CSU WANTS TO END SEASON WITH A WIN
boise, idaho» There is such a feel-good vibe to the end of the season.
Originally stunned by how poorly the season opener went, Colorado State felt equally jarred by opening the month of October with a loss to Border War rival Wyoming at home, a defeat that left the Rams 2-3 on the season and with plenty of questions.
The answers didn’t all come immediately, but progressively, until coach Mike Bobo felt that after the loss to Boise State a few weeks later, his roster had finally found a reason to believe that no matter the place or opponent, the team could win.
Which is exactly what he told them.
“We made a statement in that locker room — or I did — that we’re not losing again,” Bobo recalled of his message to the team after that loss to the Broncos.
They did lose once, to Air Force. But since then, it has been a pretty good ride for the Rams (7-5), landing them in Thursday’s Potato Bowl against Idaho (8-4).
With a defense that has learned to regroup (even posting the first shutout for the program since 1997), and an offense that has lit up the scoreboard at a pace of 47.4 points per outing in the past five games, CSU is a football team with a lot of confidence and feeling extremely good about where it is headed.
The Vandals, who won six of their final seven, also feel good. It’s also a program that will drop to the FCS level in 2018, having been informed by the Sun Belt Conference that its services will no longer be required.
The Rams do not want to do anything to put a damper on the feeling the team is carrying into this game, one the returning players expect to springboard them to greater things in 2017 as they open a new on-campus stadium.
It wouldn’t just be a loss to them, but a setback.
“I’d say so. The same kind of year last year,” tight end Nolan Peralta said. “We had a good winning streak going and kind of dropped off at the last game of the year. It was definitely disappointing, and we had to gather back together and realize what we could have done to get better. This year we definitely want to finish the year strong with a win and get this thing going in the right direction.”
Idaho carries concerns about the Rams’ offense heading into the game, and coach Paul Petrino has said often he’s a fan of what he referred to as a “true offense.” He has deciphered two goals for the Rams: run the ball and throw it to Michael Gallup. He added that CSU had shown a theme to their attack in the early going of games.
Vandal linebacker Tony Lashley said it is up to his unit to read what happens and take the right steps to slowing down the Rams.
“It’s not as much as what they’re going to do, but what we do to answer what they do to us,” he said. “They’re pretty themey by the week, so we’ll wait to see what they throw at us early, and we just have to tackle well and be physical.”
The key to the turnaround for Bobo was the belief he felt developed in the loss to Boise State, that the players started trusting one another, the coaches and the preparation involved to improve each passing week.
As CSU heads into the final game, it does so with wins over teams with winning records that have already won their bowl games — New Mexico and San Diego State. Idaho, which has yet to beat a team with a winning record, loves the role of being the underdog in the game, and the Rams like the stature that comes with being a two-touchdown favorite.
It’s a role reversal, and the Rams don’t want to mess it up to end this season or the one to follow.
“We finished the season on a very, very high note,” Bobo said. “Now, we’ve got one more opportunity as a football team. Don’t let that opportunity slide by by not preparing and working like you’ve done all year. If we do that and we come ready to play, then hopefully this season can end the way we want it to — with a victory.”