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Bowl game hopes linger for CSU football

Katie O'Keefe

Crockett Gillmore’s hair looks like a shaggy lion mane. Before the season even began, he vowed not to cut his hair until the Rams made it to a Bowl game.

After a shaky 1-3 start, dreams of going to a Bowl seemed nearly out of reach. But as Gillmore’s hair continued to get bigger and longer, the performance of the Rams grew more consistent.

Sitting at 4-4 with five games left in the season, CSU has a legitimate chance to make a bowl game appearance for the first time in five years.

“We have to get three more wins, which is do-able,” Gillmore said. “But you have to take it one game at a time.”

Flip ahead to the CSU beating Air Force at home in the last game of the season. With that win, they are sitting pretty on a 7-6 record, landing them in the upper-half of the Mountain West division. They would likely play in one of the six bowls affiliated with the MW. With Fresno State sporting a 4-0 conference record in the mix, it is unlikely that CSU will take the No. 1 seed, so the Las Vegas Bowl is an unlikely candidate. However, if Fresno remains nationally ranked in the top-25 BCS teams, it may get snatched for the Fiesta Bowl, leaving Vegas open for the taking.

Therefore the pressure would depend on if the Rams can beat out Utah and Boise State for the top seed. If not, there’s the Poinsetta Bowl, the Armed Forces Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl, Hawaii Bowl or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl — in that order, with the No. 2 seed playing in the Poinsetta, No. 3 in the Armed Forces, and so on.

This makes Saturday’s game against Boise State more elevated in importance than either McElwain or his players will admit. The Broncos are the biggest obstacle standing in the way of CSU’s Bowl game dreams.

If the Rams come away with a win, they are that much closer not only a bowl appearance, but a MW conference championship. Something safety Kevin Pierre-Louis takes a special interest in.

“We have a chance to do something that CSU hasn’t done in a minute, and that’s to be No. 1 in the conference,” Pierre-Louis said. “It would mean a lot if we beat Boise. We play on Saturday, and my birthday is Sunday;  I don’t want to have a sad birthday.”

McElwain’s job is keeping his team focused on the game ahead, but there was an extra sparkle in every eye this week in practice. The team is fully aware of the work ahead, but also of what lies in store for them if they accomplish their goals. Besides, Gilmore has grown attached to his hair.

First bowl appearance since 2008 still a possibility for CSU Rams football.

The last time the CSU Rams football team went to a bowl game, George W. Bush was still in office, Miley Cyrus was known mostly for Hannah Montana and CSU resembled more of a campus than a construction site.

It has been nearly five years since CSU last went to a bowl game. After going 6-6 in Steve Fairchild’s first season as head coach at CSU, the Rams were invited to play in the New Mexico Bowl vs. Fresno State on Dec. 20, 2008. The Rams defeated the Bull Dogs 40-35 in their first bowl win since 2001 and first bowl appearance since the Poinsettia Bowl in 2005.

The Rams had gone 3-9 in 2007 and long-time CSU coach Sonny Lubick was let go at the end of the season. Fairchild, who played quarterback for the Rams from 1978-80 and also served as an assistant coach under Lubick for eight years, was hired by former athletic director Paul Kowalczyk in Dec. 2007. Fairchild left his position as offensive coordinator with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills to return to his alma mater to help right the ship after the Rams suffered three losing seasons in four years.

More than 5,000 Ram fans made the trip to the Land of Enchantment to watch CSU take on Fresno State in a game in which the Rams trailed 28-20 heading into the fourth quarter. In the final 15 minutes, The Rams rattled off 20 points to beat the Bulldogs. Former CSU running back Gartrell Johnson set an NCAA record with 375 yards from scrimmage on 285 rushing yards and 90 receiving yards.

The win not only gave CSU its first bowl win in seven years, but it also put the Rams on the map.

“I think there were several benefits but chief among them was the national exposure for the entire CSU community because that game was on ESPN, it was carried nationally, (and) it was the first bowl game of the season,” senior associate athletic director Gary Ozzello said. “The Rams were able to come away with a victory and so I think the greatest benefit was increased exposure and awareness for the entire university as well as the football program.”

This season, with a 13th game added to the schedule, at 4-4 the Rams need to win three of their remaining five games to clinch their first bowl berth in five years.

Football Beat Reporters Katie O’Keefe and Cali Rastrelli can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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