DENVER — They’ll talk about this one in Fort Fun for a long time, or at least until this time next year. They’re going to use words that won't be repeated in this space, since I love my job and would prefer to keep it.
Colorado State got a raw deal Friday night in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. There’s no way around it. If CSU fans tacked an asterisk alongside CU’s 17-3 win before they reached the Longmont exit, who can blame them? The officiating crew had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night.
Hey, it happens to the best of us. This one just happened in front of 73,932 sets of eyeballs in a heated rivalry game between one program that won a conference title last year (CU) and one that can win its conference this year (CSU). Oh, yeah, and they also truly loathe the other’s guts — right up until 50 or so players from both teams huddled up for a postgame prayer at midfield. Leave it to college kids to show us the way.
But when CSU coach Mike Bobo could have appeased the pack of Rams fans who left Mile High with a sour taste in their mouth by blasting the officiating crew, he took the high road and gave a proper reason why the Rams will be a serious threat to win the Mountain West: “Our expectation was to win the ballgame. Like I just told the team, we failed at that.”
Yes, Bobo wore a ticked-off look that screamed, I didn’t get jobbed that bad in almost two decades at Georgia. And he confirmed CSU will partake in a conference call to, ahem, discuss the three shaky offensive pass interference calls that stunted scoring drives and turned the momentum in the game.
“The ballgame’s over,” said Bobo, who spent the entirety of a timeout ripping into the officials after the third pass interference flag. “They’re not going to come back and say we’ll play the ballgame over.”
Then he emphasized the final letter in an acronym the CSU coaches preach to a veteran roster: E.D.G.E. It stands for Effort, Discipline, Gratitude and Excuse-free, the latter being his message to the losing locker room. CSU players filed to the bus with their heads low. They shouldn’t have.
Since we’re all friends here — break it up, Cam and Ralphie — let’s be clear I’m a friend of the officials. Not specifically these officials who, yes, operate mainly in the Pac-12; all of the officials. Theirs is a thankless job, they must make split-second decisions without the benefit of replay, all that. I have no dog in the fight. Didn’t attend CU or CSU and would recommend either to anyone. This is just calling it like it is: through three quarters of entertaining football, the Rams and Buffs had the same number of first downs (15) and passing yards (164) and, aside from Phillip Lindsay doing Phillip Lindsay things (144 rushing yards for the game), were surprisingly evenly matched. The difference in a closer score was the pass interference calls no one in the press box could figure out. Finding a consensus in a press box is like finding a consensus in Congress, so if Bobo had unloaded in his press conference, it would have been worth the fine money. I like when coaches stick up for their guys. And Bobo would have been right.
As for the game itself, well, the faithful on both sides — the Rams, whose student section lobbed water bottles and Frisbees onto the field in protest; and the Buffs, who blacked out the south stands in a sea of solidarity — have reason to look down the road and believe they both can play in a sweet bowl game.
And this is how the Rocky Mountain Showdown is supposed to go down: The Pac-12 program has more guys who will draw a paycheck in pads, starting with cornerback Isaiah Oliver. Do they grow rangy, thumping defensive backs on trees in Boulder these days? The Buffs who won the Pac-12 South last season placed seven guys in NFL camps, yet the defense stood strong against a potent Rams offense that blistered Oregon State for 58 points six days prior.
CU is not all the way back, but you can see all the way back from where it’s standing. After going through the 2015 and 2016 NFL drafts without a single player being selected, the Buffs have dudes again. And the Rams?
“I didn’t know last year” at this time if they were any good, Bobo said.
And this year?
“I know what we have,” he said. “I know we have a good football team.”