There’s nothing coach Jim McElwain likes more than a good analogy, except maybe a win. After their 31-6 loss at Alabama on Saturday, McElwain likened his team to a light switch.
“Right now we’re on a dimmer switch. You turn it up just enough to bother you; you can’t really read with it, but you try to,” he said. “I see a lot of good things, but when are we going to learn to operate the dimmer switch properly? That’s where I see us at right now.”
Since most people expected Alabama to deal the Rams a blowout game, it would be natural for McElwain and his team to have pride in their performance. Keeping the Tide to their lowest rush average all season wasn’t enough for them.
They nearly pulled of a national upset. But the only word that stands out for the Rams in that sentence is nearly, a loss is still a loss — it doesn’t matter who you play.
“We had the mindset the whole week that we were going to win,” running back Chris Nwoke said. “It’s not about hanging with them or getting the experience, it’s about who is going to play harder, who wants it more.”
This unsatisfied mentality is new for CSU, another product of McElwain’s coaching, and something that he shares with Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban. McElwain has made it known that the biggest reason he carries so much respect for Saban is his ability to keep moving forward.
That will be the focus for this week’s practice, as the team prepares for Saturday’s game against the University of Texas at El Paso.
“We grew up a lot,” linebacker Shaquil Barrett said of playing Alabama. “People will know that we are capable of playing good defense and we can move the ball offensively. We just need to manage the penalties and small mistakes out there and we will be a great team.”
Week after week CSU has shown that they can make improvements. They continue to get better on both sides of the ball, but they grow less complacent each day.
“We are the same guys, but everyone is doing their assignments,” linebacker Aaron Davis said of the team’s improvements. “Exection and communication is a big part of that.”
Add drive to that list. In years past when Steve Fairchild coached the Rams, complacency was common in the locker room amongst players and fans alike. But now that the team has seen what they can accomplish when they gel together, finding a complacent player on the team could prove to be a task harder than finding Waldo.
“I got numerous voicemails, calls and text messages, but it doesn’t erase the fact that we lost the game,” McElwain said. “What did we get out of it? The answer to that in my mind is how we play against UTEP. You can’t hide, you’ve gone to-to-toe with the best.”
Football Beat Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reached at email@example.com.