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Henry Blackburn sees an improving team culture under Jay Norvell — hopes to see the Rams respond after a tough loss

Justin Michael Avatar
September 8, 2022

Coming off of a blowout loss at Michigan, expectations have not changed for Colorado State in 2022.

Everything that the Rams want to accomplish this season is still on the table, including reaching the postseason for the first time since 2017.

In order for the Rams to begin the road to bowl season though, and prove that this program is improving on the field and not just off of it, the team must first show that it can respond through adversity. 

Over the years we’ve seen tough losses compound into even tougher losses. And instead of having minor setbacks, the Rams have become unrattled, often resulting in their seasons falling apart. 

Sep 3, 2022; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara (12) gets set to run a play against the Colorado State Rams at Michigan Stadium. Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

During Jay Norvell’s weekly press conference on Monday, the first-year CSU coach stressed the importance of bouncing back from a tough day, saying that it’s a process, and that one game does not define this group’s season. 

“We’ve taken a lot of pride over the years over how we respond after we lose games,” Norvell said. “It’s hard to win. After you lose, you have a certain hunger to play again, and we do.”

As Kevin Lytle of the Fort Collins Coloradoan posted, Nevada was 12-4 in regular season games following a loss over the last four years and the Wolf Pack never lost more than two games in a row. Conversely, the Rams were 7-18 after a regular season loss during that same span and recorded a variety of losing streaks that extended well beyond two games along the way. As things currently stand, CSU’s seven-game losing streak is tied with Georgia Tech and UMASS for the second-longest in the FBS. Only Temple (8) has lost more consecutively. 

Obviously, Norvell has only been here for one of the losses in the streak, so holding that against him or this team with 59 new players is unfair, or at the very least lacks context. For the fans though, it’s been pretty rough over the last year. And it’s been even harder for the holdovers from the Addazio era, the players that have had to experience each and every one of those defeats firsthand. 

Henry Blackburn is one of those players and frankly, he’d had enough. In a one-on-one with DNVR after practice on Tuesday, the junior safety said that he’s seen the way a hard loss or two has taken the life out of the building in the past, and that it’s actually been something the players have been very open about wanting to change.

“We make it clear. I mean, we tell the truth about how that shit went down. And we’re not going to let it happen again,” Blackburn said. 

Henry Blackburn flexes after making a tackle against Boise State in 2020. Photo: CSU Athletics

Blackburn continued, explaining that there are always going to be times in a season where the going gets tough. The Rams could lose some guys, they could drop a winnable game, but when the unexpected happens, that’s when your team’s culture comes into play. And that’s what the 2022 Rams have been trying to improve. 

“I think that’s what it is. At the end of the day, it’s the culture,” Blackburn said. “It’s the effort, and it’s the everyday grind. A lot of people say it, but not a lot of people do it. It’s really hard to wake up every day at 5:00 a.m. with a mindset that you’re coming to work that day. As the season goes on and the months start adding on, it’s hard. But that’s the thing — we need to be able to push through that wall when guys aren’t feeling good, or when injuries happen. 

“You know, maybe we lose a game, but those are the times where we need to trust each other more than ever, and come back stronger than ever, ” Blackburn continued. “And that’s what we plan on doing, that’s what we talked about, changing the culture here at CSU to kind of like how it was back in ‘01 when I was born.”

Blackburn’s words are music to the ears of the proud supporters of this program. We’ll see if CSU can back up those words with a better showing on the gridiron against Middle Tennessee on Saturday afternoon. The one thing that is clear though, is that these guys are hungry.

“Our blood it hot. We’re ready to play,” Blackburn said.

The junior talked about being tired of the losing narrative, tired of hearing the comments on campus and beyond about CSU’s shortcomings, and how he and the rest of the guys in the locker room desperately want to change the tune.

“We’re ready to change all of that as soon as we can. And as soon as we can is this Saturday at home. We want to impose our will on this team. We’re sick and tired of losing. That’s really it. That’s the point-blank truth. And we’re doing everything we can, we’re working asses off every day to put ourselves in position to come away with a win. That’s what we plan to do on Saturday.”

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