Zahlmann: Despite down year, the Rams’ seniors deserved better

Luke Zahlmann

The day was supposed to be special for Colorado State football.

No, the program has not been successful, rather they suffered one of the more embarrassing seasons in recent memory. Fans have even called for the job of Coach Mike Bobo for large portions of the year.

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Saturday was Senior Day though. Rams’ stalwarts like running back Izzy Matthews, wide receiver Olabisi Johnson, linebacker Josh Watson and safety Josh Fogal were playing their final game. The four team leaders, along with several others in their concluding year were let down.

Last season, with the induction of a new on-campus stadium, now dubbed Canvas Stadium, the program attracted an average of 32,062 fans per game. In one of the biggest games of 18 seniors’ careers, the announced attendance was merely 19,226. That attendance, though “official,” was blatantly overstated. 

A fan holds up a sign that says “Thank you seniors” during the senior day game against Utah State Nov. 17. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

Set to finalize their home-field careers, the players were let down.

“(The lack of attendance) is tough for sure,” Johnson said. 

Before the year began, the mid-afternoon matchup against Utah State University was never supposed to be about the coaching staff, not the CSU athletics department as a whole either. It was meant to be about the players that stuck with an average program for their collegiate careers.

Critics may counter that the weather was gloomy (28° F at kickoff), that the team was a disappointing 3-7 coming in or even that the program had already taken enough of their money this year. All are fair points but do not excuse what was likely one of the scarcest turnouts for a senior day in school history.

The Rams’ players came out to play against Utah State. No, they didn’t win. But, what was a 28.5-point spread coming in, ended with the hosts losing by five after having a lead in the fourth quarter.

Matthews, the aforementioned lead back for the Rams tallied 131 total yards and a touchdown, moving into the top-10 in program history for rushing yardage as well. He came to play. 

On the other side, Tre Thomas and Watson combined for 15 tackles including a fumble recovery, they also showed a reinvigorated energy that was missing for much of the year for the Rams’ defense.

Those players and others saw their coaching staff become a part of the story though. Once again, mismanagement in several facets of the game held the team back, exemplified in the playcalling before the half. Much to the chagrin of the fans that were in attendance, the Rams ran the ball three times in the final minute to run the clock out, down 10-7 with a pair of timeouts saved.

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Coming in a severe underdog, there is no excuse for the lack of aggressiveness going into the intermission. The trend is nothing new.

Throughout the season, the team, more specifically the players in their final year, have had the year taken away from them. And no, the season was not taken away by officials, nor was the Aggies’ game: 

Yes, the students that chose not to attend the final home football game of the year let their classmates down, so, too did the other fans that let down the team that they’ve rooted for all year. They’re not at fault though.

The coaches around the program, that consistently failed to tutor players in a manner that led to improvement hindered the entire roster. Mistakes such as the blown coverage in the game-winning drive for the Aggies is something that should not be happening, in clutch situations, in the second-to-last contest of the year. Fans had no reason to attend based on what they had seen even as recently as last week.

The team waited until the waning moments of the year to show their true merit, speaking volumes about the way the program went about its business this year. 

Unfortunately, ‘there’s always next year’ no longer applies.

Collegian Sports Director Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.