The Return of the Big Horn

By Dave Bruning

Nothing tests the patience and loyalty of a fan base more than continual losing.  The promise of a new season quickly turns to angst and frustration amid cries of “wait till next year!”  How the hell do Cubs’ fans do it?  The answer:  Beer.

Colorado State football fans are no strangers to these feelings or beer.  It has been over a decade since the Rams have played meaningful football games.  This means two things:  CSU has played some pretty ugly football and I’m definitely getting old!  One of those facts is changing.  The majestic Bighorn was sighted last fall and appears to be making a strong comeback.

The renaissance of Colorado State football actually began three years ago with the hiring of Jim McElwain as head coach.  McElwain served as offensive coordinator for the University of Alabama under Nick Saban.  He has brought a culture of toughness, preparation and accountability to Fort Collins.  Things started slow, but the football revival began to take root last year with a strong finish and a victory in the New Mexico Bowl.

It is hard to understate the value of a bowl appearance and even more so a victory in a bowl game to a program trying to change its culture.  The reward for a season of hard work also serves as a spring board to the following season.  It also leads to better football players via more recruiting options.  All of sudden, Colorado State is a desirable place to play college football.

The Rams are 5-1 headed into a homecoming showdown with Utah State.  CSU’s powerful offense vs. Utah State’s tough defense.  The winner is excellent position to win the Mountain West conference.

The Rams are led by senior quarterback Garrett Grayson.  Experience at this position is invaluable and Grayson certainly brings that as a 3-year starter.  I was concerned about the running game of CSU after the departure of Kapri Bibbs, but I think they might be even stronger with the 3-headed Ram attack of Dee Hart, Treyous Jarrells and Jason Oden Jr.  The running attack is anchored by another impressive Colorado State offensive line.  Isn’t it ironic that the only time an offensive line gets any attention is when they stink?

Rashard Higgins is the best unknown receiver in the country.  The lanky sophomore is an explosive playmaker who stretches the field for the Rams running attack.  Sadly, the Rams have been without dynamic tight end Kivon Cartwright, who is out for the season with an ankle injury.

The defense is improved from last year, but still a source of concern.  To their credit, they have played quite well in big victories over the University of Colorado and Boston College.

The anchor to the success is clearly McElwain.  The man can coach.  He brought the previously mentioned Hart to Fort Collins and has recruited quite well.  I think many football players would be better served enrolling at schools like Colorado State and Utah State.  Why languish on a bench at Alabama or Texas when you can play immediately?  Pro scouts will find you if you can play.  It is difficult to put together playing footage when you don’t play.  This is a great recruiting pitch for McElwain.

How long he will be at CSU remains to be seen.  His name has been mentioned for several openings.  I believe he will be at CSU for the foreseeable future.  The future head coaching job with his name on it is clearly the University of Alabama after Nick Saban moves on.  When that time comes, Ram football will be in the best shape it ever has been.

It is homecoming weekend and the Rams are hosting their biggest game in a decade.  My crystal ball says Colorado State 34, Utah State 27.  Time to enjoy the return of the bighorn and a frosty beer.

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