What if I told you Colorado State football simply peaked too early?
On Saturday night on Sonny Lubick’s Field at the on-campus stadium, everyone finally saw the Rams football team which was expected by many fans as well as players from within the locker room, to win the Mountain West Championship.
Pregame, the fanfare was at a fanatical level. CSU donned their “State Pride” jerseys for the first time ever, a national, viral sensation since they were announced in September. There was a special hype video, a dazzling light display at the new stadium and the team rode all that momentum to jump out to a 7-0 lead over the Boise State Broncos, a team the Rams had never beaten.
In a continuation of that momentum, the defense held Boise to a field goal and then the offense put up three straight touchdowns to lead 28-3. Everything was flipped on its head; not only had CSU never beaten the Broncos in seven attempts, the Rams had been blown out repeatedly by Boise.
On this night, everything – even Nick Stevens’ pick-6 which was called back due to a penalty – was going right for the Rams. They weren’t going to lose this game, they couldn’t.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the story ends.
Boise scored four of the game’s next five touchdowns, including one in a last-second drive before the half and then two quickly out of the break, and trailed only by four, 35-31, with 12:01 left in the third quarter. The teams traded scores before Colorado State settled for a 19-yard field goal and then, after Jordan Fogal secured an interception off Brett Rypien of Boise, Rashaad Boddie rumbled into the end zone for the 52-38 lead with only 3:02 remaining in regulation.
This game, certainly, would be won by the Rams.
Not so fast.
Boise put yet another touchdown on the board when Rypien hit Sean Modster from 13 yards out, then, the Broncos executed the perfect onside kick, bouncing it high and into one of their players’ arms. It only took another 44 seconds to tie the game up at 52-52.
Boise, of course, scored to start overtime. CSU, which looked worn out, tired and broken, fumbled the ball on the Broncos three yard line, ending the game and simultaneously ending the Rams hopes of even competing in that Mountain West Championship game. At best, this team could now win eight games, and that’s if they find a way to win a bowl game.
The Rams peaked too early in the game, scoring in their first five drives, and then were shell-shocked by a Broncos team which knows how to put huge numbers in the books. To wit: Boise State totaled 641 yards of offense on Saturday, easily the worst defensive performance of the Rams season which has been marred by poor showings too many to note.
This loss to Boise – who’s now 7-0 all-time versus Colorado State – was not only heartbreaking for fans and players alike, it was a microcosm of the season.
Let’s rewind for a minute to earlier in the year.
CSU didn’t beat ‘Bama, they didn’t really come close, but the 23 points were the most scored on the reigning National Champions until this weekend, when Mississippi State scored 24. The Rams lost the game but they took away a ton of confidence.
Colorado State then blew out Hawaii 51-21.
In the next week, CSU was still rolling, playing their best football of the year at Utah State. In the first half in Logan, Utah, the Rams were like an unstoppable force; they scored 24 unanswered while the defense forced four straight three-and-outs. This, my friends, was championship-level football.
Then, something interesting happened. Up 24-7 at halftime, Mike Bobo let of the gas and the team coasted to victory by running the ball relentlessly and repeatedly punting it away or turning it over on downs.
Right then and there, the Rams needed killer instinct, they needed to assert their will and, most importantly, needed to keep momentum going. Instead, Utah State scored near the end of the game, and all that momentum for Colorado State vanished into thin air.
CSU was 4-2 at that point, but they never looked as dominant in the next four games.
The Rams had to come back to beat Nevada narrowly, a game that should have not been so close, and then barely squeaked out a win against New Mexico. Currently, those teams possess a combined record of 5-15; Colorado State should have walked all over each of them.
And when the Rams didn’t, it spelled trouble.
Then Air Force blew CSU out at home in embarrassing fashion before the Rams lost on the road in driving snow to the hated rival Wyoming Cowboys. At 6-4, their Mountain West Championship hopes were severely dashed, but not yet decided. A victory over Boise State would have kept the Rams in the running, and maybe gotten the team back on track, too.
Instead, the Rams peaked too early Saturday night and then allowed the Broncos to come back for the devastating loss. Just like Colorado State peaked too early in the season, losing needed momentum when they sleepwalked to victory against Utah State.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Your actions become your habits.” That much is true for CSU.
At 6-5, Colorado State is still guaranteed a bowl game and they should easily defeat San Jose State next Saturday, but what “what ifs” will be surrounding this team all offseason long.