DENVER — It didn’t take long for Colorado State University’s football players to rush towards the Rams’ student section last Saturday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
CSU had just defeated the University of Colorado 22-17 in the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown and it was time to celebrate.
New CSU coach Jim McElwain couldn’t hide his emotions for a while but he was his usual self after the game.
He put a humorous spin on many things but he was serious as he tried to temper CSU’s first win over the Buffs in three years and look ahead.
“We did not play a good football game by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “Plain and simple we have a long way to go.
“As good as it is for Colorado State, for our students, our faculty, our fans, but it’s one game. As excited as I was for them, they have to realize we have a long, long way to go before I consider us a decent ball squad.”
McElwain, a longtime assistant who was most recently the offensive coordinator at Alabama, earned his first victory as a head coach of a program that hasn’t won more than three games in each of the past three seasons.
“It’s been 27 years and the one thing you learn is it’s never about you,” said McElwain. “I give myself up so others can get better. That’s just who I am and how I’ve always been.
“I’m never satisfied, that’s just how I am. I’m sure 20 years from now when we look up and someone has a picture of the scoreboard I’ll think ‘that’s pretty cool.’”
McElwain is the 20th head coach in CSU history and became the first mentor to win his debut game since Jerry Wampfler in 1970.
“It’s a huge win for coach Mac,” CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson said. “He is the first coach in CSU history that’s ever beat CU in their first game. Knowing that brings more confidence out in us that we’ve go this coach here and he’s with us.”
McElwain, with 27 underclassmen listed on the CSU depth chart, was vigilant in looking ahead towards the Rams home opener Saturday against defending FCS champion North Dakota State.
“What everybody has to understand is we won a game, get excited and correct all the mistakes and move forward,” he said. “That’s how you build, that’s how you are successful. If you get satisfied, go somewhere else.
“As we watch the next opponent, we are playing a team in North Dakota State that has won five straight games against Division IA teams. The last time I checked Alabama and North Dakota State were Division I national champions. We have to get ready for an opponent that scares the death out of me.”
The scary thing for CU is that CSU’s victory is a setback in the Buffs’ goal goal to win six games to become bowl eligible.
CU coach Jon Embree still thinks his team can reach a half dozen victories.
“Why not?” said Embree. “Last year our goal was to win on the road. We have 11 games left and we have a lot of work. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you.
“I know before the CSU game and even more so after, outside of our room there’s not a lot of people that believe in it. We have to keep pushing and striving to try and obtain that goal.”
Defensive lineman Chidera Uzo-Diribe is a believer.
“It would have been better if we would have gotten the win,” he said. “We just have to keep improving. This is only week one. We still have more weeks to play football.”
CU played 13 freshman in the season opener and Embree indicated he would continue to use the young players along with the no-huddle offense.
“We have to play them,” Embree said of the freshmen. “We recruited them here for a reason. The young guys played well, with this being their first game. We will just keep feeding them to the fire.
“We will continue to be no huddle as the season goes on. We did not get the production out of it that we need and part of that was our inability to run the ball. We also have to get faster at it and that will happen as we continue to work on it.”