The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Bro­hard

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.”

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