There were flashes of promise, glimpses of a team that could one day be special.
Unfortunately those moments were scattered, strung together by a seasonâ€™s worth of disappointment and defeat. The CSU football team of today stands exactly where it did one year ago: with just three wins, no marquee victories and an uninspired finish that disrespected both the players themselves and the community that supports them.
In their final two games, the Rams were outscored 93-10. After being manhandled on Senior Day against the BYU Cougars, the team ended their season in Laramie, Wyo., in a 44-0 shutout loss to the previously MWC-winless Wyoming Cowboys.
It was the worst possible sendoff for the 2010 senior class, which included standouts like defensive tackle Guy Miller, linebacker Ricky Brewer, running back Leonard Mason, and fullback Zac Pauga.
When asked to describe how he felt about his final two games in green and gold, Brewer was quick to answer.
â€œHeartbreak and sorrow would be the two words to describe it,â€ Brewer said. â€œThose are two games that Iâ€™ll always remember.â€
In their final post-game interview of the season, both the Rams players and coaches greeted the media with a glazed look of confusion after giving up 44 points to the second-worst offense in the country.
Head coach Steve Fairchild said he didnâ€™t do enough to prepare his team for the Border War, but reiterated that he does not foresee any major coaching changes in the off-season despite a second straight losing season.
â€œIt falls on me. I just havenâ€™t gotten the guys ready to play the last two weeks,â€ Fairchild said. â€œWeâ€™ve got to improve in every area. Weâ€™ll get back to work starting in January.â€
Though the Rams season ended in brutal fashion, the year was not entirely void of impressive efforts.
In an early October loss at Air Force, junior running back Derek Good exploded for 263 kick return yards, which set an all-time conference record.
A week later, during the Ramsâ€™ route over UNLV, senior defensive tackle Guy Miller set a MWC record of his own with an incredible 4 1/2 sacks.
Mason recovered from a leg injury in the preseason to become the teamâ€™s leading rusher, as he piled up 533 yards and five touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Brewer returned to lead the Rams with 105 tackles just a year after serving a season-long suspension.
With the eyes of the CSU community directly upon him, freshman quarterback Pete Thomas performed respectably in his first collegiate season. As the only quarterback on the roster to take a snap, Thomas threw for 2,662 yards, 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to take this season as motivation, this canâ€™t happen again,â€ Thomas said. â€œI need to get better in every single area.â€
The enduring moment of the 2010 season will likely be the Ramsâ€™ first win, which marked the end of a losing streak that had spanned more than a calendar year.
In late September, the Rams â€“â€“ adorned in pumpkin and alfalfa jerseys â€“â€“celebrated Ag Day by snapping their 12-game losing streak in a 36-34 victory over the Idaho Vandals. Ben DeLineâ€™s last second 35-yard field goal sealed the win for the Rams, who stormed the field as the ball split the uprights.
There is no indication that Fairchild has coached his final game at CSU, but with a record of 13-24 in his first three seasons at the helm of the program, it would seem an opportune time for the former CSU quarterback to make changes within his coaching staff, if for no other reason than to send a message that 3-9 is nowhere near good enough.
The Rams will have little time to mull over the season, as preparations for the 2011 season begin today with lifting and conditioning.
Assistant Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.