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FORT COLLINS, Colo. — 0-2.
Colorado State should have beaten Vanderbilt Saturday night. The Rams have more talent and it showed for about the first 30 minutes of action. But instead of capitalizing on the early momentum and burying the lowly Commodores when CSU had the opportunity, the Rams allowed ‘Vandy’ to hang around. After jumping out to an early double digit lead, CSU was outscored 24-7 over the final 31 minutes, giving Vanderbilt a 24-21 road win, their first victory over an FBS opponent in close to two years.
Trailing by a touchdown with 5:29 to play, CSU was able to mount a nine play, 67 yard drive to tie the game. On fourth and goal from the 3-yard line, Todd Centeio (QB) connected with Trey McBride (TE) to cap it off. Unfortunately, the excitement was short lived as Commodores were able to follow it up with a game-winning drive of their own. With just 19 seconds to play, Joseph Bulovas was able to sneak a 38-yard field goal through the uprights to secure a road upset for the visiting Commodores.
Following the loss CSU head coach Steve Addazio talked about how hard his team played. He also emphasized that the Rams squandered an opportunity to capitalize on a hot start. CSU outgained Vanderbilt by 185 yards through the first two quarters. After rushing for 164 yards on 8.2 yards per carry in the first half though, the Rams were held to just 43 in the third and fourth quarter. And after starting 13-of-20 for 141 yards and a touchdown, Centeio was 7-of-18 for 97 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the final half. Simply put, it was a game of two halves — one coaching staff was able to adjust on the fly and one wasn’t — unfortunately for the Green & Gold, they were led by the former.
“When we went into halftime, I just said to myself, you know, we had a chance to put this game away. We didn’t do it,” Addazio said. “I was hoping that it wouldn’t come back to haunt us. I really felt like it should have been 28-0 at halftime, and we didn’t do it. We didn’t do it.”
Since he took over the program CSU is 1-5 under Addazio. According to him, CSU is still in the process of learning how to win, but the foundation of the program is becoming visible. “My heart breaks that we’re not bearing fruit right now, but those pieces are there,” Addazio said.
While Addazio is correct that CSU did some things well in Week 2 — the Rams rushed the ball and stopped the run significantly better than the previous matchup, at least in terms of how the final stats played out — the truth is that the fans don’t care, and they shouldn’t.
It wasn’t that long ago that this was a program that had somewhat realistic goals of leaving the Mountain West for a power five conference. Despite upgrading the facilities and securing a more lucrative apparel deal with Under Armour, though, CSU football has become a punching bag for even the lowliest of opponents.
In the last four seasons CSU has lost two a pair of FCS opponents by double digits, they’ve gone 6-14 against league opponents, and they’ve won roughly two games that Ram Nation actually cared about. Even if they were a bad team, the Arkansas upset was extremely memorable; the 2020 Border War victory was significant as well. Other than that, however, there just hasn’t been much else to be excited over.
The current coaching staff is obviously not to blame for all of the frustration, as they’ve only been responsible for the outcomes over the last two years. It’s just tough to feel much optimism considering the current trends of the program when you look at the areas where the Rams have continually underperformed of late.
Addazio was supposed to come in and make the Rams a tougher, more disciplined program. What he lacked in flash, the veteran head coach was intended to make up for with a technically sound approach that could bring more stability to CSU. Since he was hired, though, the Rams have consistently struggled with things like special teams and penalties. Just as they were against Vanderbilt, they’ve largely been outplayed in the second half of games too.
After dropping Saturday night’s contest versus Vandy, Addazio emotionally proclaimed that he isn’t worried about losing the locker room despite another disappointing result.
“Obviously that’s my job and trust me, we’ll lead to steam,” Addazio said. “If you want to build a football program then you don’t drop your head. You keep going.”
Addazio continued, explaining that there might be some low moments along the way, but he’ll keep coaching until the culture is where it needs to be. As he sees things, there has been significant improvement and he’ll take the players with him that feel the same. The problem is that the rah rah football cliches only carry water when the results accompany them. And so far we haven’t seen enough improvement to believe things will eventually trend in the right direction, especially when you factor in the impending departures of the Mcbride brothers, Scott Patchan, etc.
There was a time when football coaches received multiple years to build up a program and the fans would remain patient as the kinks were either worked out or proven to be the consistent results of a failed system. With the way the game has progressed, though, the days of giving a coach three or four seasons by default are over, and the era of swinging for the fences is upon us. Fair or not the expectation is for teams to be competitive, or at the very least showing serious improvement within a year or two of a new coach taking the reins. The arms race that is modern college football has only expedited that process.
With the system shifting faster than ever, CSU simply cannot afford to be sitting idly as the landscape evolves into whatever iteration of the game is coming. There is a real possibility of the less nationally relevant FBS programs being left behind in the next decade. Considering the investment CSU has put into Canvas Stadium and athletics as a whole, failing to be one of the schools that is able to make that jump to the next level would be a pretty bitter pill for Ram supporters to swallow.
It’s not too late for CSU to turn things in the right direction and once again be a program that is consistently competitive on a yearly basis. So I hope the administration feels the same pressure to improve that the dedicated CSU fans do. Because if Saturday night was any indicator of what’s to come, the future of the Green & Gold appears to be pretty bleak.
After an 0-2 start, CSU will travel to Toledo in Week 3 and No. 5 Iowa in Week 4. The Rams will open up the conference slate against the reigning MW Champions, San Jose State, on Oct. 9.