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Trying To Understand The Downfall Of Colorado State Football

The Colorado State Rams have fallen from the class of the Mountain West in the early 2000s, but now are on a twelve-game losing streak while being one of the worst teams in the country. So what went wrong over the past decade?

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Everyone can agree that the current Colorado State football team is bad; they are riding a twelve-game losing streak, which is their longest losing streak since the 1959-1962 seasons where the Rams lost 26 straight games.  In more recent Rams football history they had a 14 game losing streak during the 1980-1982 season.

The recent history of falling completely off the map is a concern, and I am not even talking about the glory years of Colorado State football when Sunny Lubick won or shared the WAC or Mountain West title six times.  Lubick also lead the Rams to nine bowl appearances; prior to his arrival the Rams only had been to one bowl game and had a career record of 108-74 in 14 years. I am referring to the rise of Steve Fairchild guiding the Rams to a bowl win after consecutive losing seasons by Lubick; then only to have the team have a 3-9 record the following year.

The current drop off is significant because of the way the final four years of Sunny Lubick's career went down. The Rams had no winning seasons and only one bowl appearance before Lubick was dismissed in 2007.  The main reason was that he had his first ever back to back losing seasons for the first time during his tenure at Colorado State.

Recruiting is a huge part of any college football team to be able to sustain their success, and that may be the reason for the sudden downfall in the Rams program. To compare recruiting it makes more sense to set the standard against the Mountain West and not with the entire country.  So, within the league the Rams have not had a recruiting class higher then fourth since 2002; that year was when they had the second best recruiting class in the league.  They also had an eighth ranked class in 2004 and 2007, plus a seventh rated class in 2009.  So, the drop off in talent was slowly creeping in to Fort Collins.

All that adds up to not having the players needed to be able to compete with the top of the league.  Another way to look at it, is that the coaching staff was not coaching up players to do better, because even the top of the Mountain West are not coming away with multiple four and five star athletes. Those top schools were able to coach those two and three stars up to a four and five star level.

One other key component that has lead to the Rams downfall is the quarterback spot, which until this year has been a rotating door.  In Steve Fairchild's first year back in 2008-- that was the last time Colorado State went to a bowl game -- the Rams had Billy Farris who was an above average quarterback with just under 3,000 yards passing and 19 touchdowns.  In addition to Farris, that year the Rams had Gatrell Johnson at running back who was eventually drafted in the NFL. 

Fairchild looked to continue off of his 2008 success by having the most experienced line in the country and starting the year 3-0, but that is when the current losing streak began. Problems were covered up with the wins, but the quarterback situation was unsettled late into camp with Grant Stucker eventually getting the start. The first three games were against Colorado who ended up being a very bad team, Weber State, and Nevada who had yet to find their stride.  

To most those three wins were a good start with two of those wins being good victories, but the next five of six games were against teams that ended up going to a bowl game in 2009.  So, even if the Rams had a decent team they may have ended that stretch by splitting those six games.  They had everyone fooled at the start of the year and it is not as if they Rams were losing close games, but rather they were getting blown out with five of the nine loses being by 14 points or more.  

This past off season looked as if things would start to turn around, because the Rams received their best recruit in a very long time by landing four star quarterback Pete Thomas.  He enrolled early to enter a wide open quarterback race -- which he eventually won -- then the running back situation looked promising with UCLA transfer Raymond Carter joining Leonard Mason who led the Rams in rushing last year.  So far, the rushing game has been a complete disaster with Carter leading the team with 39 yards on the season.  That is not a typo, Carter is averaging a paltry 1.9 yards per carry while the team is actually doing worse by averaging 1.7 yards per carry.

All of the troubles seem to go back to lazy recruiting by former coach Sunny Lubick during his last few years in Fort Collins.  The classes were nothing great and combine that with coaches not getting the most out of their players that they did bring in.  That is the only way that makes sense, because the Rams were not suffering an abundant of injuries last year or this year. 

However, there is some hope because the 2010 recruiting class was the fourth best in the Mountain West which was an improvement over the last three recruiting classes that were eighth in 2007, tied for fourth in 2008, and 8th in 2009.  In the short term the Rams must shore up their offensive line, find a running game, and get a defense that can actually stop teams from moving the ball at will.