CSU is unique in the sense that it doesn’t just have one football rivalry.
It has three.
Or even more than that, if you ask senior quarterback Caleb Hanie.
“It feels like every game’s been a rivalry game lately,” he said.
Forgetting the fact that the 0-5 Rams are desperate for a win against just about anyone, the team’s true rivals are Wyoming, Colorado and Air Force.
Though most fans would probably cite the first two as CSU’s arch-enemies, the players and coaches say Air Force is just as big of a deal.
“I think this rivalry is a huge one,” said co-offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt. “I played here (1982-1985) and I’ve been coaching here a while. To me, Air Force and Wyoming are the same. They don’t like us and we don’t like them.”
The series was essentially branded as a rivalry in 1980 when the Ram-Falcon Trophy was introduced. Given to the winner of each year’s match-up, the trophy was the brainchild of several Air Force ROTC students at CSU.
“Any game where you have a trophy up between the two teams, it’s a pretty big rivalry,” said Hanie.
Air Force leads the all-time series, 25-19-1, but since the trophy made its debut the series is knotted up at 13-13.
For coach Sonny Lubick, Saturday’s game may have a slightly different feel to it. For the first time in 23 years, Air Force will not be led to the field by coach Fisher DeBerry, but by first-year coach Troy Calhoun.
But Lubick said whoever is coaching the other team makes no difference. It’s still a rivalry game.
“You go out on the field and it’s Air Force and Colorado State, you don’t really think about it,” he said. “We had some good games and some nice memories, but when you take the field – even when (DeBerry) was over there I didn’t know who was over on their sideline, and he didn’t know who was on our side.”
Perhaps the biggest reason this year’s Rams-Falcons game will carry an extra bit of intensity is what happened in last year’s contest.
CSU, who entered the game 4-1, led the Falcons 21-3 at halftime and appeared to be on their way to a surprising 2-0 start to the conference schedule.
Thirty minutes of play later, the Falcons had stormed back to a 24-21 victory.
And the Rams haven’t won since.
“I just look back to last season and our season kind of deteriorated after that game,” said senior wide receiver Luke Roberts. “I think we kind of gave that one away. We’ve had to live with that a whole year.”
“Last year we were up 21-3 at the half, we go into the locker room, everyone’s pumped up and jumping around,” said Hammerschmidt. “That was the last good feeling we’ve had around here.”
In other words, if players don’t buy in to the history of the CSU-Air Force rivalry, last year’s game should provide them plenty of reason for acrimony Saturday at Hughes Stadium.
Sports writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.