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Pope: CSU football just getting started

On Aug. 24, 2003, “Crazy in Love” by Jay-Z was the No. 1 song on the Billboard Top 100.

Legendary tennis player Pete Sampras also announced his retirement from the sport.

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“Freddy vs. Jason” was the No. 1 weekend box-office film in America.

Keegan Pope
Keegan Pope

Arnold Schwarzenegger had just announced his campaign for Governor of California.

Cristiano Ronaldo made his professional soccer debut for Manchester United.

And the Colorado State football team was ranked No. 23 in the Assosicated Press poll.

It’s been 11 years since the Rams were considered one of the 25 best teams in the country. But Sunday morning, that changed. First came the USA Today Coaches Poll, where the Rams were ranked 25th. Then, a few hours later, the AP tabbed the Rams at No. 23.

For reference, in June, USA Today ranked the Rams as 73rd best in the country, projecting them to win “six or seven games.” Whoops.

But if we’re being honest, I could have never predicted this either. After losing four of five starting offensive linemen and star running back Kapri Bibbs, did anyone think CSU would be this good this fast? It’s not likely.

The Rams’ dominance this year has only been a microcosm of the turnaround that Jim McElwain’s program has undergone in the past three seasons. Not only have the records changed, but the mentality around the program as well.

“When I first got here it was rough,” senior receiver Charles Lovett said. “(Each year) We were just ready for Christmas break and ready to go home. Now that we’re 9-1, we’re actually playing for something … We were tired of being sick and tired, and tired of losing. We have a new coaching staff who believe in the players and put us in the right positions to make plays on the field. They take their hats off to the players and guys who have been here through thick thin, and have stayed. It’s paying off, we’re 9-1 now.”

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As CSU looks to finish off its best regular season in more than a decade with wins in its final two games of the year Nov. 22 against New Mexico and Nov. 28 against Air Force, Jim McElwain found himself searching for words to describe his level of pride in the program he has built.

“It’s pretty cool,” McElwain said. “Sitting and just reflecting on how much these guys have committed since they went home for (winter) break and came back for RamU, I think they’ve really turned into a football team … We may not be the most talented team out there, but guys are playing with energy and for the most part they do their job. I can’t tell you how proud I am of them, and how proud I am for the state of Colorado and this University. I’m proud for the Ram fans that support these guys because they’re doing something special.”

Colorado State is in the midst of a truly special season, and a Top-25 ranking for the first time in more than a decade may be just the start.

The Pope has spoken.

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

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