The 2016 college football season kicks off with the Rocky Mountain Showdown this Friday and with it comes the rivalry between the University of Colorado and Colorado State University. The school’s have been playing since 1893, facing off a total of 87 times.
Throughout history, there have been brief gaps in the rivalry, like from 1959 to 1983, when the two teams did not meet at all. From 1983 to 1994, during arguably the greatest era of CU football history, the two schools played a total of seven times, six of which were won by CU. The RMS became an annual series in 1995 and they have played every year since. CU currently leads the series (63-22-2).
Here is part one of our series looking at the five greatest Rocky Mountain Showdowns of all-time.
5. Sept. 2, 2000, CSU 28-24
In front of a crowd of 67,466 fans at Mile High Stadium for the last time, Colorado State, led by Sonny Lubick, sent roughly 35,000 fans back to Boulder with their heads hung low for a second straight season.
The win over the Buffs was monumental for a Ram team on the rise and was the first of many crucial moments from the 2000 season, widely viewed as the most successful seasons in the history of the program.
Behind a brilliant four touchdown performance from senior quarterback Matt Newton, the Rams narrowly defeated the Buffaloes in one of many classic games of the era. Despite being considered vast underdogs, “little brother” clenched his fist, came out swinging and for the first time in over half a century, the Rams defeated the Buffaloes in back-to-back seasons.
Behind Newton’s arm, the Rams got off to a fast 14-0 lead after just one quarter, but CU and junior quarterback Bobby Pesavento came storming back to take a 17-14 lead into halftime. After blowing an early lead and losing all of the momentum late in the first half, the legendary Lubick was able to refocus his team and lead the Rams to victory. When asked on what he said to the team during the break, Lubick responded in a way only he could, with complete and total honesty.
“There’s your Big-12 boys, can you play with them or can’t you play with them,” Lubick reportedly told the team. (Colorado has since moved to the PAC 12).
“In the old days, we all used to say, ‘let’s go win,’ but there was no belief in it. Now you can sense the belief. It’s genuine. It’s not phony,” Lubick said.
Just three minutes into the third quarter, the Buffs scored their 24th unanswered point. From that point on, the CSU defense kept the CU offense in check, and the Buffs did not score for the remainder of the game, even despite two third quarter interceptions thrown by Newton.
Late in the third quarter, CSU regained some momentum when Newton delivered a 42-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Frank Rice, bringing the Rams within three, 24-21.
Junior tight end Jose Ochoa capped off a 64-yard drive with a 30-yard touchdown reception, giving the Rams the lead two minutes into the fourth quarter; a lead the Rams would hold onto.
Despite 532 yards of total offense from Colorado and back-to-back turnovers in the third quarter, the Rams defense was able to keep the Buffs out of the end zone for nearly the entire second half. After struggling for most of the game, the CSU offense was able to make big plays when the team needed it most.
Along with being an all around competitive game, the 2000 RMS was one of the greatest in history because it signified the arrival of Colorado State football. After dominating CU the year before, winning 41-14, defeating the Buffaloes for a second-straight season was a monumental moment in Lubick’s tenure as head coach.
The Rams went on to finish the season with a record of 10-2, winning the Mountain West and defeating Louisville in the Liberty Bowl. The 2000 Rams were all around one of the greatest football teams in not just CSU history, but really the history of the Mountain West and that run started with the victory over CU.
Moore went to earn Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors, while CSU LB Rick Crowell was recognized as the MWC Defensive Player of the Year.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JustinTMichael.