After the Bruins exploded for 23 points in the fourth quarter and turned back the Rams attempt at another late game miracle, CSU was saddled with a 30-19 defeat…which could well be the best thing to happen to them right now.
Don't get me wrong, I slammed my fist on the sofa when UCLA's Ben Emanuel was racing the wrong way with Bradlee Van Pelt's errant two-point conversation pitch, sealing the Rams fate in another riveting fourth quarter. But when you hear Rams Head Coach Sonny Lubick's post-game analysis, that "we could have just as easily won this game as lost it," and you step back and look at the three-game season (so far) as a whole, you realize it's so far, so good for CSU. Who needs all that talk of an unbeaten season (probably one, maybe two teams out of 113 D-1 schools will go unbeaten this season. Is it realistic to expect CSU to be one of them???) Winning conference titles and bowl games are what Sonny Lubick's teams have always been all about.
So it is so far, so good.
Colorado State has yet to play a real home game, and has already won on the road against a good ACC team in Virginia (who just KO'd nationally ranked South Carolina), and has beaten the defending Big 12 champions. While they fell out of the (Coaches Poll) national rankings this week, they should not have. (The Rams are still 24th in the AP Poll). They've accomplished more this year already than most of the teams that make up the top 25. What has BYU done except win at home like they are supposed to? Penn State? They beat Central Florida by four points at home. And why should Colorado – at 1-1 on the year – be ranked ahead of 2-1 CSU who beat them?
The Rams will be a fixture in the national rankings. Soon.
Colorado State is not a football factory designed to be playing before full houses and fighting for national titles every year. CSU is a legitimate Top 25 program now, and another 8-3, Bowl-bound season will be another smashing success in the Fort.
UCLA had too much for the Rams. Too much talent, too much speed, and too much depth. Had the Bruins been playing their third game of the year, the score would have been more decisive. You got the feeling that the CSU defense had its collective finger in the dyke as soon as the second half began. Bruins QB Corey Paus was awful in the first half, and in typical Ram fashion, CSU led by six at intermission due to key defensive stops and special teams highlights. Yet, it was just a matter of time before UCLA's team speed and depth began to take their toll. To the Rams credit, it was not until very late that the damn finally broke. By dominating the fourth quarter, UCLA deserved to win.
For the Rams to beat more talented teams like Colorado and UCLA, they have to play close to flawless football. They did that against the Buffs and won. They did for three-quarters against the Bruins and were winning. In this decisive fourth period, however, they were the ones who made the key mistakes (the needless roughing the passer call on Peter Hogan and Van Pelt's ill-advised pass attempt that resulted in a UCLA interception at their own seven yard line) and it cost them.
Still, if these same two teams played ten times on a neutral field, you know Lubick's troops would find a way to win five times.
So it's one bad quarter in three games in three different time zones on both coasts. CSU is 2-1 and has shown itself capable of playing almost anyone in the country off their feet on any given. Easily one of the five best-coached teams in America, Rams fans have something special this season to take great pride in.
So forget the expectations and enjoy the ride. Something tells me we are in for quite a few more fantastic fourth quarters this season…