Defensively, the Rams ranked just 66th nationally (out of 120 teams in FBS) in creating turnovers. Helping to keep that number low was the team's interception total -- just seven all season, with only 16 teams collecting fewer.
Offensively, the Rams gave the ball away 26 times, a number that ranked 88th in the nation. Equally as bad, the 15 interceptions Colorado State quarterbacks threw was a total only 20 teams surpassed.
Add it up, and it comes up to the Rams being in the red, giving up almost a turnover a game (0.88 to be exact) more than the opposition.
"Let's put it this way: You've got to win the turnover margin," McElwain said. "There is no, 'you've got to be positive.' Push is OK, but the positive is great teams. Break down your top 25. Occasionally there might be one of those teams who has one of those years, but inevitably, they control the turnover margin, and that's something obviously we've been preaching, especially at the quarterback position."
Colorado State has more than a desire to turn that around, but a definite need. It's a key component in who the offensive coaching staff decides will handle the ball all season.
"If you fumble the ball as a running back, if you throw interceptions as a quarterback, you are not going to play," offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin said. "Protecting the football on offense is our No. 1 rule.
The defense is far from immune to criticism, and the unit as a whole knows it. Collectively, they feel they have the playmakers on that side of the ball to create turnovers, even turn them into scores. The Rams had five different defenders score touchdowns last year, and linebacker Shaquil Barrett has three to his credit in the past two seasons.
It's why you'll see the Colorado State defenders working on drills to strip balls, scoop them up and also just try to catch the ball. There is a reason defensive backs are who they are, not wideouts.
"Which is why we invested in a new Jugs machine," McElwain said, noting the team counted 12 dropped interceptions in 2012.
Making practicing the art of thievery is high on the team's to-do list.
"It has to be, because when you're just so close to being that great, you have to worry about those turnover drills and being more effective on interceptions and pass breakups and strips, because those plays right there can make a third-and-8 change to a touchdown and leads to something great," safety Trent Matthews said. "I feel like we really have to harp on those little things."
Overall, Colorado State's defense was young, and in some cases where they weren't, were still a tad green on the experience meter. Co-defensive coordinator Marty English remembers a point in the Fresno State game last year when the coaching staff noticed they had eight freshmen on the field.
With age comes an ability to read certain situations and take advantage of them.
Co-defensive coordinator Al Simmons, who is also in charge of the secondary, believes the Rams are more capable this season to turn those into positives.
"I think the experience and maturity; we are already so far ahead of where we were a year ago," Simmons said. "We feel the addition of personnel that we can even help with the calls and being more aggressive in certain downs and distances. There are a lot of things that we can do together, coaches and players, that are going to help us in that area in terms of making plays. I still think that we have to execute and play disciplined, but we can make some calls that can make them force the issue a bit."