This is the challenge for CSU first-year coach Jim McElwain and the rest of the Rams as they head into the 2012 season — change the bad habits and culture of losing that has plagued the team over the last three years, and start to build a program that can compete.
“The one thing (McElwain) has been saying is be a champion every day in everything we do,” linebacker Aaron Davis said. “Not just on the field, but he says winning everything you do in the classroom and just everything.”
The team has bought into what McElwain has been preaching throughout the offseason, and say they feel ready to implement what they have learned in the offseason and are willing to do whatever it takes to win.
“My personal goal is just to do whatever coach tells me,” tight end Austin Gillmore said. “Whether that’s getting coach Mac water or blocking the D-end. And as a team, there should be no other expectations than we need to win every game. That should be our goal, and our only goal.”
Wins may not be easy to come by for the Rams in the upcoming season — especially late in the year — as four of the team’s final six opponents defeated CSU last season.
Much lies on the shoulders of starting quarterback Garrett Grayson, who started in the final four games with the Rams last year, but struggled throwing six total interceptions including three in a 22-19 loss in the season finale against Wyoming.
“I’d definitely like to keep the interceptions down,” Grayson said. “Any time you turn it over that hurts your team, so personally, that’s one (goal) I’d like to have. As far as goals for the team, we want to make it to a bowl game. … that’s the goal we have this year, and we don’t see a reason why we can’t.”
The first challenge of the year for the Rams comes Saturday at 2 p.m. at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver against CU-Boulder.
Last year, after winning their first two games, the Rams fell 28-14 to CU en route to a 1-9 record to close out the season.
This year’s installment of Rams are determined not to allow an early-season mishap turn into a long losing streak.
“I know that our guys will come out and play hard,” McElwain said. “Play for their school, play for their town, play for the former Rams that have played in this game, and what it means to them.
“And at the same time, when Sunday comes, whatever the result is, we’ve got to bury what happened, learn from it, and move forward because last time I checked we play the next week too.”
Football Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.