DENVER – Colorado senior linebacker Rick Gamboa can instantly summon some of his favorite recollections of games against Colorado State: Win, win and another win.
He and the Buffaloes can make it four for four on Friday night when they face the Rams in the Rocky Mountain Showdown at the home of the Denver Broncos.
“It’s a cool thing to be a part of, being in a class that has won this game every single year we have played in it,” Gamboa said. “This is definitely a special game for me.”
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez tried to downplay the importance, calling the season opener against the team’s in-state rival “just another game.” Still, he perked up at the prospect of getting the season underway. The Rams are coming off a 43-34 loss to Hawaii last weekend.
“I can’t wait to get out there and show what we have been working on, on offense,” Montez said. “I am excited, and I can’t wait. Can’t wait.”
The Rams (0-1) dealt with adversity heading into their season opener, with head coach Mike Bobo spending 10 days in the hospital for peripheral neuropathy after experiencing numbness in his feet. Bobo returned last week, but watched from the coaches’ box as his assistant, quarterback coach Ronnie Letson, called the offensive plays.
This week, Bobo could return to the sideline – if he’s healthy enough.
“My wife says I’m moving a little bit faster, but not fast enough to get on that sideline,” Bobo said earlier in the week. “I do not know the answer to that yet. Anything is open.”
This was a pleasant surprise for the Rams: The debut of Washington graduate transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels , who threw for a school-record 537 yards to go with five touchdowns.
And this was a concern: The defense allowed Rainbow Warriors QB Cole McDonald to throw for 418 yards and three TDs, while running for 96 yards and two more scores.
It’s a blueprint Montez and the Buffaloes figure to follow.
“Coaches are copycats if they see a play that works,” Bobo said. “I imagine we’ll see some more of that, what hurt us last week.”
Already having a game under their belt could be a benefit for the Rams, who enter as a 7 1/2-point underdog. After all, they had a chance to iron out the wrinkles.
“You always hear that you improve the most from your first game to your second game. I hope that’s not true of them,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said.
The Buffaloes are coming off a disappointing 5-7 season after winning the Pac-12 South in 2016. They’re picked fifth in the Pac-12 media poll this season.
“They are kind of bonding on everybody calling them a failure last year, and hearing, ‘You let it down,’ and ‘You didn’t keep it going,’” MacIntyre said. “They have two chips on their shoulders, and have decided to shut their mouths and work at it, and let the results on the field stand for it.”
Things to know as Colorado and Colorado State square off for a 90th time (Colorado leads the series 65-22-2):
RIVALRY STATUS: The Rams and Buffs will meet in Denver next season, before a game in CSU’s new stadium in 2020. After that, the rivalry goes on hiatus until 2023. The game will be in Boulder in ‘23 and in Fort Collins in ‘24. The future is a little murky after that, but both schools are looking at dates later in the decade.
THUNDER & LIGHTNING: With former Colorado and current Denver Broncos tailback Phillip Lindsay departed, Kyle Evans and Travon McMillian share the carries. They’ve been nicknamed “Thunder and Lightning.” McMillian, a transfer from Virginia Tech, is the “Thunder” and Evans, who missed last season’s CSU game as he recovered from a broken hip, “Lightning.”
SERIES FACTS: MacIntyre is 6-1 against Colorado State as a head coach (4-1 at Colorado and 2-0 while coaching at San Jose State). Bobo is 0-3 against Colorado (he also went 1-1 while an assistant at Georgia).
HIGH FLYING: Rams wideout Preston Williams, a transfer from Tennessee, had nine catches for 188 yards and two scores against Hawaii. Senior Olabisi Johnson added six catches for 157 yards and two TDs. “They always have a great receiver,” MacIntyre said. “It’s amazing.”
POPULAR TICKET: The attendance has increased each of the last five years, including 73,932 fans in 2017. “It is always a fun game and it is usually a good game and evenly matched,” Montez said.