FORT COLLINS It took a devastating injury to the starter and an unexpected infraction by his backup for third-string sophomore Nordly Capi to earn a starting job for the Colorado State Rams.
An NCAA single-game record four forced fumbles in the Rams season-opening win at New Mexico didnt hurt, either.
The defensive end from Ocoee, Fla., was one of 10 defensive linemen who rotated into the game for the Rams last weekend after starter Broderick Sargent tore an ACL against the Lobos in Albuquerque.
Capi, whose first name means strength in Haitian, was whistled for a personal foul after a late hit on the quarterback before bouncing back to record 3½ sacks and force four fumbles, something that never had been done in a Football Bowl Subdivision game before.
It was completely unexpected, Capi said of his performance, in which he salvaged the Rams 14-10 win with a sack, strip and fumble recovery in the final 23 seconds with the Lobos at the Rams 15.
To put his four forced fumbles into perspective, consider this: teammate Mychal Sisson led the nation last year with seven forced fumbles over an entire season.
Its not like I didnt know he could do those types of things, but to do it that consistently, to make that many big plays, is unique, defensive coordinator Larry Kerr said.
On Monday, though, Capi still found himself on the second string with coach Steve Fairchild suggesting he needed to work on his run defense to get more playing time.
Within 48 hours, however, Capi was promoted to starter after C.J. James was demoted for what the Rams called internal disciplinary reasons.
So, Capi, whose nickname is Cap, will get the start Saturday against Northern Colorado that the Rams were initially hesitant to bestow upon him.
Nordly is a work in progress, Kerr said Monday. Nordly did some very good things in the passing game and played a very good game for us. He still has some areas he needs to improve.
After all, one game does not make greatness. Fairchild remembers a time when he was on the staff at San Diego State and Marshall Faulk had a huge game but didnt scale the depth chart for good until he had done it again and again.
I would love to say hes made that big step, Kerr said of Capi. Id say hes still moving in that direction, and its been very positive. But lets see what he does this week.
Nordly is a very confident kid. He knows hes got some talent. Its still putting that whole package together, Kerr said. He made some huge strides this past week. And Id love to see him build on that. Lets see what happens the next couple of weeks to see if he continues those things.
Capi said he has a lot more confidence after what he did in the opener, but he wont be bothered if hes in and out of the game a lot as the Rams continue rotating defensive linemen.
I love the rotation. I love it because most teams, when those teams get those 60-yard drives, you are looking to the sideline, tapping your head and saying, Somebody get me, Capi said.
Instead, he was fresh at the end of the game against New Mexico when he salvaged the Rams first road win in more than two years.
I definitely felt a lot fresher. My legs were fresh. I wasnt winded, Capi said. Look back, because we had 86 defensive plays. If anybody would play that many, their legs would be killing at the end of the game.
Now that Capi no longer is a secret, quarterbacks and offensive coordinators surely will know whenever hes in the game. He said hes ready to take on that challenge like he takes on offensive tackles.
It motivates me because I know once you do something like that, somebody is going to respect you, Capi said.