Video by Travis Green, CTV Sports
Former head coach Jim McElwain led the Colorado State Rams to a 10-2 record and a Royal Purple Las Vegas matchup against Utah, but it will be interim head coach Dave Baldwin who will lead the Rams in their final game of the 2014 season.
Both the CSU players and coaches have faced substantial adversity with the departure of their former coach, but they’ve rallied together to move forward into Las Vegas.
“It’s been a little rough but we adapted,” senior linebacker Aaron Davis said. “We always say ‘adapt, adjust and overcome’. It’s another challenge for us but I really think it took the senior leadership to keep the younger guys on the bus.”
As the interim coach, Baldwin went to Davis and the rest of the seniors for help, asking them for guidance and what they felt they needed going forward.
“We made very few changes,” Baldwin said, “When you’re a 10-2 football team there’s a reason why you’re 10-2. They work hard on the field, they got it done in the classroom and I just sort of maintained that I was the guy that was going to right the ship from here on.”
Baldwin knows that Colorado State is looking to hire a new head coach after this season, but he remains adamant that the outcome of the Las Vegas Bowl game has no connection with whether he’ll be the future coach or not.
“I don’t think it’s an audition,” Baldwin said. “When they came downstairs and asked me to be the interim (head coach), that’s what it was, it was an interim job,” Baldwin said. “And I was going to take this football team to this bowl. There was no promises after that, so it wasn’t ‘this is your tryout’ or anything like that.”
Baldwin has been coaching for 35 years, including 10 years as a head coach at both the Division I and junior college levels. He’s been a coordinator of the year in the Pac-10 conference and he was once named to ESPN’s watch list for coach of the year. With all of his experience, Baldwin is surely qualified for the Rams head coaching position, but he understands that CSU will consider many candidates for the position.
“I think (CSU) has an agenda and they want the right fit for the student-athletes,” Baldwin said. “If I’m that right fit, fantastic, and if not, then I wish the University the best of luck.”
If Baldwin’s chances of becoming the future CSU head coach were in fact solely based on the outcome of the Las Vegas Bowl, then he and his team have a tall order to fill against a Utah team that presents many challenges.
“Our compliments go to the University of Utah,” Baldwin said. “That is a very good football team; the best team we’ve seen all year; the most physical team we’ve seen all year.”
Physical seemed to be a common denominator when describing Utah, as senior left tackle Ty Sambrailo also called the Utes a big and physical opponent. Utah’s defense leads the nation in sacks (52) and is led by senior defensive lineman Nate Orchard who individually has just 1.5 less sacks than the entire Rams defense.
Although a win in the Las Vegas Bowl would perhaps improve Baldwin’s chances of becoming the future head coach, there is certainly more at stake for the Rams. A win over Utah would give Colorado State an almost unprecedented 11-win season, which they’ve only had once in school history.
“To end on that note that would be very special for this Colorado state team,” Baldwin said. “They have one time in their history won 11 games, and we have the opportunity to win 11 games. It’s a special year at Colorado State for everyone.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Steven Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @steven_jacobs_