NCF Nation: Grant Stucker

Posted by’s Graham Watson

Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild wouldn’t call Saturday’s game against UNLV a must-win, even though both teams need a win to keep slim hopes for bowl eligibility alive.

The Rams and the Rebels are both 3-6 and hoping to salvage their seasons.

“One game’s not defining anything,” Fairchild said. “We’re more interested in how we operate around here in practice and attitude and work ethic and those types of things. More of the process. The results will take care of themselves.”

The results haven’t been there for Colorado State. After a strong start, which included a season-opening win against rival Colorado, the Rams have lost their last six, including all five of their Mountain West Conference games.

The offense, which was firing on all cylinders early in the season, has sputtered of late and Fairchild even used two quarterbacks in last week’s loss to Air Force in an attempt to find a spark.

Fairchild said on the Mountain West teleconference this week that fifth-year senor Grant Stucker, who has started every game this season, would continue to be the starter, but that Jon Eastman might see some time depending on how the game goes.

Since losing close games to Idaho and Utah at the beginning of October, Colorado State hasn’t been real competitive. The Rams have lost by an average of 23.3 points in their past three games. However, Fairchild said the team hasn’t strayed in practice. The work ethic is still there as is the drive to turn the season around.

“We’ve had good attitudes, we’ve had good work ethic and tempo at practice,” Fairchild said. “We’re just not making enough plays right now. We’re not consistent enough. Again, if we maintain what we’re doing on the practice field, I’m confident that we’re going to push through this.”
Posted by’s Graham Watson

Colorado Sate coach Steve Fairchild said he’s not opposed to re-opening the quarterback competition this week leading up to Saturday’s game against UNLV, the Fort Collins Coloradoan is reporting.

Fifth-year senior Grant Stucker has started all of the Rams nine games this season, but after starting the year 3-0, they’ve lost the last six, including five straight in Mountain West Conference play.

Against Air Force last weekend, the Colorado State passing game managed just 87 yards -- 49 from Stucker and 38 from backup Jon Eastman -- and were a combined 7 of 19 with an interception. It was the lowest passing output since Bradlee Van Pelt and Justin Holland combined for 50 yards in a 17-3 Liberty Bowl loss to TCU in 2002.

During the first six games of the season, the passing game appeared to be one of the stronger suits of the offense. It was averaging 262 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. But during the past four games, the Rams are averaging just 147 passing yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions and haven’t thrown for more than 205 yards in any game this season.

"I've got to stay positive and take that as a challenge to say that not only does the team have to step up, I have to step up and start doing whatever I can to be able to step up the level of intensity or whatever he's looking for in the passing game," Stucker told the paper.

The Rams can still gain bowl eligibility if they win out and the schedule is favorable. This week they face a UNLV team that has lost five of its last six, and the final two games are against a winless New Mexico squad and a Wyoming team that has struggled of late against conference opponents.

Posted by’s Graham Watson

Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild hasn’t held anything back when it’s come to his quarterbacks. He’s called everything from awful to embarrassing and each day they’ve fought through the criticism and stuck with the team.

The ultimate example of that fight is fifth-year senior Grant Stucker, who made his first start against Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on Sunday and came away with an improbable 23-17 victory, the Rams' first victory at Folsom Field in 23 years.
 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
 Grant Stucker threw for 208 yards and a touchdown Sunday against Colorado.

“We’ve been hard on Grant and I’ll say this in Grant’s defense: Every time I’ve jumped down his throat the guy’s responded,” Fairchild said. “Like anything in life, if you just keep working, then you’ve got a chance. And he’s going to get better as the year goes on. I’m proud of him.”

Stucker completed 10 of 17 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. He led the Rams to scores on three of their first four drives and for the most part he managed Fairchild’s game plan excellently.

It was a moment Stucker had been dreaming about since he last visited Folsom Field during his freshman season. That year, the Rams gave up a 21-10 fourth-quarter lead and lost 31-28 on a last-second field goal.

“That’s stuck with me for 4 1/2 years and I wanted to be able to come back here and get that one back,” Stucker said. “Obviously, you want to be more experienced. You want to have a lot more starts, a lot more collegiate snaps. But one thing that has really taught me has been just being patient. It humbled me to be able to come out here, wait 4 1/2 years to make this first start and I couldn’t be happier. I know this is exactly where I need to be.”

