Alas, just when the pain was beginning to subside, along comes conference foe Utah to rub salt in the wound and send us packing for the Hotel for another week.
Questions: Who are those guys in the CSU uni's turning the ball over time and time again? Weren't our Rams supposed to be able come out flat, but somehow find a way to still conquer The Other Miami? What happened to the defense that Larry Kerr spent so long building and was suppose to have left in good hands? Then...it happened again. Was that OUR Rams offense stumbling and fumbling around against a Utah team that showed up very ready to get beat? And where were those amazing special teams game saving plays that we have grown to count on?
What in the name of Harry Hughes is going on on Sonny Lubick Field?
In the past two weeks, we have watched the CSU football program come crashing back to earth from heights that coach Lubick warned us not to get too comfortable at. The coach tried to tell us before hand that the season offered no guarantees, but few of us were actually listening. We were talking Top 20 and a big time Bowl invite. Sonny was telling us to wait and see. Sonny was right.
Colorado State is not an elite team or an elite football program at this point. If Colorado showed us some flaws in the Rams, they also showed us that CSU could still go toe to toe with the defending Big 12 north champs (although that loss looks a lot worse after CU's demise in it's last two games...). After a win over Cal (and isn't THAT looking pretty good right now after the Bears beat USC?) and the lackluster win over Weber State, we still thought that CSU was the class of the conference, and headed for bigger things. We were wrong on both fronts.
The best team in the MWC is still in doubt, but after watching Air Force a couple of times, it appears that if that team can avoid it's annual pratfall against a weak sister, they could take charge of the conference. On the other hand, San Diego State and UNLV made themselves look better - not worse - during the non-conference season, and New Mexico still looks strong. Wyoming is more dangerous than they've been in many seasons. In short, nothing is a given for CSU right now when it comes to conference play.
As for the bigger things, we will probably have to wait awhile before CSU returns to the national rankings. This is not one of the best 25 teams in the nation right now, and after all the injuries (Dreyer at about 50%, Dressen and Pauly out for the season), it probably won't be at any time this season.
On the defense, this season becomes about learning the new wrinkles of defensive coordinator Steve Stanard. As Sonny told me on media day, "Larry (Kerr) was with me for 10 years. It's going to be an adjustment." It has been. It was foolish for us to think that the Rams 'D' would not miss Kerr, especially early. It will take time for Stanard to put his mark on his unit.
On the offense, it's simple to say that hanging on to the ball is a must. But more than that, the Rams need to find an identity. Are they a running team? A passing team? An option team? Is this still Bradlee Van Pelt's team, or is it time for Justin Holland? Can Marcus Houston recapture the passion he showed against CU, or is he destined to be a fumbling underachiever on the football field? Lots of questions, all in need of answers.
We don't know a lot. What we do know is that this CSU team is not the best ever, and not a powerhouse that can line up and bully the (Little) Miamis and Utahs of the college football world. There's no denying that. Not this year.