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It’s been a rough five years for the Colorado State University football program. Mike Bobo, the promising onetime offensive coordinator for the University of Georgia, had a few decent seasons in Fort Collins but failed to achieve winning records in 2018 and 2019 and left. Former Temple University and Boston College head coach Steve Addazio came in to replace Bobo, but his tenure was marred by the COVID-19-pandemic-shortened season and allegations of racism and verbal abuse. CSU fired Addazio in December 2021 after only winning four games in two seasons. The Rams needed new blood in the locker room in a bad way—and with Jay Norvell, they’ve got it.
Norvell comes to FoCo from Reno, where he led the University of Nevada Wolf Pack from 2017 to 2021. He posted a 3-9 record in his first season there but led winning campaigns in his final four years. Norvell brought Matt Mumme, now CSU’s associate head coach and quarterbacks coach, along with him when he left the Silver State, and Mumme says the atmosphere at summer camp has been positive. “We’re all new to each other for the most part,” Mumme says, “but we’re learning what we have and making decisions as we go.”
One decision that’s been made is that Norvell and Mumme will be bringing their version of the air raid offense to Sonny Lubick Field. “The [air raid] absolutely is a mindset…,” Norvell said on the Jim Rome Show in midsummer. “So many offensive coaches talk themselves out of throwing the ball deep…really a lot of times the guys who let the defense off the hook are the play callers. We don’t do that here. We want to take our shots. We have a saying: You can’t score if you don’t try. We want to throw the ball to the end zone as many times as we can.”
With big-armed redshirt freshman Clay Millen playing quarterback, Mumme thinks the Rams have an exciting season ahead of them. “Are we going to face challenges? Yes,” Mumme says. “But the players are excited to learn and build, and it’s fun to think about what we can do here in Fort Collins.”
At University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), September 3: The Rams head to the Big House for their season opener against the number-eight-ranked Wolverines. While the Colorado State University football team will be a serious underdog in the game, it may be closer than the experts think. “It definitely presents a challenge and an opportunity for us,” Mumme says. “Michigan lost a lot of talent on defense last year; they’ll have some new starters. Even with Clay being so young, I trust him with the offense. We need to weather the storm and try to keep it close enough to be successful in the fourth quarter.”
3 Players to Watch
Clay Millen, quarterback: A redshirt freshman who originally committed to the University of Nevada—and spent a year sitting behind Carson Strong in Reno—before making the move with his coaches to Fort Collins, Millen comes from a football family. His dad was a University of Washington Huskies standout who eventually backed up John Elway with the Denver Broncos. “I love this kid,” Mumme says. “He’s smart, has great presence, and has a really good arm. He’ll be throwing the ball down the field a long, long way.”
A’Jon Vivens, running back: This Denver kid is a redshirt senior who’s been a Ram his entire college career. Before that, though, he led Mullen High School to championships in 2016 and 2017. During his sophomore year at CSU, he moved from slot receiver to running back and proceeded to lead the Rams with 49 carries in only four games played that year. “He’s a great receiver out of the backfield,” Mumme says. “You’ll see him have a great year, I think.”
Tory Horton, wide receiver: A junior from Fresno, California, Horton also made the move from Reno to FoCo. He had two great years at Nevada, playing behind Romeo Doubs, who was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 2022 NFL Draft. In 21 games in two seasons at Nevada, Horton racked up 72 receptions for 995 yards and 10 touchdowns. Of note: He had four receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the final week of the regular season at CSU. “He’s just a really explosive receiver,” Mumme says. “He’s tall, he’s fast, he tracks the deep ball well. Plus, he’s a smart and savvy football player.”