Colorado State football is 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the Mountain West for the first time since 2002, when the team started 6-0 in conference before losing 36-33 to UNLV in the regular season finale.
Despite the successful start to the season, many Ram fans have displayed frustration with the team’s performance, especially following the most recent victories over Nevada and New Mexico.
All over various social media platforms, fans of the green and gold cited that CSU was heavy favorites and should have won the games by larger margins. Others pointed to the big plays given up through the air against Nevada and the offensive woes against UNM, stating that if the team cannot blow out these lowly MW opponents, there is no way they will be handle the next stretch of the season.
While some of the frustration may be justified, as the team certainly struggled at times in each of these victories, the vast majority of the criticism being thrown around this team is completely irrational.
The notion that a team is going to beat down an opponent simply because of a point spread is ludicrous and overlooks the nuances of facing conference opponents that are familiar with your gameplan.
First off, Nevada is a one-win team, but the Wolfpack have lost by three points or less on three separate occasions this season. On top of that, the Nevada offense has been one of the best in the conference, scoring 20 or more points in seven of the team’s eight games this season.
With absolutely nothing to lose in the contest, Nevada came to Fort Collins and threw every trick in the book at the Rams. When the game was truly on the line though, CSU responded and found a way to take care of business on both sides of the ball.
Flash forward to last Friday where the Rams were tasked with a completely different beast in the New Mexico Lobos and their option offense. Early in the game CSU struggled to contain the Lobos, giving up multiple explosive runs and over 100 yards on the ground in the first quarter alone.
From that point on though, we saw an extremely disciplined and aggressive defensive effort that ultimately kept the Rams in the game, despite struggling to move the ball offensively and losing multiple key players to injury in the game.
Looking back at the most recent victories, what impresses me most is how composed the team stayed throughout it all. Even in the moments where it looked ugly, this was a team that genuinely believed they would win the ballgame, and that simply was not the case in years past.
It has been evident since the start of the season and reinforced on a weekly basis that this is one of the most talented teams in the Mountain West. However, their biggest strength as a unit may actually be the ability to keep cool in times of adversity.
This is a team that expects to win to each week, but when the games does not go according to plan, they do not panic. Instead they stick to their game and continue to attack opponents aggressively.
What’s more, this is a team that has shown the ability to hold themselves accountable. After the win on Friday, the team was happy to be bowl eligible for a fifth straight season. But the tone was that the Rams never doubted they were a bowl team and the ultimate goal is to compete for a conference championship.
Will the team have to tighten up its performance in the ensuing weeks as we approach bowl season? Of course. But the players already know this and the goal has always been to improve from week to week, so that really is nothing new.
At the end of the day, this team has played intelligent and gritty football since opening the season with a 31-point beatdown of Oregon State on Aug. 26. Sure there have been rough patches, but overall this has been a team that has played quality football and competed with every opponent they have faced.
When considering all of this, my advice to Ram fans is to simply relax and enjoy the ride. There have been much darker days in Fort Collins and there is plenty to be excited about with this team. Do not waste the entire season being pissed off over point spreads and other silly issues, because these types of special seasons do not occur very often.
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.