Pope: CSU football, volleyball programs in rarefied air

Keegan Pope

Keegan Pope
Keegan Pope

On Sept. 6, the CSU football team ran into an angry Boise State coming off a loss to Ole Miss a week earlier. The Broncos cruised to a 37-10 fourth quarter lead before the Rams made the final score look closer than the game actually was.

That same night, the CSU volleyball team ran into a juggernaut when then-No. 4 Wisconsin rolled into Moby Arena and swept the Rams in three sets.

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Two disheartening losses in games both teams believe they should have won.

But since then all the CSU football and volleyball teams have done is win – literally.

Since that late summer Saturday, the two teams have combined to go 23-0.

No, that is not a typo.

The only other school with a streak like that? The defending national champion Florida State Seminoles and their fourth-ranked women’s volleyball team who have combined to win 28 in a row since December 13, 2013.

And while the CSU football and volleyball teams are incomparable in most aspects, they are very similar in one: their commitment to excellence.

Take Saturday for example. Despite decisively winning against two conference opponents, both Jim McElwain and Tom Hilbert felt their respective teams left a little something out there they shouldn’t have.

“It’s disappointing,” McElwain said of his team allowing rival Wyoming to score two fourth-quarter touchdowns. “That’s one of the ones you just want to finish the way you should, but you talk about rarified air, that might just be part of growing up … Every day there’s a lesson to be learned, and this is another one.”

Hilbert echoed a similar statement after his team struggled with hitting errors despite sweeping Utah State to win their 17th-consecutive match.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m disappointed in my team, because I’m not,” Hilbert said. “I thought we executed that part very well. Offensively, we didn’t have a great match and I’m glad it happened in a situation like this where we still won.”

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While those statements sound a little nit-picky, it is little things like their attention to detail that have paid such big dividends for two coaches who are considered among the nation’s best in their respective sports.

When some coaches would have swept those mistakes by the wayside, Hilbert and McElwain made it a priority to point them out.

When some coaches would have simply been content with their team’s success, Hilbert and McElwain have preached how much more important the process is than the final result.

And when some coaches would have gotten caught up in the constant praise their team receives from media and fans alike, Hilbert and McElwain continue to treat their success as something they have expected all along.

Both teams will likely be favored to win every time they play until the end of their respective regular seasons.

But you can guarantee they won’t act like it.

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