The football team has no patience for turkeys in November; literally or metaphorically. While the rest of Fort Collins is busying themselves with Thanksgiving preparations, the Rams will be fighting through the hardest month of college football.
With Saturday’s 42-30 loss to Boise State, the Rams are forced to start a step behind in the race to a bowl game — an unanticipated setback.
All week, coach Jim McElwain had been preparing his team for the explosive offensive plays Boise is so adept at, and the Rams have so often succumbed to. But at the end of the night, the Broncos came away with a win, and McElwain could not mask his disappointment.
His post game press conference was shorter than normal, abruptly ended by an uncharacteristic show of emotion.
“You put yourself in position to make plays, now it’s just about making them,” he said. “We are disappointed, we should be when we lose. There comes a point when you look yourself in the mirror and you say, I’m going to go compete — that’s the bottom line.”
November is a historically tough month for college football hopefuls, and the Rams have to forget about their loss as soon as possible to survive. Though stunted, the good momentum heading into November is not completely gone.
Strangely, this disappointment might spur the Rams to new heights. After their crushing loss to San Jose State in the Homecoming game, they took two straight road wins from Wyoming and Hawaii. Linebacker Shaq Barrett is confident that the team can do it again.
“It’s going to be up to us as players, how we approach everything,” Barrett said. “We have to get in the mindset that we have been here before — we can bounce back.”
The Rams will have to do a lot of climbing from here on out, without slipping up anymore, which is easier said than done. This team has had games where they are firing on all cylinders, only to crumble in the second half.
The offense amassed 509 total yards verses the Cowboys, 591 against UTEP, and 626 in the loss to Boise; the defense held No. 1 Alabama to just 338 yards, and Wyoming to 17 first downs. The talent is there, yet the team is sporting a 4-5 record, raising the question: How are they losing? It’s easy to see where McElwain’s disappointment is coming from.
“He’s frustrated. That’s how much he loves us, that’s how much he loves the game,” said cornerback Trent Matthews. “He’s a father figure to me, and sometimes that frustration comes out. It’s not even about winning, it’s how we wants us to be better.”
The rest of the month will be the biggest challenge of the season, but it yields the biggest rewards. They will have to win three of the next four games in order to remain bowl-eligible, and win all four for a chance to be Mountain West champions.
They host Nevada Reno at home this Saturday, the second to last game at Hughes Stadium of the season. New Mexico and Utah State will be two tough matchups on the road before they close the regular season with a home game against Air Force.
“We’ve got a lot to play for, not all is lost by any means,” McElwain said. “We are a football team in transition, we are a football team that’s building, I don’t think we back down at all.”Football Beat Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @c_rasta5.