Stucker said he had many opportunities to walk away from Colorado State. Last year, he was in a tight preseason battle for the starting spot with Billy Farris and lost. His play regressed and he fell behind freshman Klay Kubiak.

This season, the Rams brought in a junior college quarterback and a freshman to challenge for the starting role that many thought would belong to Kubiak. But offseason shoulder surgery hampered Kubiak's fall camp and Stucker and junior college transfer Jon Eastman duked it out. Prior to the final week of camp, Eastman suffered a broken finger on his nonthrowing hand that required surgery. That’s when Stucker took over the starting role.

“You got to look at it and say 50 years down the road, ‘Do you think you could have stuck it out?’ Regardless if you get the start or not,” Stucker said. “It’s something that I didn’t want to have regret. To be able to wait this long. I’m very happy that I was able to have the patience. I’ve had unbelievable support from my family and I just have to thank God to have that ability to have that patience.”

Fairchild loosened up on his criticisms of his quarterback as the season opener crept closer. He even said he was pleased with Stucker’s progress. But he never could have imagined that Stucker would lead the Rams to just their second win over the Buffaloes in the past seven tries.

“Expectations are hard to say in football,” Stucker said. “[Beating Colorado] is definitely something that I dreamed it could be. It’s something that this whole team has been working for since last January. It’s something that we committed to in the summer with 100 guys in voluntary workouts. When you’ve got all those guys with that same vision we can only go up.”

Posted by’s Graham Watson

BOULDER, Colo. -- As Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild walked off Folsom Field on the University of Colorado campus, fans came storming toward him, arms outstretched.

There were handshakes and hugs all in congratulations for a 23-17 win over rival Colorado, the first Colorado State win in Boulder in 23 years.

“I can’t say enough about [defensive coordinator] Larry Kerr and our defensive staff and the way our defense played because we held up against the run pretty damn good and got them out of there on third down,” Fairchild said. “I kind of dialed it up for our offense tonight. We made enough plays offensively. It was difficult balancing some of the time in there with [running back] Leonard Mason, his first game, and [quarterback] Grant Stucker, his first game, and to win a game like this you’ve got to take a couple chances. You’ve got to air it out a little bit. We made enough plays to win it and I can’t say enough about our defense.”

In the first half, the Colorado State defense held Colorado to just 63 yards of total offense. It picked off Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins and held the Buffaloes to no third-down conversions on six tries. Overall, the Colorado State defense held Colorado's corps of highly recruited running backs to just 29 yards.

The defense allowed Stucker and Mason to get into a rhythm. During the Rams’ first series, Stucker threw a 57-yard bomb to receiver Dion Morton to set up the Rams’ first score. Stucker led the Rams to scores on three of their first four possessions.

Stucker would throw two more deep passes -- 43 and 45 yards -- during the course of the game to set up scores.

“I think it helped his confidence,” Fairchild said of Stucker’s first drive. “We gave him a throw on first down just to kind of show him that we trust him. He’s going to have to play. We’re always going to have to be balanced here. He did a nice job.”

Stucker completed 10 of 17 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Mason had 23 carries for 107 yards and three catches for 20 yards.

But the night belonged to a Colorado State defense that sacked Hawkins four times. Last season, Colorado State ranked last in the nation in sacks with nine.

Colorado’s leading rusher, Rodney Stewart, had 38 yards, and highly touted running back Darrell Scott, who was supposed to be a part of a three-headed power rushing attack with Stewart and Demetrius Sumler, had one carry for 1 yard and it came on the first play of the game.

Colorado State’s win gave the Mountain West Conference a 6-2 start to the season, including a 2-1 record against teams from automatic qualifying conferences. All of those games were against the Big 12.

In Colorado State’s win against Colorado and No. 20 BYU’s win against No. 3 Oklahoma, the teams from the Mountain West were underdogs.

Posted by's Graham Watson

After months of auditioning, fifth-year senior Grant Stucker has earned the starting quarterback job at Colorado State.

Coach Steve Fairchild announced Friday that Stucker, who has played in five games the past three seasons, would start the opener against Colorado this Sunday. Fairchild said he'd also like to see junior college transfer Jon Eastman play.

