On Oct. 20, 2007, ESPN college basketball analyst Digger Phelps gave a speech on the Notre Dame campus during a pep rally prior to the Fighting Irishâ€™s game against then-No. 13 Southern California in South Bend, Ind.
Wearing a green No. 77 Notre Dame football jersey (Prior to the 2007 match up, the 1977 Notre Dame vs. USC game was the last time the Irish wore green), Phelps addressed the packed-house crowd and muttered these words:
â€œMy nameâ€™s Digger, Iâ€™m the undertakerâ€™s son. We ainâ€™t dead yet.â€
You see, the Irish were 1-6 on the season heading into that contest and were not mathematically eliminated from bowl contention with five games remaining. Phelps, who spent 20 years serving as Notre Dameâ€™s basketball coach, was trying to remind a restless Irish fan base that it shouldnâ€™t give up hope.
As the story goes, USC won 38-0 and Notre Dame would only win two more games that season â€“â€“ against cupcakes Duke and Stanford.
So why am I giving you this Woody Paige-esque history lesson?
Because standing on the sidelines at Hughes Stadium on Saturday watching Colorado State battle neck-and-neck with Idaho before the Rams eventually pulled out the 36-34 victory, Phelpsâ€™ â€œwe ainâ€™t dead yetâ€ kept playing on repeat in my head.
Letâ€™s be honest, who hasnâ€™t been critical of this team â€“ mainly the coaching staff? I know I have. When CSU finally started running the ball successfully then decided to just stop in the first half, I really felt like sending a tweet that read â€œOMG! WTF, M8?â€
But this entire team finally came together, clicked on all cylinders and showed a glimpse of what it was capable of.
Keep in mind that Idaho is a good team that will likely finish third in the Western Athletic Conference this season behind Nevada and Boise State.
The Rams were eight-point underdogs heading into this weekend and proved that they are not going to lie down, despite the 0-3 start.
Freshman quarterback Pete Thomas looked like a veteran, throwing for 386 yards and three touchdowns with only one pick (an interception that should had been ruled a completed pass to Matt Yemm). Thatâ€™s the most passing yards a Ram signal caller has acquired since Justin Hollandâ€™s 419 against Wyoming in 2005.
With his successful air raid Saturday, Thomas has now thrown for 1,081 yards on the season in only four games. To put that into comparison to 2009, it took Grant Stucker five games to cross the 1,000-yard mark and finished with only 1,874.
Keep in mind that Thomas didnâ€™t even throw to Byron Steele on Saturday â€” the Ramsâ€™ leading receiver.
Then there was Raymond Carter, the UCLA transfer who finally looked as good as advertised, rushing for 104 yards on an average of 6.9 per carry and the first score on the ground CSU had this season. He showed some great field vision and the changes in the offensive line Steve Fairchild made this week paid off.
On top of that, Carter stopped looking like Rashaun â€œPanhandsâ€ Greer and had a great day receiving with 120 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense still gave up a lot of points but made the stops it needed to and had a relief of pressure thanks to the offense showing up for a change.
The importance of the Rams coming away with this victory cannot be stressed enough. With the No. 5 team in the country, TCU, coming to Hughes Stadium this upcoming weekend, CSU needed any kind of momentum to stand a fighting chance, and it found just that.
With the entire conference slate still remaining on the 2010 schedule, donâ€™t count the Rams out. As long as CSU continues to build on its performance against Idaho, UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming and even Brigham Young all look like winnable games.
And for anyone who remembers 2008, the Rams should have beaten TCU, had Greer and Kory Sperry not dropped touchdown passes on back-to-back plays to end the first half.
It appears the Rams are finally starting to scratch the surface on just how good they can be. Iâ€™m excited to watch the potential unfold into performance.
My nameâ€™s Matt, Iâ€™m Jeff and Angieâ€™s son. We ainâ€™t dead yet.
Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.