Around the Horn, Vol. 24|
by Joel Cantalamessa
Seconds after the Colorado State defense thwarted Utah at the goal line to preserve a 21-17 victory, reporters caught up with defensive line coach Karl Ballard, who was so excited he could hardly talk. He called it the best goal line stand he’s ever seen in his football career, and said he would take this “undersized” group of defensive lineman ahead of any other group the team has played against this season. As Ballard was giving his interview, special teams coach Dave Arnold ran up to Ballard and shook him violently, yelling happily, “You are a god! You are a god!”
There certainly seemed to be more fans in attendance than the announced crowd of 32,713. However, upon closer look there were pockets of empty seats in the booster seat-back areas from sections D-F, as well as the very tops of Sections A-I (the southern and northern most sections on the west side). After the game, Gary Ozzello, CSU’s Senior Associate A.D. External Operations/Media Relations Director, said that according to MWC policy league universities must calculate actual attendance, not tickets sold. So, while all 34,400 tickets were sold, there were 1,727 no-shows.
Those in attendance made up what had to be one of the most raucous crowds in Hughes Stadium history. Long-time CSU athletic department officials said the crowd was the loudest they had heard. Even prior to kickoff, the fans started the “Go Rams” chant with the east and west sides alternating at deafening levels.
One of the popular new uses of the replay board at Hughes Stadium has been the clip of Fum McGraw singing what is now known as “Fum’s Song” following the Rams’ 21-16 win at Arizona in 1994. The song takes fun jabs at rival teams and concludes with “Before I see him in Boulder, I’ll see my son in hell.” As the final line is read, the entire student sections sings along and erupts in thunderous applause. The song is not without controversy though, as the CSU athletic department has fielded a handful of complaints about the song, calling it “classless”.
Part of CSU’s success over the past three games, and in the Rams’ win over Utah, is attributable to the play of quarterback Justin Holland. Ironically, Holland says he benefited from studying the play of former Utah quarterback Alex Smith, who was a No. 1 draft pick with the San Francisco 49ers. “"He was just very conservative with taking risks and trying to go downfield," Holland told the Salt Lake Tribune last week. "I watched a lot of game tape, and he just never seemed to force any balls downfield when it wasn't there…He made it seem really easy because he never had to make the great throw because he didn't put himself in position to throw interceptions." Holland has played more Smith-like during this three-game winning streak, throwing eight touchdowns to just two interceptions.
Sporting News writer Matt Hayes glowingly mentioned Holland in this weeks’ edition of the magazine. In Hayes’ notes-style column, he wrote this of Holland: “Looking for a fast-rising NFL draft prospect? Here's your man: Colorado State QB Justin Holland. Four years of injuries and mediocre play are behind him. He'll be the most physically gifted quarterback in a draft that will include Southern California's Matt Leinart. Says one AFC scout: "Big kid, strong arm, fantastic mobility. And more important, he's really accurate."
Former CSU president Dr. Albert Yates watched the game from the press box. In addition, former CSU defensive lineman Greg Pollard flew in from California for the game. But moreso than to watch the game, Pollard was there in support of his mother-in-law, Rhonda Fields, who along with Christine Wolfe presented a $13,500 check to CSU between the first and second quarters to be used towards a $25,000 endowment in the name of Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe, who were shot to death this summer, just a week before Javad was set to testify against a defendant in a murder trial. The money was raised through private donations and a golf tournament. Rhonda and Christine are the mothers of the two slain CSU graduates. Pollard, who is married to Javad’s sister Maisha and played at CSU from 1995-99, has also helped raise money for Crime Stoppers, which now has a payout of $13,000 for anyone who can bring information to the case resulting in an arrest.
Former CSU offensive lineman Blaine Saipaia (1996-99), now in his second season with the St. Louis Rams after having brief stints with New Orleans, Tennessee, Oakland, and Denver, is being converted from tackle/guard to a tight end. The 6-3, 310-pounder. He was asked by coaches last week to make the switch after tight end Roland Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 44-24 loss to the New York Giants. He told the St. Louis Dispatch that he was surprised at the move, but ready for the challenge. "If that's what it takes for us to win, I'm going to do it," he said. "I'm looking at it as, whatever they need me to do. If they need me to run a whatever route, I'll run it the best I can. If they need me to block somebody, I'll block the best I can." Saipaia caught one pass during his college career at CSU--a touchdown on a tackle-eligible play. Saipaia did not have any catches Sunday vs. Seattle.
So why has TCU come into the MWC and had so much success so far, moving into first place with a 4-0 league record (5-1 overall)? Because they win the turnover battle. The Horned Frogs forced seven turnovers vs. Wyoming in their 28-14 win in Laramie Saturday. Wyoming’s Corey Bramlet had a nightmare performance, accounting for all seven of those turnovers. He had with four interceptions and three fumbles (and also was sacked six times). The Horned Frogs converted three of those turnovers directly into 15 points. TCU leads the league in forced turnovers with 13 in six games. TCU has committed 10 turnovers for a ratio of +3.
San Diego State (2-4, 1-2) continues to make you scratch your head. A week after surprising BYU with a 31-10 win, the Aztecs laid a big fat egg at lowly UNLV Saturday, losing 13-10. What makes it even more strange is the Aztecs, who amassed more than 500 yards of total offense each of the past two weeks (something they didn’t do all through 2004), finished with just 140 yards against the Rebels who previously were giving up an average of 397. UNLV’s pass defense was ranked 111th in the country, yet held San Diego State quarterback Kevin O’Connell to just 14-of-28 passing for 106 yards. The Aztecs’ offense managed only a field goal in the game, as their touchdown came on linebacker Joe Martin's 86-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Certainly, the talk about head coach Tom Craft’s job security will resume this week. And, unfortunately for him, he does not have the luxury of whining about the difficulty of the opponent this time.
Major props go out to Gary Ozzello, who for each of the past three home games has gone out of his way to stop by the RamNation tailgate, both before the game, and after the game. This Saturday, he showed up with a 12 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon for JoeyBtherealAD, which everyone knows is Joey’s beverage of choice. The beer, by the way, was paid for out of Ozzello’s wallet, not an athletic department expense account. Top-notch guy.
Props also go out to RamNationers at this week’s tailgate who pitched in money to purchase a Ram logo pendant for CSU women’s basketball coach Jen Warden from Chevalier Jewelers who sponsored the tailgate party and had set up a display table with Ram jewelry. RamNationer Steve Ivy passed around a hat and collected around $150 to buy the pendant, which will be presented to Warden hopefully at the next home game.