Pope: These Rams are for real

Keegan Pope

Keegan Pope
Keegan Pope

If you didn’t know yet, you do now.

The Colorado State football team is here to stay.

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Until Saturday afternoon, many, myself included, questioned how good this team actually was.

After all, they had defeated a University of Colorado team on opening weekend that has been more unpredictable than this state’s fall weather in wins over Massachusetts and Hawaii and losses to CSU, No. 24 Arizona State and California.

Following their win over the Buffs, CSU was run over on the road by a Boise State team that was dominated by Air Force for three and a half quarters Saturday night.

They then returned home and put a beatdown on a hapless UC-Davis team that was overmatched when it stepped off the bus.

But after traveling more than 1,950 miles across the United States, the Rams finally had a chance to get their first signature win under third-year coach Jim McElwain. And that’s exactly what they did by claiming their first win east of the Mississippi since 2002.

Despite yet another slow start that saw them fall behind 14-0 in the second quarter, CSU continued to show an impressive level of resilience, a trait they have become known for under McElwain.

But the Rams showed something else Saturday afternoon. They showed that they aren’t satisfied with just competing anymore. They now expect to win every single game they play.

And they have done just that, winning seven of their last nine games dating back to last season. For the first time in a long time, CSU has a legitimate shot to win the Mountain Division of the Mountain West and possibly climb into the top-25 once again. Against a Boston College team that dominated then-No. 9 USC at the point of attack on nearly every play two weeks earlier, Colorado State not only held its own but by the end of the game began to push around its counterparts. Linebackers Max Morgan and Aaron Davis delivered a huge hit on a goal-line stand reminiscent of the one Morgan and Kevin Pierre-Louis combined for against Colorado.

And when they needed him most, behind an outstanding young offensive line, Alabama transfer Dee Hart gashed the Eagles’ defense for rushes of 14 and 43 yards that kick-started the Rams’ final drive. Just as they did against the Buffaloes, CSU found an extra gear in the fourth quarter, where they have outscored FBS opponents by a staggering count of 41-0.

With remaining road games at Nevada, San Jose State and Air Force as well as home contests against Tulsa, Utah State, Wyoming, Hawaii and New Mexico, CSU has a chance to run the table the rest of the year and win 10-plus games for the first time since 1997.

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However, that is easier said than done without a bye week until Nov. 15 and likely the Rams’ two toughest games Oct. 11 at Nevada and Oct. 18 at home against Utah State. CSU will need more consistent play from senior quarterback Garrett Grayson, who has struggled early in each of the Rams’ three wins before finding his rhythm in the second half. While the trio of Dee Hart, Treyous Jarrells and Jasen Oden has been better than anyone expected, the Rams will continue to need offensive balance to sustain long drives and keep their defense off the field. Should they be able to accomplish each of the aforementioned things, there likely won’t a more confident team in the Mountain West than the one McElwain is building in Fort Collins.

While their final record is yet to be determined, one thing about this team can be signed, sealed and delivered: the Rams are for real.

The Pope has spoken.

Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.