As Colorado State was about to take the field for the Holiday
Bowl against Michigan back in December 1994, 22 freshmen ran to
the front of the pack and led the charge onto the turf at Jack
Murphy Stadium. It had been the best season in the 101-year
history of Colorado State football: The Rams went 10-2 in the
regular season and won the WAC title for the first time, which
was reason enough to go wild. But something more was in the air.
Before surging through the tunnel and past their teammates, the
freshmen had pledged to each other that their class would
surpass the accomplishments of that season's seniors.
"We all kind of looked at each other and went crazy out on the
field," says defensive back Myron Terry. "Our entire class had
redshirted, so we knew we had to get our aggressions out then.
All of us had a feeling that good things were going to happen
from that point on. Colorado State wasn't known as a football
powerhouse when we got there, but the senior class had set the
school record for wins, and it was up to us to keep it going."
The brief sojourn on the San Diego sod was the only action those
freshmen saw that night, but four years later the Rams, bolstered
by the class of '99, have now joined the ranks of the nation's
The transformation, under coach Sonny Lubick, has been
remarkable. The Rams have won more games (41) in his five
seasons in Fort Collins than they did in all of the '80s (36).
Last season Colorado State had an alltime-high 11 wins and took
its third WAC title in four years. Lubick calls this senior
class his best yet, and 17 starters return from a team that
ended '97 by winning nine straight.
A major concern, however, is replacing quarterback Moses Moreno,
who threw for 2,257 yards and 20 touchdowns last fall.
Fifth-year senior Ryan Eslinger, who has thrown just 27 passes
in college, will begin the season as the starter. Despite his
lack of experience, his teammates have confidence in him. "Ryan
is a big part of our class, and with all due respect to Moses
Moreno, Ryan is a better athlete," Terry says. Eslinger has the
luxury of playing behind 6'4", 285-pound center Mike Newell and
6'6", 310-pound left guard Anthony Cesario, neither of whom
allowed a sack last season. He also has a pair of 1,000-yard
fullbacks to hand off to in senior Damon Washington, the
starter, and junior Kevin McDougal.
"We're really not going to change anything offensively," says
Lubick. "We've operated out of the one-back set pretty
effectively for several years now, and we return a couple of
tremendous runners. But our quarterback has to be confident,
because we're not going to run the ball every down."
Colorado State's biggest strength is its swarming defense.
Linebackers Nate Kvamme (110 tackles) and Willie Taylor (92) and
defensive end Clark Haggans (66 tackles, 11 sacks) are punishing
pass rushers, and Terry (six interceptions) is the stalwart of
The Rams will be tested early. They open with Michigan State and
then play rival Colorado, whom they haven't beaten since 1986.
Unlike in previous years, though, these are games Colorado State
is supposed to win. "When I took over I hoped to turn this into
a .500 program, and I think people would have been happy with
that," says Lubick. "But with the success we've had, people are
expecting us to win every game. It's time to see if this group
can deal with a little success."
COLOR PHOTO: TIM DEFRISCO Two for 2K Both McDougal (above) and Washington are coming off 1,000-yard seasons. [Kevin McDougal in game]
1997 record: 11-2 (8-1, 1st in WAC Pacific)
Final ranking: No. 17 AP, No. 16 coaches' poll
1997 Averages OFFENSE DEFENSE
Scoring 36.8 14.9
Rushing Yards 219.3 122.9
Passing Yards 203.8 204.3
Total Yards 423.0 327.2
Senior Damon Washington, who rushed for 1,112 yards and eight
TDs in '97, can become the first Ram to rush for 1,000 yards in
three straight seasons.... Junior Kevin McDougal comes off the
bench but is just as dangerous: 1,111 yards and 13 TDs in
'97.... Linebackers Willie Taylor (7.7 tackles per game) and
Nate Kvamme (two interception returns for TDs) are the heart of
Schedule strength: 91st of 112
Aug. 29 at Michigan State The Rams can prove they're a realistic
Top 10 threat with a victory in East Lansing.
Sept. 17 at Air Force Revenge is in order against the Falcons,
who embarrassed Colorado State 24-0 in Fort Collins.
The Bottom Line
If Ryan Eslinger handles the quarterback job and the Rams at
least split against Michigan State and Colorado, they'll go to a