DENVER - Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre had just vanquished a Colorado State team that has lost 18 of its last 25 games, but he didn't care about any past ineptitude.

He leaped and howled and pointed his first finger to the sky. MacIntyre delivered a strong, if earthbound, imitation of Michael Jordan's routine after winning six NBA titles.

The Rocky Mountain Showdown is our state's annual introduction to the college football season, and the game almost always provides superb football theater.

The games after the Showdown are the problem. Each year, coaches, players and alumni celebrate Showdown victory with boundless joy. Disaster follows the fun. In the past four seasons, CU and CSU have lost 72 of 97 games.

I was impressed by the support shown to these recently atrocious football teams. The crowd of 59,601 was loud and properly rowdy. A fan who wandered into the game without any idea of the recent history of college football in Colorado would believe this was a genuinely big-time college rivalry.

Only it's not. The Buffs and the Rams face an immense turnaround before this is anything but a backyard battle.

"I'd love to see the whole place packed," MacIntyre said a few minutes after his triumph.

Then go out and deliver a winning record, coach. When the Buffs and Rams sail into this game with powerful programs, the stands will be jammed, and not only with students and loyal alums. Ticket sales are in your hands, coach.

CSU coach Jim McElwain was remarkably upbeat as he talked about his defeat. His defense surrendered 513 yards and the Rams generous ways helped CU quarterback Connor Wood collect 400 yards passing.

"I believe in this football team," McElwain said. "We have a lot of good things to look forward to."

Really? If the Rams defense doesn't improve - instantly and immensely - CSU fans can look forward to a 2-10 season. It's easy to gaze into the distance and talk vaguely about good times on the horizon. It's brutally difficult to actually provide those good times.

I was talking last week with Falcon High runner/receiver/superstar Kalen Ballage. He's big, swift, elusive, tough and determined. He's the best high school player in our state and a highly coveted recruit.

He might play for CU or CSU, he said, but only if MacIntyre and McElwain give him a strong reason. Ballage wants solid proof this season that the programs are on the rise.

There is reason for hope. MacIntyre lifted San Jose State to an impressive revival before moving to Boulder. McElwain studied at Alabama under the guidance of Nick Saban, a bizarre genius. Both coaches were superior hires.

But so were CU's Dan Hawkins and CSU's Steve Fairchild. Both arrived in Colorado amid deserved hoopla. Both trudged away in humiliation.

A few minutes after his outburst of emotion, MacIntyre took time to put the victory in perspective.

"It's only one game," he said.

Well said, coach.


Twitter: @davidramz