Everything seemed to roll the Colorado State Rams’ way on Saturday, the kickoff to their 2015 season, as they dominated Savannah State 65-13 to win. That phenomenal play included the performance from redshirt sophomore Nick Stevens and his five touchdown passes.
It was Stevens’ first start at quarterback and Mike Bobo’s first head coaching opportunity; the two worked well together to create outstanding offense.
On the Rams initial drive of the day, it was an all-out passing attack, and Stevens competed 4-5 including the nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kivon Cartwright for the 14-0 lead. The CSU defense had already scored on a fumble, this only helped their momentum. Not even being taken out to give Coleman Key a series could disrupt Stevens’ rhythm as he went in one drive later and led the team to a score.
“We came in and told us that was going to happen,” Stevens said of his competition Key getting into the game. “I was glad to see him come in and do so well, throw that touchdown pass…I didn’t take it as ‘He’s going to play the rest of the game.’ I knew he was going to get that drive. It was good we were able to get him in for as long as we did today.”
To begin the second quarter, Stevens drove his team in two plays, which was capped by a pass with tremendous touch which led Rashard Higgins into the end zone as it floated into this hands. Colorado State led 31-0.
Later in the second quarter, Stevens dropped back and uncorked a beautiful ball which hit Xavier Williams in stride as he streaked up the sideline, a 35-yard touchdown to widen the lead to 38-0. Just before halftime, the quarterback connected with running back Jasen Oden Jr. on a button hook in the middle of the defense for the 45-7 lead.
It was all Colorado State and all Stevens to start the game.
That trend continued, as at the start the second half, the young quarterback completed a screen to Higgins before connecting with Joe Hansley on a slant for a fifth touchdown pass of the day, widening the lead to 51-7.
Stevens did everything a coach could want in the game. He led the offense by getting them in and out of plays quickly, bringing them to the offense in a hurry to keep that up-tempo attack. Stevens showed off all the different throws he can make, from quick slants and outside routes to the fade and even connecting with Williams on the go route up the sideline.
“I just wanted to come out and do what I could,” Stevens said after the game. “I thought it went well for the first game. I obviously made some mistakes, have some things to improve on for next week. But, I think it went really well.”
He finished the game 20-28 for 289 yards and five touchdowns. Five touchdown passes? Yeah, that’s a superb first start for any quarterback to enjoy, let alone in a first start.
“I think I came into it a lot less nervous than I thought I was going to be,” he said. “I think we did a really good job coming out fast and that really took the nerves off.”
“Nick was Nick,” senior receiver Joe Hansley said of his quarterback. “He’s a calm dude. He’s cool, he’s collected. You can never tell if he’s nervous, scared, whatever. He held his own and did his job. He really managed us in the huddle.”
And coach Bobo was impressed with the quarterback’s play, too.
“I can’t say enough about Nick Stevens,” Bobo said post-game. “He kind of had a couple shaky practices the last week and a half. I thought he was pressing too much. But he came out in warm ups, he was throwing the ball great. He was very decisive on his play. When he cut it loose he had some mustard on the ball…I thought he was confident, knew where to go and delivered the ball. That was good to see. And hopefully it gets him some confidence.
“I talked to Nick a lot about believing in himself,” Bobo continued. “Believing in your ability. He’s like, ‘I feel good, my teammates are going to be there for me, they’ve got my back.’ And I said, ‘Well, I believe in you. I want you to go out there and play like you belong.’ I thought he did. And that’s going to do nothing but help his confidence. He’s still young and there’s going to be some mistakes that he’s going to make down the road but I think this right here is going to give him something to draw on.”
This may have only been his first start – and against an opponent in Savannah State who’d lost their last 21 straight games – but it was nearly flawless and a great game for Stevens to build confidence from.