Many loyal followers of the green and gold made the trip to Albuquerque, New Mex. to watch Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain and company lead the program back into relevancy after finishing with their best regular season record in a decade.
For the first time since 2008, the CSU Rams are back in the postseason, getting ready to face the Washington State Cougars in the 2013 Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
“It’s tough to be a fan, but at the same time I’ll always be a Ram fan,” said alumnus Matt Atkinson, who graduated in 2009 and remembers the darker days in the program, when the Rams finished with just three wins over three consecutive years.
Atkinson said he is excited to see what the Rams will bring when they face their Pac-12 opponent and mentioned he is particularly excited to watch running back Kapri Bibbs add to his impressive first-year campaign. He leads the NCAA with 28 rushing touchdowns and is No. 8 in the nation with 1,572 yards.
Bibbs seems to be on the radar for many of the CSU fans.
Grant Casey, a 2010 CSU graduate, traveled with his wife and a couple of their friends from Denver. He predicted an offensive shootout with a final score of 45-43 in favor of the Rams, and four touchdowns for Bibbs with 243 yards.
The last time the Rams appeared in a bowl game was in former head coach Steve Fairchild’s first season at the helm. The Rams defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl and fans, like 2009 graduate Nathan Kogut, hoped the program was headed in the right direction. However, after three straight losing seasons, Fairchild was replaced by McElwain.
This time, Kogut believes things will be different.
“I was here last time for the New Mexico bowl and I thought we were going places, but it didn’t work out,” Kogut said.
After graduating from CSU, Kogut attended graduate school at McElwain’s former stomping grounds, the University of Alabama, and worked in the athletic department while McElwain was still on the sidelines for the Crimson Tide. Knowing what he was able to do at Alabama gives Kogut the feeling that the McElwain era will garner more success.
“I think the program is in good shape,” Kogut said. “(McElwain) is doing things the right way and he’s got the right support.”
CSU Football Beat Reporter Katie O’Keefe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.