Sep 022010
 
Authors: Joel Hafnor

The time for forecasting and speculation is over; it’s time to play ball.

The Colorado State Rams are finally set to begin their 2010 campaign and will do so at noon Saturday when they face off against CU-Boulder in the Cinch Jeans Rocky Mountain Showdown.

The Rams have a chance to defeat the archrival Buffaloes in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1999-2000. A year ago, the Rams visited Folsom Field in Boulder and left in victorious fashion, winning a 23-17 contest that was not as close as the score indicated.

Every year, the Showdown seems to be defined by one moment.

Bradlee Van Pelt’s 23-yard touchdown romp in the 2002 Showdown was one such moment. The run was capped off by Van Pelt turning and spiking the ball in the face of a CU-Boulder defensive back. It would be the decisive score in a 19-14 Ram victory.

In the third quarter of last year’s Showdown, the Rams led by a score of 20-10 with the Buffs driving deep into CSU territory.

That’s when another defining moment took place.

CU junior wide receiver Scotty McKnight caught a pass from quarterback Cody Hawkins, turned up field with the ball and was subsequently steamrolled by CSU free safety Elijah-Blu Smith. The ball was knocked free and the Rams recovered, ending what looked to be a momentum-building drive for the Buffs.

“Elijah-Blu got the best of me, he popped me good,” McKnight said on Wednesday. “It was a good football play, I have a ton of respect for (Smith). He’s a great player.”

Smith’s big hit on McKnight was just one of his 74 tackles in 2009, but it will always stand out as one of the most illustrious in the history of the Showdown.

“(CU) was threatening our end zone,” Smith said. “He turned around and I was right there. That’s all I can say about that.”

The Rams are one of two teams in NCAA FBS that will start a true freshman quarterback to begin the season, as Pete Thomas will take the huddle Saturday afternoon. The 18 year old says he is ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

“I think if you aren’t nervous for something like this, then something is wrong,” Thomas said. “You can’t think about anything else, not the crowd, the noise. I just need to go out there and play football.”

Rams’ coach Steve Fairchild has been critical of his team at different stages during fall practice but is now comfortable with where his team sits heading into the season-opener.

“We would like to think our talent level and our depth is improving every year,” Fairchild said. “We’ll find out a lot about where we are come Saturday.”

Assistant Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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