be here next year, but do you imagine that will fuel the team’s fire for next year’s Border War?  

100%. I definitely tried to stay of social media after that game just because I figured there would be videos and words of reporters and fans that would’ve set me ablaze. I think the fact that we know we gave them the game is fuel enough. Next year we will be way more confident going in knowing that if we play to the ability we know we can, it shouldn’t be a close game. In my opinion, there is always a game in a team’s history where the team changed and made a decision to do everything to win, I think it was this past game.

What were Coach Norvell’s comments to your team after the game?

Of course he said that he loves our team win or lose like he does every game. He apologized to the seniors and was very upset that he wasn’t able to give us the opportunity of winning the trophy. He assured us that we are getting better and we are only one step away.

By the numbers, CSU outplayed Wyoming in this game. 372 yards to Wyoming’s 236. You had a sack – one of five the defense had in the game. And, the defense only gave up 141 yards rushing to an offense that has had much greater success on the ground against other league opponents in recent weeks. That being said, where were some of the missed opportunities by the Rams in the game in your eyes?

We failed to capitalize on our takeaways. We have to learn how big momentum is in a game like that one. In order to win tough games we must capitalize on the opponents mistakes and take control of the game.

Wyoming’s starting QB Andrew Peasley left the game early with a possible concussion, forcing redshirt sophomore Jayden Clemons into the game – a guy who had only two pass attempts this season. He completed 7 of 11 passes, including the game-winning touchdown, as well as rushed five times for 32 yards and Wyoming’s other touchdown.

  • Why was he able to have success?

He was just the better guy in my opinion. A lot of times a back up can be better than a starter but doesn’t play because seniority, eligibility, etc. With him in the game they went away from what they usually do, so it took us some time to adjust. But once we did, he didn’t do much else that we couldn’t handle.

  • CSU has struggled to stop backup quarterbacks twice this year (Utah State fourth-string QB Bishop Davenport also led his team to a victory over the Rams a month ago.) And Sacramento State used a two-quarterback rotation that had tremendous success. Is there something different/difficult in defending a QB you maybe didn’t plan for?

Some quarterbacks have different attributes that must be accounted for in order to make a game plan against them. On a defensive line level, a mobile quarter back vs a quarterback who stays in the pocket can drastically change assignments, play calling, and even the tackle plan. It’s especially hard when there isn’t a lot of film reps to judge the backup quarterbacks, which happened in most of those games.

With some better offensive play, and a few key plays here and there, the Rams could have five Mountain West wins so far this year, but instead, with two games remaining sit at 2-8 overall and 2-4 in league play. Do you ever take time to reflect on what could have been this season? Or do you just turn your attention to the next task at hand?

Never. I always focus on the moment and try to get better. Yes, we let some games get away from us but if you look at how far we’ve come this season, you can look back and feel positive about the future. The CSU Rams are bigger than just this 2023 season. The goal is to leave this program in a better place than we found it, and I believe we are in that process.

You put a lot of time, preparation, and emotional investment into the Border War. But there’s no time for a letdown, considering another rival is up next Saturday night – vs. 7-3 Air Force. How do you regroup as a team and make sure to bring your ‘A’ game in pursuit of the Ram-Falcon Trophy?

I think the trophy is enough motivation. This game, like the last game was, is played to honor where we are from. This game is huge to us because we are basically playing for bragging rights of Colorado for a whole year. I think our team is hungrier than ever to prove CSU is nothing to be taken lightly and nothing to be played with.

Facing an option team as nasty as Air Force can be, what are the keys to slowing them down?

Beating them up front is key this week. Every team who has beat them has held them to under 300 yards of offense and limited their run game. They have a lot of talent but they rely on their scheme and believe we won’t be able to stop it. If our D-line can cause havoc up front it will destroy their run game and make them have to do things they are not as comfortable doing.

 


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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