Colorado State football looks to slow down rushing attack from Nevada

FORT COLLINS — With good reason, Nevada’s offense has relied upon the capable arm of Ty Gangi this season and his collection of trusted wideouts.

The Wolf Pack has thrown more than it’s run the ball, because that’s what it does best. But in true freshman running back Toa Taua, Nevada had found a potent side dish for success.

The younger brother of Vai Taua, a former Pack standout who is now part of the football staff as the assistant director for player personnel/recruiting coordinator, he’s stepped into the family role quite well.

He’s rushed for 582 yards on the season, which isn’t a ton. But at 5-foot-10, 235 pounds, when he gets rolling down hill, he’s tough to stop.

Think human bowling ball. And if he gets rolling, it opens up that much more for Gangi and crew.

“They’re a spread team, but they’re not afraid to run the ball,” coach Mike Bobo said. “This young guy reminds me a little bit, maybe not as big, as (Dayton Furuta, 5-10, 250) for Hawaii. He’s a big back that we’re going to have to tackle, and we have not been great at tackling this year. I think that goes to getting more hats to the ball, keyed in to our keys for run or pass, then trigger and going to make the tackle.

“One guy cannot bring this guy down. He’s averaging (64.7) yards a game, close to 6 yards a carry (5.6). When they do run it, he’s had success, and I think it’s because they put so much pressure on you in the passing game.”

There isn’t a Nevada back who has had 20 carries in a game this season, though Taua has come closest with his 18 against Hawaii. He averaged 7 yards a carry that week, finishing with 126 yards, his second 100-yard effort of the season. His best was 170 in a win over Toledo, a total highlighted by his season-long run of 66 yards.

While San Diego State held him in check after a handoff, he proved capable out of the backfield with five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.

No, Nevada doesn’t run a lot, averaging just 149 yards a game on the ground, but CSU has made teams look good in that regard this year, allowing 297.6 yards per game, ranking 105th nationally.

The Rams put in some work on tackling in the bye week, and linebacker Tre Thomas knows Taua is a different type of load to attack.

“I mean, hit him low, hit him hard,” he said. “Low backs are always hard. Shorter backs are always hard to tackle. They have a low center of mass.”

CSU’s safeties in run support know the drill. When Jamal Hicks assess the situation, it was easy for him to figure out his plan of attack.

“Straight away is hard, but if I have an angle, it’s easy,” he said. “Straight away is hard. You’ve got to get the right angle. He’s 230. That’s a lot bigger than me.”

So, just like Bobo said, the more bodies available to grab hold, the better. The less a threat the run game is, the more the Rams can focus on what the Pack is really good at.

Gangi, who threw for 428 yards and four touchdowns last year as he nearly engineered a third-quarter takeover of a game the Rams eventually won 44-42, has dealt with an injured ankle this season, missing one start. He’s still thrown for 2,118 yards this season with 16 touchdowns, spreading the ball around in the offense.

Kaleb Fossum leads the team with 56 catches, but McLain Mannix is a threat with his 34 catches, six for touchdowns. He also leads the team with a 19.1 average per reception.

“When you play this team, you usually have to score some points offensively,” Bobo said.

Something the CSU defense is hoping to make an easier task.

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