FORT COLLINS — More than 32,000 rain-soaked Colorado State fans arrived before kickoff Friday night to provide an electric college football atmosphere inside Canvas Stadium.
The party became a total bust.
In the second half of CSU’s season opener, trailing by double-digits to FCS South Dakota State, the majority of seats were empty. That wall of pregame noise? Replaced by awkward silence. It didn’t break until a growing chant rose up from the visitors’ section: “Let’s go Rabbits!”
So much for raised expectations in coach Steve Addazio’s first full season. His postgame remarks after the 42-23 loss featured a common refrain: Unacceptable.
Let us count the ways.
— CSU entered the game with a defensive front seven Addazio touted in fall camp as best in the Mountain West. That same unit gave up 7.1 yards per carry to an FCS team.
— Predictably, the Rams’ secondary was equally ineffective as SDSU recorded five completions of 20-plus yards.
— SDSU moved the chains on two long third-down conversions (15 and 17 yards). Both drives ended with points.
— Quarterback Todd Centeio was solid — 29 of 42, 304 yds, 1 TD — but he overthrew a sure-touchdown to wide receiver Dante Wright early and fumbled a midfield handoff exchange late.
“You should be sick to your stomach if you’re a competitor,” Addazio said.
The pain was visible on the faces of tight end Trey McBride and defensive lineman Scott Patchan.
CSU’s senior team captains were legitimate NFL draft prospects last spring who instead returned to Fort Collins. Both players have discussed league title aspirations. Are they still within grasp?
McBride, staring intently from the postgame interview room, did not hesitate to answer.
“I still believe that. I fully do,” McBride said. “I’m confident in this team and I’m confident in the players we have. One game isn’t going to change the whole season. I’m fired up about this team. There are a lot of positive things that happened in this game. We’ve just got to play together more.”
Patchan added: “It starts with us. We’ve got to go ahead and lead this team.”
Blame the pandemic for a share of CSU’s misery a year ago, when the Rams finished 1-3 with several game cancellations. It’s more difficult to pinpoint legit excuses for what happened Friday night. Did the Rams play a truly exceptional FCS team that might contend in the Mountain West? Or is CSU falling deeper into college football irrelevancy?
The Big 12 reportedly snubbed CSU in its latest round of conference expansion. However, hours before kickoff against SDSU, athletic director Joe Parker expressed confidence in a Power Five future.
“Step number one is figuring out a way to dominate this league,” Parker said. “Then take opportunities that might present themselves as we move down the road.”
Friday’s debacle proves the Rams are not currently legitimate expansion partners for any major conference. CSU has 11 more games this season to help redefine its place in college football. The Rams are climbing uphill.
“One game doesn’t make a season,” Addazio said. “I still feel like we have an opportunity to have a heck of a football team.”
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