By Ryan Mayer

(CBS4)- Last week was a false start for the Steve Addazio era at Colorado State, their game against New Mexico got canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. For a team looking to start a new era under a new head coach, it’s been far from an ideal offseason. But, coming off a 4-8 season, there are some pieces to like for the Rams.

“If Patrick O’Brien is the quarterback… I had a chance to see him a couple of those games last year, I mean he’s a big kid, big strong arm. I really liked him,” said CBS Sports college football analyst Aaron Murray in an interview with CBS Local’s Ryan Mayer. “He could make all the throws. You watch him on the field and the ball looks like a Nerf ball in his hands. The dude could absolutely go out there and rip it.”

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O’Brien, entering his redshirt senior year, is one of the two options at quarterback for the Rams this season. The other, Todd Centeio, a transfer from Temple, offers a different style from O’Brien, more effective in the read option game. Whichever quarterback starts, they have a solid security blanket in tight end Trey McBride.

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“Trey McBride…is just an absolute freak out there. He is super talented and he’s tough. I mean tough as nails,” said Murray. “That kid will go over the middle against safeties and linebackers and just get hit and come back up and then we’re going to do it all over again.”

McBride could certainly find some open space on Thursday night against a Fresno State team that gave up 229 yards  through the air to Hawai’i in its opener last week. The passing offense should have some room to work.

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But, there’s an even bigger potential opportunity in the running game as the Bulldogs allowed over 300 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground against the Rainbow Warriors. While top running back Marvin Kinsey graduated, Marcus McElroy is back and the team added three-star freshman Kyjuan Herndon in its latest recruiting class.

But, overall, the biggest thing Murray is hoping to see from the Rams on Thursday night is the ability to take care of the fundamentals. This season has seen plenty of team’s struggle in their opener as the lack of a normal offseason and typical practices has shown up in games.

“The goal for them is going to be, can they play clean football,” said Murray. “Can they just take care of it? Can they do the little things right? That’s the number one thing I’m looking for for all teams this year in their first game is just do the little things right. The fundamentals, block, tackle and don’t turn the ball over.”

The Rams enter Thursday night’s tilt as 1.5 point favorites in Addazio’s first game. After Fresno, the schedule gets more difficult with Wyoming and Boise State in back-to-back weeks. In the first year under a new coaching regime, Murray sees getting to .500, or in this case getting to three or four wins in their abbreviated seven game schedule a success.

“I think if you’re able to get to the 50-50, .500 mark that’s always a successful season. Especially the first year head coach and all the craziness that’s going on and this is a tough division and this is a tough conference,” said Murray.

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The Rams open their season against Fresno State on Thursday, October 29 at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time on CBS Sports Network.

Ryan Mayer