CSU veterans focused on leaving a winning legacy in their final showdown

Eddie Herz

There is no question that the Rocky Mountain Showdown tends to be the most important regular season game in the eyes of Colorado State fans. The significance of the game is evident throughout the locker room as well.

But, there is some added significance for a few Rams this time around.  

Ad

A few of CSU’s seniors will be playing in the Rocky Mountain Showdown for the fourth and final time. Graduating from the program without a win to their names is almost unfathomable

In their eyes, on Friday, they are going to lay it all on the line.

“This year, if I’m not crawling off the field at the end of the game, I’m really not going to feel like I did enough,” senior running back Izzy Matthews said.

Izzy Matthews is one of those players who has watched his rivals from Boulder hoist the trophy in each of the last three seasons. Matthews has had trouble against the Buffaloes in the past. Last season, he carried the ball 10 times for only 31 yards. In 2016, the running back collected just 13 yards in seven attempts.

Now Matthews finally has the chance to be CSU’s feature back during the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Previously, he was behind Dalyn Dawkins on the depth chart. Matthews has more input than ever to help bring a Rocky Mountain Showdown victory back to Fort Collins.

“It’s personal this year,” Matthews said. “I haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here. Our class has never beat them. It honestly would be kind of a disgrace to leave here 0-4. It’s important to leave a legacy.”

Matthews is from California. So, it may have been tough for him to recognize the significance of the rivalry when he first arrived in Fort Collins, but that is no longer the case.

player buckles helmet
Izzy Matthews buckles his helmet at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Showdown

It is apparent that even if a player has no prior knowledge of the heated-rivalry, one is aware of how impactful the outcome of the game.

“After that first loss you kind of see how it affects the town,” Matthews said. “How it affects the community and just how important it is to everyone in the state.”

On the other hand, take Olabisi Johnson for example. Johnson was born and raised in Lakewood and attended Bear Creek High School. The wide receiver had feelings about this rivalry before he was even playing high school football.

Whether Johnson grew up a CSU fan or not, he was aware of what the game meant from a young age.

Ad

Last season, CSU fans remembered the role Johnson played. Besides hauling in six grabs for 71 yards, Johnson was victim to a few questionable offensive pass interference calls that heavily impacted the game.

Considering what Johnson has gone through in this rivalry and the fact that he is from Colorado, there may not be one CSU player to whom a victory would mean more to.

“Losing these game leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Johnson said. “It has been tough the last three years to see that happen. But we are definitely ready to go get that trophy.”

Besides being motivated because this is his final shot at defeating CU, Johnson also feels that his wide receiver group is entering the game with more swagger than ever. 

Olabisi Johnson runs the ball
Wide Receiver Olabisi Johnson catches a pass during a week 2 matchup with Colorado. (Jack Starkebaum | Collegian)

Johnson himself had 157 receiving yards last week and scored twice, Tennessee transfer Preston Williams recorded 188 yards and two touchdowns while sophomore Warren Jackson collected 72 yards on five receptions as well.

“I saw the stats after the game and I was very impressed with what all three of us did,” Johnson said. “We have huge momentum going into the game and the (defensive backs) down there should be a little worried.”

Senior center Colby Meeks, as well as senior linebackers Tre Thoms and Josh Watson, complete the list of key Rams who have fallen victim to three Rocky Mountain Showdown defeats.

Similar to Matthews, Meeks will be forced to play a much more crucial role in the game than he has in years past. But that is not something the center is unprepared for.

In 2016, starting left guard Joe Thurston was forced to exit the rivalry game with an injury. As a result, Meeks had to step in and compensate for the loss.

Meeks was a sophomore at the time who was still grasping the significance of the rivalry. Now CSU’s starting center fully understands it. Besides desiring a victory for personal reasons, there is a lot Meeks wants to demonstrate with a victory.

“I want to just prove that we can do this, we are a good team and we can do just as well as CU,” Meeks said. “I want to show the younger guys that they can keep improving on this legacy and do things that we haven’t done before.”

Despite an ugly loss to Hawaii last week, CSU players are keeping their heads up. After all, it is common knowledge that each team gets a clean slate heading into a rivalry game.

It would not matter if the Rams were 8-0 or 0-8 right now. The desperation to beat CU is clear. Even more so when examining the players who have experienced multiple painful defeats in the Showdown.

“It’s a constant burning angst to really just go out there and pull out a win for the city,” Matthews said.

Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz.