Midway through the third quarter the fans started to leave.
Maybe it was the weather, which plummeted from a comfortable 82 degrees to around 50, with an icy northern wind swirling through the stands.
Maybe it was the chance to watch the Colorado Rockies, who would sweep their way into the National League Championship Series later that night.
Maybe they just knew – close game or not, there was no way the streak could end under such conditions.
In any case, a steady stream of red taillights rolled east from the parking lot, thinning the corners of the stadium to emptiness as the Rams bounced in and out of the lead for their 12th straight loss.
“Caleb Hanie’s pass is incomplete, final score the Aztecs 24, the Rams 20.”
As the familiar words drifted from the PA, the few faithful that were left silently turned their backs on the scoreboard and filed out of the stadium. The occupied bleachers soon joined their empty counterparts, with nothing left but the mess to clean up.
Those in the locker room could best be described as being sullenly angry. There was no shouting; no clich/d dents made in the walls by enraged fists; no epic meltdowns at the impetus of reporters’ misguided questions.
But the disappointment was there. It was in the face of a weary Caleb Hanie who sat hunched over with his elbows on his knees as he tried to explain the feeling for the dozenth time. It permeated the matter-of-fact speech of defensive tackle Eric Sandie as he sat slowly unraveling his athletic tape.
“All I can say about losing is this: winning is a habit and so is losing. If people can accept that, that’s a shame,” Sandie said in explanation of the complacency.
As good teammates are bred to do, players were quick to shoulder the blame for their stake in the loss.
Hanie, who threw an interception deep in the end zone in the first quarter, once again struggled to come to grips with another loss of less than a touchdown – the third in the last five games.
“That mistake is on me,” Hanie said of the interception. “If I throw it a foot outside, Luke (Roberts) makes that play. It’s stuff like that that kills you.”
Sandie blamed the defense, who after surrendering just one touchdown early in the game, gave up 17 points in the final 20 minutes, including a two-minute, game-winning touchdown drive to seal the loss for the Rams.
“We definitely let this one get away, but that’s kind of been the story all year” Sandie said. “That’s on the defense. It’s on us.”
Most sat quietly folding shoulder-pads into oversized gym bags as television cameramen tiptoed around the cleats and helmets strewn about the carpeted floor. Those who did speak spoke softly with their heads held a little bit lower than last week, eyes fixated on the floor. Coach Sonny Lubick knew what his players were feeling; he had felt it 70 times in his 15-year career at Colorado State.
But not like this, never in the succession that this losing streak has grown to.
“It’s going to be natural for all of us to not want to go to work tomorrow – to say ‘what the heck’s the use?'” Lubick said. “But I think by Tuesday we will be ready to go.”