Colorado State Athletic Director Jack Graham wanted a man that was going to take CSU back to their glory days of former head coach Sonny Lubick. The goal was a coach that could bring life into a dead program, and yet, stick around long enough to see the job through before bolting for a big time school.
As a member of the Denver media and follower of CSU it was a little difficult not to chuckle at the lofty expectations of the new AD. Who’s laughing now?
After three consecutive losing seasons, Graham had every right to search for a new face of Rams football. Steve Fairchild was unable to resurrect the team fast enough so the journey began for a new name.
What Graham found was a big name indeed. Jim McElwain earned a reputation around college football as one of the better offensive minds, helping guide the Alabama Crimson Tide to two national championships. Coming from the Nick Saban coaching tree, McElwain has the pedigree as well.
Personally, I saw the hire as a home run. McElwain knows how to win because he saw a program go from SEC mediocrity to the envy of the college football world.
McElwain knows CSU setting its sights on a national championship from day one is impossible. Where he can make an impact is to win the war of Colorado. It begins with recruiting and McElwain is gunning at his in-state rival CU. I opined on McElwain’s in-state goals just before the season started.
That’s part of winning the future.
Buffs fans take notice. The Rams just won the present.
Respecting CSU is a trait hard to find in Boulder. Looked down upon as a pesky little brother searching for attention, CU fans respond to a CSU loss with great embarrassment.
Where CU is failing, CSU is succeeding.
McElwain’s squad capitalized on two crucial CU turnovers en route to a debut win.
The margin was small with a 22-17 final score. The effect is gigantic. McElwain planted the CSU flag in Denver on a national stage. Future prospects within the Centennial State were watching.
Boulder better it get it together quick because that school up north, already has.
No question the Buffs won the 2nd quarter of the game building a 14-3 1st half lead. But it was the Rams who had the energy, swagger, and will to win at the end.
Heads up Ralphie, your little brother is growing up.
James Gomez is a Pac-12 and Mountain West columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America
You can follow James on Twitter as well.