|Rocky Mountain Showdown Photo slideshow|
A new Ram football team took the field in Boulder Saturday. The new team executed new plays, used new players and wore new uniforms.
By the end of the game, unfortunately, they looked like the same old Rams from a year ago.
After tying the game with 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a 9-yard pass from senior quarterback Justin Holland to sophomore tight end Kory Sperry, the Rams were unable to stop Colorado from getting into field goal range. Preseason all-American kicker, junior Mason Crosby, split the uprights on a 47-yard field goal to win the Rocky Mountain Showdown. A CSU hail-mary attempt fell into the hands of a CU defender on the final play of the game and triggered CU fans to storm the field.
Head Coach Sonny Lubick has led going into the fourth quarter 86 times in his career. Saturday's loss was only the fifth time he let that lead slip away.
"I'm proud of our football team, they know they were in a football game," Lubick said. "Did (CU) win the Super Bowl or what the heck? Did (CU) tear down the goal posts? That's Colorado State that came out there and gave them everything they could handle."
For three quarters, the Rams, who wore all-white uniforms for the first time, were the better team. CSU controlled the tempo of the game by using the run. Sophomore Kyle Bell rushed for a career best 66 yards and CSU gained 95 yards on the ground compared to last year's 44.
The defense also was able to stop the Buffs' attack by being physical up front, tallying four sacks and five tackles for loss.
CSU also capitalized on poor ball control by the Buffs by forcing five fumbles, recovering two, and an interception on their own 9-yard line. In the end, mistakes cost the Rams a chance for the upset, and in-state bragging rights for the third straight year.
"Last year was heartbreaking, this year there's just a lot of pissed off guys in that locker room," Holland said. "The things I worked on in the off-season was protecting the ball and making smart decisions, and I wasn't making smart decisions in the second half."
Holland had career bests in completions with 29 and attempts with 43. He also had four interceptions, two of which led to 15 CU points.
"He had to try to make something happen, but I probably wish he didn't throw it, we could punt it away and play defense," Lubick said referring to the Holland interception with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
While this loss may seem like deja vu for the Rams, the players know they can't allow the pain to linger or a repeat of a disappointing 2004 season could take place.
"We can't let this game get us down," said wide receiver David Anderson, who caught 12 passes. "Last year, following the loss we had a hangover in our play. We have got to come back and make some plays next week in order to avoid running into last year's situation, where we let one loss turn in to a losing season."
It was obvious to most involved with the game that the Rams were capable of winning.
"We have to give credit to CSU for the way they played," said senior CU quarterback Joel Klatt. "Today shows you how good Holland and Anderson really are, they're a great duo…I've respected them over the past two years. They'll definitely beat some teams this year."
Heading into the game, many Denver area media personalities doubted the significance of the CU-CSU rivalry. After Saturday's game they are having a hard time finding people who agree.
"That's one exciting game, a classic for college football," said CU head coach Gary Barnett. "That's the way rivalries should be."
Junior running back Nnamdi Ohaeri (sprained ankle), sophomore cornerback Darryl Williams (concussion), sophomore receiver Luke Roberts (left shoulder) and red shirt freshman linebacker Jeff Horinek (lower back) were all injured in the CU game and will be reevaluated early this week.