When Coach McElwain addressed the media on Wednesday, he explained that there is a certain way a university can build a successful football program. When he spoke, it was hard to not think about the Steve Fairchild days when he said, “When you take shortcuts sometimes, there might be early results, but in the end that foundation crumbles.”
Jim McElwain understands that this process is going to take time and when he has to start off with players brought here by Fairchild, his foundation will dry slowly. But that is what is so great about camp. You can evaluate and assess your problems and hopefully turn those potential losses into some form of profit.
When looking at last season’s stats of the Mountain West Conference, there seems to be a correlation between leaders in statistical categories and team success. It’s no surprise that programs like Boise State and Fresno State seem to repeatedly find themselves and their players at the top of each category.
Last season, Colorado State came in first in only two areas: Punts per game and punt yardage. If you were to skim through the list and look for player consistency, punter Pete Kontodiakos looks like he should have been the Rams season MVP.
Kontodiakos can thank last years struggling offense for all the opportunities to showcase his skills. The Rams had to face 155 third-downs last season and when the play was done, only 54 times did it end up in a first down. A meager 34% isn’t going to win you a conference or get you an invite to even a fake bowl game.
While Kontodiakos would stretch for his next punt, there were times he was able to stop and go back to his usual spot on the bench. This was mainly due to the fact that the ball was landing in the wrong hands. The Rams’ quarterbacks averaged 1.3 interceptions a game, and were often the main reason why the Rams led the conference with 64 yards of penalties a game. The answer for last season’s 4-8 record may lie within these problem.
At the local media day, Coach McElwain made it a point that taking care of the ball will be a top priority in camp. “Obviously, offensively the priority is learning to take care of the football, and understanding what each snap and each possession means.”
McElwain reaffirmed the team’s adage, “One town, One team, One dream” at his press conference. For the team to achieve that dream, they must first take care of the ball on a consistent basis. The team and coach seem to be taking this challenge to heart and that is the first sign of a strong program. But, saying problems will be fixed is different than actually performing the task at hand. If the theme from last year continues, then freshman punter Hayden Hunt better start stretching.