There’s no other way to put it, college football is finally here. Colorado State and the University of Colorado square off their seasons with the 2008 Qwest Rocky Mountain Showdown on Sunday evening in nationally televised action.
This year’s Showdown will feature many firsts for the Rams, including the head coaching debut of Steve Fairchild. Fairchild played quarterback for CSU in 1978 and 1980 (redshirting in 1979), but never faced the Buffaloes as a player. He did, however, coach against them as an assistant in his previous tour of Fort Collins in the late ’90s. Despite his new role, Fairchild said his nerves are calm.
“I don’t anticipate being very nervous. For some reason I can see that clearly,” said Fairchild at his weekly press conference on Monday. “I was nervous last January, I was nervous for spring ball, I was nervous when we started in August. And I told the football team that. The outcome’s decided then. When we roll down there Sunday, all that hard work and all their hard work, we’ll find out where we stand as programs at that point. But most of what’s going to happen has to do with how we trained this offseason.”
While this will be a first for Fairchild, it will also be a first for several Rams, most notably fifth year senior quarterback Billy Farris who has thrown only 20 passes in his career.
Also an offensive first is the start for freshman kicker Ben DeLine, who was named the starter on Sunday after senior kicker Jason Smith broke his arm in a Saturday morning mock-game.
“I can’t wait, it’s going to be a blast. It’s an opportunity for me as a true freshman to go out and have fun,” said DeLine, a native of Steamboat Springs. “You’re as nervous as you make yourself be-I’m anxious more so than nervous. You get nervous because you don’t know how you’re going to perform, having some nerve is good, but being overly nervous is bad. I’m just anxious.”
If the old adage is true, and you play as well as you practice, then the CSU defense should be ready to take on a dynamic CU offense led by sophomore quarterback Cody Hawkins. Hawkins passed for 2,693 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2007, including 201 yards with a pair of TD’s in last season’s matchup.
Hawkins is complemented on offense by receivers Patrick Williams and Scotty McKnight, who combined for 82 percent of the Buffs’ receiving yardage in the 2007 Showdown.
In the backfield, sophomore Demetrius Sumler leads CU. Also hoping to make his mark on the field is true freshman running back Darrell Scott, who, according to Rivals.com, was listed as the number one running back in the nation from the class of 2008. Scott is currently listed third on CU’s depth chart.
Rams’ sophomore linebacker Ricky Brewer is confident in his team’s ability. Brewer will be making his first Rocky Mountain Showdown start on Sunday, as he didn’t work his way into the starting lineup until the San Diego State game last year.
“This game is one of the biggest stages to come on and show what you’re all about as an individual and for the team,” said Brewer. “So I think this game here is gonna set the tone for us and, what bigger stage to do it on than the Rocky Mountain Showdown versus CU?”
One more key first is the first career start for leader of the young CSU cornerbacks, junior Nick Oppenneer.
A Littleton native, Oppenneer is entering his first season on scholarship as he had walked on to the team in 2006 after transferring from University of Mary in 2006.
“It feels great, this is something I’ve been dreaming of my entire life and I’m glad to have this opportunity on such a big stage,” said Oppenneer. “Playing little league in Littleton growing up, you always hear about the game, listening to it on the radio and the way home from your little league game, and to be a part of it is a dream come true.”
While it will be a night of firsts, it will also be a night of lasts for the seniors including tight end Kory Sperry, who had three touchdown catches in last year’s rivalry game.
“I’m nervous, but I get nervous before any game. It’s my last season, my last time to play them. So I’m nervous, but as soon as that first whistle blows I’ll be fine,” Sperry said.
Football beat writer Matt Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.