The three-and-a-half hour battle was fierce and filled with the highs and lows only a football rivalry can induce. After heading into the game favored, the lopsided result made it harder for the Rams to swallow.
Due to dropped passes, coverage miscommunication and a crucial fumble, CSU lost a game it felt that it should have won. Throughout the game, the level of play never wavered, each team believing to the last minute that they would emerge as victors.
“That’s the beauty of sport. There’s got to be a winner and there’s going to be a loser,” coach Jim McElwain said post game. “It hurts, I still think we should’ve won the game, and I think we should win the game next year. I believe in our guys.”
McElwain’s words were full of optimism and his body language was surprisingly positive, but the weight of the loss hung on his shoulders, and those of his players.
Immediately following a sour loss, it is easy to push the blame on a teammate or a coach. In the post game interviews, the Rams refrained from pointing fingers at anyone except themselves. There were seven dropped balls from the receiving core on Sunday, generating a lot of negative attention towards them, but junior quarterback Garrett Grayson saw it differently.
“Obviously I’m going to take the blame for it, I’m willing to do that for the team,” Grayson said. “If I hit them when they’re actually open and their focus is solely on catching the ball, maybe the outcome is different.”
After the ecstasy of winning the quarterback battle gave way to a 17 point loss, Grayson expressed the view that if a quarterback receives glory in a win, he should also take blame in a loss. For those players who made positive waves on the field, like sophomore safety Kevin Pierre-Louis, the greater glory went to his teammates.
Pierre-Louis led the team in total tackles with 15, and was credited with a pass break-up on Sunday.
“If the D-Line and the linebackers didn’t do their job, I wouldn’t get the tackle,” he said. “It was a group effort.”
Still, McElwain has established himself at CSU as a coach who will tell it like it is. He knows his team needs work, but he continues to believe in them, and they believe in each other.
Sophomore wide receiver Joe Hansley returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown, but shares the sentiment of Pierre-Louis.
“It’s not my individual effort that allows me to do what I do, it’s team work. As a team, we have some stuff to work on,” Hansley said.
Now one game into the season the Rams are behind on the scoreboard, but they know the areas they need to work on. And, they plan on doing it together.
Football Beat Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.