Orange juices weekend success

by Tony Phifer on September 27, 2010

For the most part, I think retro uniforms should be left right where they were in the first place: in the past. It’s rare that a team’s former uniform is worth resurrecting, and the updated versions almost never measure up to the classic uniforms, anyway. There are a few exceptions, with the San Diego Chargers’ power blue jerseys probably topping that list, but when you see outfits like those gawdawful brown and yellow duds the Broncos brought back last year, you wonder why anyone even bothers.

Still, I am a big fan of the orange retros worn by the Colorado State Rams on Saturday in their 36-34 win over Idaho. Not only did the Rams looks sharp, the fans – particularly the students – did their part to make “Orange Out” a welcome addition. Say what you want about fashion, but the Rams looked and played like an entirely different team from the one that started the season 0-3.

The football win was part of a highly successful Rams weekend. Not only did the football team snap its 12-game losing streak, the volleyball team swept its last Utah trip, the cross-country teams performed well at a big meet and the women’s tennis team got to show off its new facility.

Football – The Rams came into their game having scored 19 points in three games and sporting one of the worst offenses in the country. Considering that Idaho entered with one of the nation’s top defenses, it figured to be a long day for Ram fans. Instead, Pete Thomas carved up Idaho’s secondary for 386 yards and three touchdowns, and Raymond Carter became just the second running back in CSU history to post 100 rushing and receiving yards in the same game. Best of all, the Rams showed remarkable poise and resolve in the final minutes when they put together a terrific drive to set up Ben DeLine’s game-winning field goal on the final play. Thomas, by the way, today was named the Mountain West Conference’s offensive player of the week for his memorable performance. Next up: Fifth-ranked TCU – the best team on CSU’s schedule and a possible national championship contender – invades Hughes Stadium for a noon Saturday game.

Volleyball – With BYU and Utah bolting the MWC next year, this was CSU’s last chance to let the good folks in the Beehive State know which team rules the Mountain time zone. The 18th-ranked Rams made a lasting impression, beating BYU on Friday in five sets before crushing Utah in three sets Sunday. Next up: The Rams host MWC rival San Diego State at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Cross-country – The men’s team was eighth and the women 11th Saturday at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota – one of the nation’s most prestigious meets. The Rams return to action Oct. 16 at the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind. – site of the annual NCAA Championships.

Tennis – The results of the CSU Invitational were far less important than showcasing the Rams’ new 12-court facility. The $2 million complex should give the program an immediate boost and will allow the Rams to host the MWC Championships this spring.

Wrapping up the weekend…

by Tony Phifer on September 13, 2010

All I can say is, thank goodness for volleyball. The 15th-ranked Rams continue to be the best thing going at Colorado State and their performance at their own Ram Volleyball Classic provided some measure of comfort following a sad showing by the football team. So, here’s the Ram weekend, in review:

Volleyball: The Rams completely dominated the three visiting teams at the Ram Volleyball Classic, beating Texas Tech, Northeastern and Illinois State in straight sets in the two-day event. While they weren’t particularly impressive against Tech and Northeastern, they played their best against Illinois State – the top opposing team – and easily dismantled the Redbirds. Senior Danielle Minch was named tournament MVP, while sophomore Megan Plourde and junior Evan Sanders joined Minch on the all-tournament team. Next up: The Rams host Virginia Commonwealth at 7 p.m. Thursday, with 23rd-ranked Long Beach State invading Moby Arena at 7 p.m. Friday.

Cross country: The wife-husband combination of Jake and Ellie Keyser led the Rams to a pair of second-place finishes Saturday at the CSU Invitational at Hughes Stadium. Ellie won her second consecutive individual title, winning the 5K race in 17:59, while husband Jake was second in the men’s race in 20:54. Western State won both men’s and women’s races. Next up: The Rams travel to Minnesota for Saturday’s Roy Griak Invitational – one of the country’s top races.

Football: If you were looking for a positive spin on the Rams’ 51-6 loss to Nevada…well, so am I. Honestly, this was a numbing defeat – the Rams looked overmatched from the start and never found any rhythm on offense or defense. The concerns are many, but two of them currently top my list: The defense did not force a single punt, and the offense has yet to score a touchdown in two games. Needless to say, the Rams need to get better in a big hurry. Next up: 1:30 p.m. Saturday, at Miami (Ohio).

Finding some positives

by Tony Phifer on September 8, 2010

Some reflections following Colorado State University’s 24-3 loss to the University of Colorado:

  • After sitting in the giant wok known as Invesco Field at Mile High for 3-plus hours, I now know how bacon feels when it hits the skillet. I was covered in sunscreen but by game’s end still felt like my skin should be served on a plate next to two eggs, toast and hash browns.
  • Pete Thomas is the real deal. Sure, he made some freshman mistakes, but give me four years with this guy at quarterback and I like CSU’s future. The kid’s a stud.
  • CSU had to run the ball to have a chance in that game and failed. The Rams have got to figure out a way to open a few holes if they hope to grow offensively.
  • While some are criticizing coach Steve Fairchild’s first-half decision to keep his offense on the field on fourth down near midfield, I liked it. He was sending a simple message to his team: We’re playing to win. Players love that kind of attitude, and eventually it will pay big dividends. Hated the play call, however.
  • Welcome back, Ricky Brewer. My, what a difference it makes to have talented, veteran players on the field.
  • The announced crowd of 60,989 was easily the smallest of the 10 for CSU-CU games played in Denver. And let’s be honest: At least 15,000 of those people were sitting at home, not sizzling, bacon-like, in the giant wok. When you’ve got two teams coming off 3-9 seasons squaring off at a neutral site, that’s what happens. Here’s hoping both programs quickly return to winning form so this game can again become the premier college sporting event in the state.
  • And finally, while some fans are already writing off this season, I’m still in wait-and-see mode. Sure, the Rams were dominated by the Buffs and didn’t look particularly good in the process, but it’s ridiculous to judge a team after one game of a 12-game season. I certainly didn’t believe the Rams were going to have a huge season last year after they beat CU in the opener, and I certainly don’t believe that losing this game means they are going to have another long season. This team has immense growth potential with Thomas at the helm and better team speed than I’ve seen in several seasons. There will be some growing pains – heck, it could get downright excruciating at times – but I still like where the team and the program is headed.

A sidenote on the CU game: Fretting over the outcome of the CU game really is a waste of time. Consider: The last two times the Rams won the game, they finished 4-8 (2006) and 3-9 (2009) records. The previous five seasons that included losses to CU have produced three trips to bowl games: 2003, 2005 and 2008. And the 1997 season, which many CSU fans consider the greatest in school history, included a 31-21 loss to CU and a 2-2 start to the season.

Cross-country plug

The CSU men’s and women’s cross-country teams will host their only home meet of the season Saturday at Hughes Stadium, with the women’s 5K at 12:30 p.m. and the men’s 4-mile race starting at 1:15 p.m. The great thing about this event is that it includes a 5K community race at 11:30 a.m. Not only does your entry fee help support CSU’s highly successful program, you get the chance to test yourself on a collegiate course – and it’s only $15 if you register early.