For many CSU football fans the 2005 season seemed like it would be just as painful as the previous one. Question marks about the running game, injuries piling up on key players, a heart breaking loss at CU and a manhandling suffered at the hands of Minnesota was eerily reminiscent.
Many people were already putting the '05 Rams in the cellar of the conference before even playing a conference game, or a home game for that matter. I felt I had to back them for one simple reason- they just look different.
I know, it's a weak reason to think the Rams would bounce back but it was obvious to me the second they hit the grass in the extremely hostile environment of Folsom Field. This team was different because they just had that look of the dangerous underdog again. The look that says, 'We may not be good enough to just go out and win games, we may actually have to earn it.'
That look, or lack of, is what has driven some CSU fans, including students, to stray from being diehard CSU football fans. To some fans, the Rams of the past couple years didn't look as if they wanted to be the best. Knowing the team now, I obviously don't think that was ever the case, but it was true they weren't the same hardnosed Rams of the earlier days.
That grind-games-out, underdog mentality is what head coach Sonny Lubick rebuilt this program on when he came to Ram country 13 years ago. That mentality was lost a few years back – this season they rediscovered it.
This episode of Rams football hits harder than the last, just watch junior cornerback Robert Herbert and senior linebacker Courtney Jones. The defense comes up with the big play when needed, just ask Utah. The quarterback is steady and has a cannon, as well as a killer group of hands to throw to. But maybe most importantly this version of the Ram's have a train to ride like Sonny's earlier versions.
Sometimes it looks like former Ram runner Kevin McDougal came back with a 34 on his chest rather than the 36 he wore while carrying CSU football to conference championships. Sophomore workhorse running back Kyle Bell, The Bell Train, has rediscovered the winning formula the Rams have used over Lubick's tenure.
Behind running backs like McDougal and Cecil "The Diesel" Sapp the Rams featured a balanced offense consisting of pound the ball backs, big plays in the passing game and a defense known for playing rough.
Bell's presence has led to fewer passes needed from senior quarterback Justin Holland, which has bolstered his quarterback rating to 154.31, 14th in the nation.
Over the past three games, since Bell became the starter at running back, Holland has thrown eight touchdowns and just two interceptions, compared to four touchdowns and five interceptions in the first two games.
This Rams team may have just gone through an outstanding three weeks of football and may lose it as easy as they got it, but I highly doubt it. Because like I said, this Rams team just looks different, and I think most Ram fans would agree that's a very good thing.