Ty Sambrailo did not get picked on much as a kid.
Colorado State’s 6-foot-5-inch, 315-pound right tackle rarely caught much flak from anyone growing up due to his towering stature and California-boy personality, but the senior offensive lineman and his teammates are sick and tired of hearing their football program referred to as rival Colorado’s “little brother.”
“I’ve heard that a few times and I don’t quite understand why people think that,” Sambrailo said. “I’ve never seen us as anyone’s little brother or anything like that. We’ve got a lot of good players with plenty of talent, and I don’t see us being any different than them.”
For most of the entire rivalry that began in 1893, the Buffs have dominated when these two teams meet. Colorado holds a 61-21-2 advantage over the Rams in the rivalry’s 85 games, but CSU has won two of the last five meetings between the teams including a dramatic 22-17 victory in 2012. The overall record is staggering, but these Rams do not care about the past, especially last year’s 41-27 debacle in which former Buff receiver Paul Richardson torched the Colorado State defense for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’re not focused on last year’s game anymore,” senior tight end Kivon Cartwright said. “We’ve put that to bed and learned from our mistakes – it’s all about how we approach it this year.”
Cartwright knows the rivalry all too well, growing up three hours south of Fort Collins in the small town of Pueblo, Colorado. As a prep star, Cartwright earned all-conference and all-state honors at Pueblo South High School, garnering interest from both Colorado State and Colorado, among others. But despite a late recruiting push from the Buffs, Cartwright chose the Rams. Even with their reputation as the Buffs’ “little brother,” Cartwright believed then and still does today that Colorado State is the right place to be.
“Player by player I not only feel like this program matches up with CU’s, but in a lot of positions, we’re even better than they are,” Cartwright said. “I remember when CSU went down to Boulder (in 2009) and both schools were recruiting me at the time, but it wasn’t an upset when CSU won, they physically dominated that game.”
Along with Cartwright, fellow Coloradans Sam Carlson and Jake Bennett and a handful others, senior linebacker and Greeley native Max Morgan knows plenty of players on the Buffs roster, but does not count any of them among his friends.
“I know some of the guys from high school ball and like the All-State teams we played on, but I don’t keep touch in with any of them,” Morgan said matter-of-factly.
Even head coach Jim McElwain has grown tired of the notion that his Rams take a backseat to anyone, let alone their in-state rival.
“I think we’re the greatest program in America, and I think this is the greatest university in America,” McElwain said. “We’ve got nothing to hang our heads about or take a second seat to anybody. If you go through life taking a backseat to somebody, there a pretty good chance you won’t be successful. But I know how this game is looked on in the state and I kind of like it that way. Our ‘little guys’ will show up on Friday and we’ll play the game.”
Despite that sentiment, McElwain holds the utmost respect for Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre and the program he is trying to rebuild in Boulder. After all, the only way for the rivalry to return to its former status as a must-see game is if both teams have successful programs.
“I think this rivalry is getting back to where it should be,” McElwain said. “Coach MacIntyre has done a fantastic job in elevating their program. But for them and for us, this is a must-win game.”
And you do not have ask many people around the Colorado State program to figure out who they think will prevail in that must-win matchup.
“Friday’s going to be a day of reckoning where everything is made right,” Carlson said. “We’re a better team than they are and it comes down to just going out there and proving it on the field. We’re going to go down there and execute our game plan and show everyone who Colorado State is.”
When the lights kick on at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Friday night, Carlson and Co. will have a chance to do that on the biggest stage in Colorado college football.
Let the games begin.
Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.