Last year’s 44-7 debacle at the Rocky Mountain Showdown can be summed up in one word for the Colorado State football program: embarrassing.
After the team’s victory over Oregon State last Saturday, coaches and players were already focused on avenging that loss. For some, the first step in preparing for this year’s game was reflecting on how last year’s loss affected them.
“Nobody likes getting embarrassed like we did last year, that was a tough game to come back from,” senior wide receiver Michael Gallup said. “When we go back down there, we’re gonna have a game plan and we’re gonna work this week.”
Fellow receiver Detrich Clark matched that sentiment, saying he almost cried after the game because he was so embarrassed. It’s a feeling that reverberated throughout the whole team, and something none of them want to be a part of again.
The struggles on offense were well-documented during the RMS as the Rams failed to record a first down until the middle of the second quarter. Head coach Mike Bobo did not hold back in criticizing last year’s offensive efforts to begin the season.
“We weren’t very good last year at the beginning of the season,” Bobo said. “I kept telling (the media) that all fall camp that we weren’t a very good football team and we were going to go through some growing pains. It was a 44-7 growing pain…We couldn’t have moved the ball out of this room at the beginning of last year offensively. We were terrible.”
One thing this year’s team has that was absent coming into 2016 is experience playing with each other. The talent returning on both sides of the ball, mainly the offensive skill positions, causes reason to believe that this year’s game will be more closely contended.
“The skill we had lost off the 2015 team going into 2016, it was about everybody out there except for Nick (Stevens),” Bobo said. “Nobody was in synch, we were unable to get a first down early in that game. They were very explosive, very efficient on offense and we could do nothing offensively to get a rhythm going…Now I feel like we’ve got guys that have some experience, guys that have some confidence.”
That confidence was on full display throughout the second half of last season when the Rams averaged the second most points per game in FBS. They carried the momentum into 2017 with a 31-point throttling of Oregon State. The 51-point performance marked the third consecutive game dating back to last season in which the Rams scored at least 50 points.
Having settled into the rhythm they failed to find during last year’s rivalry game, the Rams’ comfort level heading into 2017 is much greater.
“I think it’s us being more mature than last year,” Clark said. “Knowing where we’re supposed to line up, you can play a lot faster when you know what to do.”
CSU will look to flip the script in this year’s installment of the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1 at Sports Authority Field.
Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.