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Wrong coach or wrong era for Colorado State football?

Once again, Colorado State football has fallen in another rivalry game. This past Saturday, CSU was defeated by Air Force 38-21.

Every year, CSU fans are treated with three rivalries: the Rocky Mountain Showdown (non-conference), the Border War and the battle for the Ram-Falcon Trophy. 

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These three rivalry football games give fans of both football teams the opportunity to have bragging rights until the next matchup. In recent CSU football memory, the Rams have ended up on the wrong side of the record book.

Since 2015, CSU football has a combined rivalry record of 2-12. The most recent rivalry victory was Nov. 7, 2015, when the Rams were able take the Bronze Boot back from the Cowboys with a 26-7 win in the Border War.

Since the 2015 season, CSU has had a combined record of 28-33: a bad record, especially for the green and gold. Over this same time period, CSU has a bowl record of 0-3. 

This poor stretch of performance for CSU football has one unifying factor: it all started with the introduction of the Mike Bobo coaching era. This season, Bobo has come under a lot of scrutiny for the underwhelming success of the team this year. 

CSU football fans are running out of patience for Bobo, and understandably so. Every year, fans are promised a change from their multi-million dollar coach. Unfortunately, nothing changes. CSU has been caught in a substantial financial debacle.

Before the 2015 season, the CSU football team was coached under Jim McElwain. During the McElwain era (2012-14), CSU had a combined regular season record of 22-16, a rivalry record of 5-4 and one bowl win.

That era of CSU football seems like a dream to a current-day CSU football fan. From 2012-14, Rams football held their own; CSU competed well in rivalry games, and they had a bowl game win to their name.

But even more importantly, during the McElwain era, the Rams had a chance to take the conference title. For two years during McElwain’s head coaching period, CSU finished in the top quarter of the Mountain West.

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That era of Colorado State football passes the eye test, but the reality is that McElwain coached in an era of Mountain West football that was weak relative to every other college football conference.

During the 2014 season, McElwain’s most successful season as the CSU football head coach, the Rams had an overall record of 10-3. Mountain West teams during the 2014 season had an outside conference win percentage of .318. That means over the duration of the 2014 college football season, Mountain West teams won a total of 31.8% of their out-of-conference games. 

Bobo has been raked over the coals for the team’s performance under his coaching. His era of Colorado State football doesn’t pass the eye test. However, the Mountain West conference he coaches in would humiliate the Mountain West McElwain coached.

Last season, the Rams finished going 2-6 in conference play. But those six losses in the Mountain West shouldn’t hurt as bad as they seem. Last year, Mountain West teams had an outside conference win percentage of .462

During the Bobo era, Mountain West teams have become better. Mountain West teams have held a near .500 win percentage against out-of-conference opponents every year. The Rams play in a tougher conference now than they did in the McElwain era.

Rams football fans owe Bobo the recognition that he is coaching in a significantly tougher Mountain West Conference than the coach before him. However, losing games in a tougher conference doesn’t excuse the lackluster performance, but it does offer some perspective into why the Rams have been struggling under Bobo. 

 

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  • Quarterback Patrick O’Brien (12) throws down field against the Air Force Academy Nov. 16. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Marshaun Cameron (26) stands on the field between plays against the Air Force Academy Nov. 16. The Rams lost 38-21. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Anthony Hawkins (14) returns the kick against the Air-Force Academy. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Andre Neal (11) adjusts his helmet in between plays. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Colorado State university Patrick O’ Brien (12) fumbles the ball after scrambling forward for a first down on Nov 16. The Rams lost 38-21 to Air Force for the fourth straight loss in the series. (Gregory James | The Collegian)

  • Linebacker Cam’ron Carter (12) runs an interception up the field during the Rams 38-13 loss to the Air Force Falcons on Nov. 16. The Rams defense caused two turnovers on the day, one resulting in a 63 yard touchdown fumble recovery by Mohammed Kamara. (Gregory James | The Collegian)

  • Braxton Davis (83) kicks the ball Nov. 16. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Cam’ron Carter (12) runs by the Air Force Academy’s defense Nov. 16. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Cam’ron Carter (12) sprints down field with the ball. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Trey McBride (85) runs into the end zone to score a touchdown. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Jaylen Thomas (27) makes an evasive move to try and get past the Air-Force Academy’s defense. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Colorado State quarterback Patrick O’Brien (12) runs the ball on a quarterback scramble in the Rams 38-21 loss to the visiting Air Force Falcons on Nov. 16. at Canvas Stadium (Gregory James | The Collegian)

  • Members of the CAM the Ram handling team pose with the handlers for the live Falcon mascots and the mascots both named Aurora on Nov 16. Air Force would go on to win the game 38-21 (Gregory James | The Collegian)

  • Warren Jackson (9) gets ready to catch a pass. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

  • Trey McBride (85) celebrates after scoring a touchdown Nov. 16, 2019.

    Collegian | Luke Bourland
  • CAM the Ram walks out with his trainers before the CSU Football game against Air Force on Nov. 16. The Rams lost 38-21 to Air Force. (Gregory James | The Collegian)

  • Mohamed Kamara (42) stands before the game starts Nov. 16, 2019.

    Collegian | Luke Bourland
  • Defensive lineman Toby McBride (97) rushes Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond III (5)in the Rams 38-21 loss to Air Force at Canvas Stadium on Nov 16. (Gregory James | The Collegian)

  • Colorado State defensive end Manny Jones(33) and linebacker Dequan Jackson (5) celebrate getting a sack in the Rams 38-21 loss to Air Force on Nov 16 at Canvas Stadium. (Gregory James | The Collegian)

  • Defensive end Manny Jones (33) stands over Air Force full back Timothy Jackson (34) in the Rams 38-21 loss to Air Force on Nov 16 at Canvas Stadium. (Gregory James | The Collegian)

  • Trey McBride (85) runs down field against the Air-Force Academy. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

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Jack Taylor can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @j_taylr.

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