The longest season in CSU football history was certainly one to remember.
The Rams broke records and achieved milestones, both collectively and individually, while churning through a 14-game season on their way to a 10-4 finish. More importantly, the Rams won their third Mountain West Conference championship in four years, and earned a fourth-consecutive bowl berth. But those achievements are just the tip of the iceberg for the 2002 Rams.
Although the season ended in somewhat disappointing fashion with, a 17-3 loss to
Texas Christian in the Liberty Bowl, head coach Sonny Lubick was able to put the season in perspective.
“I’m still proud of this football team,” Lubick told the Rocky Mountain News after the Liberty Bowl. “I’m proud of our seniors for presenting our school with 10 victories. I’m proud of our conference title. I’m proud we went to a bowl. I just wish we could’ve played better.”
Lubick was one of the many members of the Ram football team to eclipse a milestone after he earned his 100th win as a head coach when the Rams defeated
Wyoming 44-36 in the annual Border War. With the win, Lubick became one of only 18 active coaches with 100 or more wins. The 10th-year head coach also signed a new contract toward the end of the season that will keep him in Fort Collins for another five years.
Throughout most of the season, the Rams were ranked in the top 25 in both major polls, and for the first time in school history, CSU was ranked in the Bowl Championship Series poll at No. 15 on Nov. 25. When the Rams defeated New Mexico on Nov. 23, it marked the team’s 10th win of the season, and also was the fourth time in school history the Rams had reached 10 wins, all four times coming under Lubick.
Perhaps the anchor of the Rams offense, junior running back Cecil Sapp, had one of the most dominating performances in school history. Sapp rushed for 1,601 yards, breaking the CSU single season rushing record and was also named the team’s MVP. Sapp ranked first in the MWC in rushing, and No. 15 nationally.
Sapp’s rushing buddy in the backfield, quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt also had a productive year for the Rams. In his first full year as the starting quarterback, Van Pelt was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Year and is now 16-7 as CSU’s starting quarterback. Van Pelt also broke his own single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 819 rushing yards.
But Sapp and Van Pelt weren’t the only Rams to be honored. Twenty CSU players were named to the All-MWC team; six to the first team, six to the second team and eight earned honorable mention.
Although the Rams fell short in the Liberty Bowl, there were more than enough memorable wins from 2002 for players and fans to remember. Possibly the most exhilarating was the Rams 19-14 win over in-state rival Colorado, a victory that was clinched in the final seconds as 75,531 fans looked on at Invesco Field at Mile
With a solid junior class returning as seniors for the Rams next season, CSU will look to top this year’s achievements, and, no doubt, they have their work cut out for them.
“I know this junior class,” linebacker Drew Wood told the Fort Collins
Coloradoan. “I know we are going to remember this and learn from this. I have no doubt about how we’ll respond. We’ll be back.”