After two weeks of hoping and waiting, the CSU Rams finally have the invitation they so desperately want.
The Rams (6-6, 4-4 MWC) are headed to Albuquerque for a showdown with the Fresno State Bulldogs (7-5, 4-4 WAC) in the third annual New Mexico Bowl. Jeff Siembieda, the executive director of the New Mexico Bowl, officially extended an invitation to CSU Sunday night at the team’s end of the year banquet, one which head coach Steve Fairchild gladly accepted.
Siembieda explained that a game between the Rams and Fresno State was a no lose proposition.
“I love the match up,” he said. “It’s two really good football teams with some great fan bases and a ton of passion. It’s a match up that will not only excite the two fan bases but also the people of New Mexico.”
Running back Gartrell Johnson anticipated the announcement, but still took joy in the invitation. Johnson received the Thurman “Fum” McGraw MVP award during the banquet.
“It feels good now that it’s official,” the senior said. “We were looking forward to it but now even more that it’s in ink.”
Tight end Kory Sperry, who was honored as a senior and team captain at the banquet, said that the announcement gives the Rams needed focus before they face the Bulldogs.
“Now that it’s official, it means that we have to work that much harder,” he said. “We know the team, we know the destination and it’s just one of those things we have to get done. We’re looking forward to it.”
Siembieda said he followed CSU through out the season and that he is impressed with the Rams turnaround from last year.
“They are on a roll,” he said. “When a program is where they were a year ago and then injects this new infusion of life and energy, it’s just fun to watch. I’m thrilled.”
Sperry is excited to play a semi-familiar foe and expects a hard fought game. CSU and the Bulldogs were in the Western Athletic Conference together before the Rams switched to the Mountain West Conference in 1998. The Rams defeated Fresno 35-23 in the duo’s last meeting two years ago.
“You don’t want to go out there and face someone who’s not a good team, but they are a good team,” he said. “We have experience with them and it’s good to go up against a team like that.”
Siembieda said that the Rams and Bulldogs familiarity adds a lot to the New Mexico Bowl and creates and intriguing match up.
“This is a classic football game. You have two tough tough teams with some history. It’s two styles that combine to put on a really exciting bowl game.”
The New Mexico Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 20.
Football beat reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.