It was 12 minutes before midnight on Saturday Nov. 19 when the final whistle blew at Hughes Stadium. It was 12 minutes before midnight that CSU president Tony Frank shut down the lights of CSU football’s home since 1968. It was 12 minutes before midnight that fans rushed the field, giving their final farewell to the stadium that provided them with 49 years of cheers, tears and everything that falls in-between.
Colorado State sent Hughes Stadium into the history books with one final 49-31 win over New Mexico in front of 29,133 fans.
The Rams had three 100-yard rushers for the first time in school history in Marvin Kinsey Jr. (129), Izzy Matthews (107) and Dalyn Dawkins (102). They kept the nation’s leading rushing attack in check for the majority of the night and became bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season.
All feats accomplished from a football standpoint took a backseat to sending Hughes off the right way.
“Really just an awesome night tonight for our community, our University and for every Ram that’s ever witnessed a game (at Hughes), for any player that’s ever played,” CSU head coach Mike Bobo said after the game. “A lot of memories in this stadium. And I know I’ve only been here through two seasons, but we talked to our team all week about what kind of big responsibility we had…being the last game at Hughes Stadium.”
Colorado State still has a looming matchup with San Diego State Nov. 26 and now a bowl game after that. But for the moment, the valediction of Hughes Stadium takes its rightful place on center stage.
For the freshman that arrived on campus, their memories may be too few to really capture the magnitude of the last game at Hughes. But for the seniors, for the players who have been through thick and thin at CSU, there is nothing more that could have been done to bring a more fitting end to Hughes Stadium.
“What better way to go out than with a win at Hughes,” senior linebacker Kevin Davis said. “I know there’s a lot of memories here and a lot of people have really close connections with the stadium so it was awesome. To not only do it for ourselves to be bowl eligible, but for the community.”
The community may be where Hughes held it’s greatest impact on the night, and overall. There would be no sellout, and many fans elected to not let a final game break the tradition of leaving at half, but those that did battle through 60 minutes of rosy cheeks and cold finger tips, they were rewarded.
As fans rushed onto the field, taking the north end zone goal post for a joyride in the process, we are reminded of what Hughes Stadium means to Fort Collins. Sitting on the outskirts of the city and away form the heart of CSU’s campus, Hughes is often an after thought. Saturday night, Hughes’ impact was brought back to life, even if just for one frigid night. Nobody left cold though.
“It was a pretty amazing scene there at the end of the game with everybody on the field shutting off the lights,” Bobo said. “I got to go up top and shoot the cannon. But just to sit up there and watch the people celebrating, enjoying the moment. Like I said at the beginning of the week, our part, my part and this team’s part, was to play the way that we needed to play to honor this stadium. It was good we came and played that way and it was great to see the fans and the alumni and everybody that loves Colorado State get to savor the moment on a really special night. Told our players all week, I said this place is special because of the memories people have here watching football games. You’re the last memory that these fans are going to be able to see in Hughes Stadium, we need to put on a show and I thought we did tonight.”
Hughes Stadium will forever be the house that Sonny Lubick built. It will always hold a special place in the hearts of Ram fans. The memories that are engraved into the concrete bleachers and dust bowl parking lots will never fade away. And after being there for 49 years of memories, Hughes Stadium gave Colorado State one last ride, one last memory, before the lights were shut down for good.
Collegian sports editor Chad Deutschman can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChadDeutschman