After four consecutive years of losing to the University of Wyoming Cowboys in the annual Border War game, the Rams were fed up. They went into War Memorial Stadium Saturday and handled the Cowboys in a 52-22 victory, bringing the Bronze Boot trophy back to Fort Collins where it had not been since 2008.
Saturday was the first time any of the current players held the trophy, the boot of former CSU ROTC assistant professor Dan Romero, and the last time the seniors would get a shot at defeating the Cowboys.
“I think they said enough is enough,” McElwain said. “I’m going to give this win to our seniors.”
In what has been a roller coaster of a season for CSU, the Rams had struggled to find consistency and to hold onto second half leads. Coming out of the locker room too relaxed in previous games had been part of the problem, according to quarterback Garrett Grayson.
On Saturday, the Rams took a different approach. Instead of being overconfident with a lead at halftime, they prepared as if the game was just beginning.
“The start of the game we’re always quiet, everyone is focused on their job, what they have to do,” Grayson said. “We said when we come in here don’t say a word, let the coaches talk. We’re taking this as zero-zero and we’re going from there.”
In the second half, the Rams added 28 more points to their 24-7 lead. Grayson threw for 219 yards and for the third consecutive game he posted a three-touchdown performance.
For a team that had struggled to contain explosive playmakers in previous games, this time it was the Rams that could not be stopped. Running back Kapri Bibbs rushed for a career-high 201 yards and three touchdowns while running back Donnell Alexander tacked on another 77 yards rushing and two touchdowns of his own, including a one-handed grab on a pass from Grayson.
“We had some great individual performances, but the individual performances would not have occurred without all the team,” McElwain said.
The defense was impressive as they frustrated Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith, one of the best players in the Mountain West Conference. Smith has been difficult for opposing defenses to contain with his 309 average passing yards per game and his ability to make plays with his feet, rushing on average 70 yards per game.
Smith was held to only 12 yards rushing and threw two interceptions against CSU. He was sacked three times by the Rams’ defense, two of which came from defensive lineman Curtis Wilson.
“I think the way (co-defensive coordinator) coach English prepared us during the week really had a lot to do (with it),” Wilson said. “It was a tough week in practice, but it was the preparation that really got us prepared for the game.”
Moving forward, the Rams will be tasked with trying to find consistency and translating what they learned on Saturday into more wins. For McElwain, the win against the Cowboys is another step to becoming a better football program.
“That comes from growing up, that comes from understanding the process,” he said. “That’s how you build a program. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Football Beat Reporter Katie O’Keefe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.