For the first time since 2007 CSU will go into the Rocky Mountain Showdown with a quarterback who has been there before.
Pete Thomas leads the Rams into the biggest game of the season tomorrow with added confidence in his second go-around.
â€œ(That experience) helps a lot,â€ Thomas said. â€œIâ€™m a lot more experienced, the running backs are a lot more experienced, the o-line is more experienced, everyone is.â€
Coach Steve Fairchild agrees.
â€œWeâ€™re farther along than we were a year ago, and I know (Thomas) feels that way,â€ Fairchild said.
Thomas is one of five Rams who saw plenty of action in last yearâ€™s Showdown and will be starting on Saturday. The other four are Chris Nwoke, Weston Richburg, Crockett Gillmore and Mike Orakpo.
All of them agree the preparation going into this yearâ€™s game has been more productive.
â€œItâ€™s a lot better feeling,â€ said center Richburg, who started last yearâ€™s game at guard. â€œIâ€™m more comfortable with the offense, Iâ€™m more comfortable with reading defenses and last year this was my very first game so it was more of an eye-opening experience.â€
Growing up in Colorado, Nwoke knows the significance of the Showdown and he is prepared to get the game underway.
â€œIâ€™m definitely ready for a rivalry game,â€ Nwoke said. â€œRivalry games can go any which way, and Iâ€™m definitely mentally ready for that big stage.â€
Coming into this yearâ€™s game with a full season under his belt, Nwoke expects to go into the CU matchup tomorrow with added confidence.
â€œIâ€™m just going to act like Iâ€™ve been there before,â€ Nwoke said. â€œDo what Iâ€™m supposed to do, thereâ€™s no need to be a hero, just do what weâ€™ve been practicing and we will win that game.â€
The CSU defense will have their hands full with a potent CU ground attack and through the air.
With team leader Myke Sisson out, Orakpo will have an increasingly important role at weak-side linebacker as the season wears on.
â€œItâ€™s probably a (180) from last year,â€ Orakpo said. â€œEverythingâ€™s going a lot slower, I can just be out there making plays. Iâ€™m able to play and react faster.â€
Richburg agrees that he is able to worry less about assignments. Instead, he is able to go out and play the game full-speed not worrying about missing a read.
â€œBeing more confident about how our offense works and what calls to make, now Iâ€™m more focused on playing harder and going at a higher speed,â€ Richburg said.
Football Beat Reporter Travis Todd can be reached at email@example.com.