Talk about crapping the bed.
Yeah, I watched our CSU Ram football team in the Liberty Bowl over the break, and boy, did they soil the sheets. It’s been more than three weeks since the Rams had a can of TCU whoop-ass opened on them, and I still don’t like to think about it.
There’s not much you can say after 17-3 loss like that one; the statistics really show it all. The Rams managed a meager 139 yards of total offense, converted three of 16 third downs, and lost three fumbles. Bradlee Van Pelt, the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, completed only four of 19 passes for 24 yards.
The lone bright spot on offense was running back Cecil Sapp, who rushed for 111yards and a touchdown. However, 84 of those yards came on two runs during the Rams’ first two possessions, and CSU failed to score on both occasions.
But the Rams can’t take all the blame for falling flat on their faces in Memphis. At least partial credit must go to the Horned Frogs’ defense, a unit that swarmed and stifled our Rams into submission. The TCU defense ended the season ranked No. 2 in the nation overall, and No. 1 against the run, so the Rams were obviously facing an uphill battle.
But only 139 yards? I never would have thought.
Needless to say, with the losses to TCU and UNLV in the last two games of the year, the end of the Rams’ season was a colossal disappointment in a year which everything seemed to go right for the guys in Green and Gold. Still, the squad was arguably the best team of the Sonny Lubick era, and its accomplishments (MWC championship, 10 wins, beating the Buffs) should not be forgotten.
And the future of the program is, well, Sonny.
With a large and talented junior class returning next year including Van Pelt, plus his quarterback cohort, sophomore-to-be Justin Holland, the Rams have good chance of repeating as conference champions. Add to the mix CU transfer Marcus Houston in 2004, and it appears the Rams will be a formidable Mountain West power for years to come.
Granted, the program did lose two talented coaches in Larry Kerr and Marvin Sanders in the past few weeks, but with Lubick signed on for four more years, there’s no doubt he will find competent replacements and surround himself with a similar staff.
So no, the Rams didn’t end up in the final top 25 rankings this season, and no, they didn’t win the Liberty Bowl. But there were plenty of memorable moments from the 2002 season to remember.
And who knows? With the Mountain West champ guaranteed a match up against the Conference USA champ in the Liberty Bowl, we just may get another crack at those damned Horned Frogs next season.