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Rivalry games remain a struggle for CSU

Justin Michael Avatar
November 5, 2023

For the seventh time in the last eight years, Colorado State will finish the 2023 campaign without a rivalry win. 

After falling 24-15 in the Border War on Friday night, CSU is now 1-19 in its last 20 games against Air Force, Colorado and Wyoming. And because that one win came in 2020, when there were no fans in the stands, the last time Ram Nation actually got to see the team hoist a traveling trophy in person was all the way back in Mike Bobo’s first season when CSU beat the Pokes in Laramie on Nov. 7, 2015. 

To say that it’s been a tough stretch for the fan base would be an understatement. It’s been absolutely excruciating. 

There have been entire classes of students that have come and gone through CSU without ever seeing the Rams win one of the games that matter most. And if your child was in Kindergarten the last time CSU beat two rivals in the same year (2015), they’ll be freshmen in high school next fall, and will have gone their entire childhoods without seeing it again. 

Nov 5, 2020; Fort Collins, CO, USA; The Colorado State Rams raise the Bronze Boot, a traveling trophy for the winner of the annual Border War football game between Colorado State and Wyoming, after winning the game at Canvas Stadium. Photo Credit: Bethany Baker-USA TODAY NETWORK

Of all the trends that need to change about CSU Football — and there are quite a few considering the state of the program over the last decade — the most important by far is finding a way to start having more success with these regional rivalry games.

It does not matter if you are talking about the SEC, the Big Ten or even the Mountain West, there is nothing that matters more than beating your local foes in college football. And unfortunately for CSU, it’s been an area the team has struggled with for far too long. 

You never would have dreamed that the Rams would have a stretch as brutal as 1-19 in the Sonny Lubick era. During his 15 years as head coach, the Rams played all three rivals in the same season 13 times and only went 0-3 one time (1998). Funny enough, CSU still won eight games that season.

Record vs rivals under Sonny Lubick

  • Air Force (9-6)
  • Colorado (4-9)
  • Wyoming (11-4)

As things currently stand, CSU has lost three straight to Wyoming and seven of the last eight overall. The Rams are 0-7 against Air Force since 2016. And after beating CU two times in three years under Jim McElwain (2012-14), the Rams have now lost the last six Rocky Mountain Showdowns.

For comparison, CSU’s longest losing streak to any of the rivals under Lubick was four straight to CU (1995-1998). He never lost more than two in a row to the Falcons or Cowboys though. It was that consistency that truly made him a legend. 

Colorado State captains at midfield during the coin toss. Photo: Ryan Greene | DNVR

Don’t get me wrong. Nobody is saying that CSU fans should expect to pull off a clean sweep every year or anything like that. Even under the legendary Sonny Lubick, the Rams only went 3-0 against Air Force, CU and Wyoming two times (1999 and 2002). And for all the success that he had, McElwain went 2-1 twice but he never managed to get the perfect 3-0 during his tenure. 

This current trend is unacceptable though. And if the Rams are ever going to even think about making some real noise again, being more consistently competitive against the other local schools is going to be crucial.

All of the best seasons in school history featured some combination of multiple wins over regional rivals.

0-3 cannot be the outcome again in 2024.

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