Three yards short.
Three months and seven losses later, three yards in Boulder are perhaps the most important yards the CSU football team never gained.
As the Rams fell short on a third-and-goal in the waning seconds of the opening game at Colorado, the season seemed to be set.
It would be inconsistent and disappointing.
"We're a half a dozen plays away from having a winning season and going to a bowl game," said senior H-Back Joel Dreesen, who had been a part of four bowl games before this year. "I figured this season would be different."
Junior wideout David Anderson said he an explanation for CSU's problems this season.
"This team needs to be tougher mentally," Anderson said. "I'm sure the coaches will approach the off-season differently, not necessarily physically, but mentally."
The Rams, coming off what appeared to be a disappointing 7-6 2003 season, had hoped to rebound and challenge for a conference title this season. Those aspirations fell short, however.
Youth, inexperience and inconsistency, as well as key injuries, helped doom the Rams to the first losing season since head coach Sonny Lubick's first at CSU in 1993.
"This is a lot of adversity," said junior running back Jimmy Green, who was restricted this season by an ankle injury. "I gotta look at this and know not to take anything for granted."
The Rams also lost tight end Matt Bartz, running back Gartrell Johnson, linebackers Courtney Jones and Jamal Hall, safety Adam Lancisero for more than two games each this season because of injury.
But perhaps the greatest loss was that of starting quarterback Justin Holland. Although true freshman Caleb Hanie stepped in and played well, the Rams lost their most productive weapon.
The Rams now head into a seven-month off-season, attempting to put the past behind them and find answers to an inconsistent and often poorly tackling defense, an anemic running game and special teams that were rarely special.
The Rams will return most starters on both sides of the football. On offense, the key losses to graduation include H-back Joel Dreessen, offensive lineman Erik Pears and running back Marcus Houston. Defensively, the Rams lose defensive linemen Patrick Goodpaster and Jonathan Simon, as well as Lancisero. Punter/place-kicker Jeff Babcock also graduates after this year.
However, CSU has talent and potential remaining on both sides of the football. Green ran well against Wyoming and San Diego State. Holland, although plagued by early season interceptions, showed signs of great potential and skill, almost leading the Rams to a game-winning drive at Colorado. The defense will be a year older and more determined after slipping multiple times this season.
"I'd go into battle with this team any day," Green said. "This gives me more determination."
The Rams will not take the football field again until March 2005, when they will start spring ball. They open the 2005 season at Colorado on Sept. 3, where they came up three yards short the last time they were there.
"We want to come back," Green said. "We don't just want to win games and make a bowl, we are coming back to win a conference."