"[Stucker] just played a little more consistently down the stretch here," Fairchild told the media this weekend. "Since last Saturday, I've kind of been pleased with the direction he's headed."

Stucker is 3-for-5 for 22 yards in his career. Last season, he battled Billy Farris for the starting role and narrowly lost. He eventually slipped to third on the depth chart.

Heading into this season, sophomore Klay Kubiak seemed to have the inside track after backing up Farris, but Kubiak had offseason shoulder surgery, missed the spring, and hasn't been able to participate much this fall.

Stucker has taken advantage of the injuries. Last weekend, he started to take control of the starting role after Eastman was sidelined with a broken finger on his non-throwing hand.

"I think it was a spirited battle, and I'm sure we'll need Jon before long," Fairchild said. "Grant's played pretty good here for a week, so I think he's earned the right to be the starter."
Posted by's Graham Watson

Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild has never been shy when it comes to his quarterbacks, especially during the past six months as he struggles to find a replacement for Billy Farris.

In the spring, Fairchild called his quarterbacks "awful" and "embarrassing" after the team's spring game. Earlier this week, Fairchild explained his expectations to the Fort Collin Coloradoan:

"All they've got to do is put together just an average practice or two in a row, and they'll be the starter, but nobody's done that."

Grant Stucker and Jon Eastman seem to be the frontrunners with Klay Kubiak (shoulder) and Nico Ranieri (hernia) limited because of injuries. Fairchild also asked walk-on transfer M.J. McPeek to join the team for the rest of camp. McPeek was a preferred walk-on last fall at Kansas State, but redshirted before transferring to Colorado State. Per NCAA transfer rules he won't be able to participate this season. Initially, Fairchild didn't want to use a spot on the 105-man roster for him. But with Kubiak and Ranieri limited, he needed another arm.

At the Mountain West's Front Range Kickoff Luncheon in Denver on Thursday, Fairchild was asked if he might be sandbagging a little bit in regards to his quarterbacks since a rivalry game against Colorado loomed as the season opener.

"Please tell [Colorado coach Dan Hawkins] I'm not," Fairchild said. "It's the truth. I mean that sincerely.

"We do hold the bar high [at quarterback]. There's no question. That's the only way I know how to do it at that spot. I expect better play than what we're getting. I'm not going to sugarcoat it for those guys. Somebody's going to rise up eventually."

It's been rare that Fairchild has been complimentary to his quarterbacks, but he did say that it was too bad Kubiak was missing fall camp because he really wanted to see him compete. Kubiak missed all of spring football with shoulder surgery and is still feeling the effects of that injury.

With two weeks remaining before the season opener against Colorado, the Rams are in a similar position as they were a year ago. The only difference is that Fairchild said he could see Farris begin to separate himself from the pack this time last year. This year, the separation is a little more difficult to pick out.

"I think Billy about this time in camp last year started to kind of get into his groove," Fairchild said. "And he wasn't perfect, but you could see that guy, he's going to be our guy. And I'm still waiting on one of these guys."

Posted by's Graham Watson

Lots of links over the weekend and I've compiled all of them in one place for your reading enjoyment.

• New Middle Tennessee offensive coordinator Tony Franklin had a lot to say about his former employer, Auburn.

• Akron athletic director Mack Rhoades is a finalist for the Houston athletic director job.

• Utah linebacker Maurice Neal pleaded not guilty to two counts of simple assault and another for failing to stop at the command of an officer.

• BYU got a commitment from top quarterback Jake Heaps last week, but Deseret News reporter Mike Sorensen writes that it's too early for BYU fans to celebrate.

• The Tulsa World has a couple of good stories about the advancement of the WAC and Conference USA's take on BCS equality.

• Utah is one of the most aggressive schools in censoring information pertaining to its athletes.

• Tulane and some other Conference USA recruiting notes.

• Colorado and Colorado State are thinking about extending their football series another 10 years.

• East Carolina coach Skip Holtz has settled in nicely after leaving South Carolina five years ago.

• Colorado State quarterback Grant Stucker is honing his skills at player-led workouts this spring and summer.

• East Carolina athletics is on the rise thanks to athletic director Terry Holland.