Washington State Cougars vs Colorado State Rams, 9/2/2023, 5pm

WSC 50 – CSU 24, Attendance: 31,497

Weather: Sunny, 88; Ticket: $35 StubHub, Face: $52, Parking: $50

“Unfortunately, they played the game” by Tree

The Logistics:

Colorado State University (CSU) is in Fort Collins, which is a classic college town. It is about an hour’s drive from Denver. We stayed in an Airbnb very close to campus and enjoyed the area. There were plenty of great restaurants from the Colorado Room to Silver Grill Café. We had some great food at those two spots. However, there are plenty more. Old Town Fort Collins is a cute area with tons of shops, bars and restaurants. Like much of Colorado, there are numerous bike trails and plenty of spots to hike. We hit the Coyote Ridge Natural Area for a nice morning hike the day after the game where we saw tons of prairie dogs. CSU’s location is definitely a positive. There’s plenty to do before and after the game.

The Site:

With a relatively new stadium on campus, you would think the tailgating would be great. That would be a stretch, but it was decent. Alums told me the old stadium that was about two miles off of campus actually had much better tailgating. Given its location, it probably forced most folks to tailgate prior to the games. Now, students can just walk our their door and head straight to the stadium. Nonetheless, I thought the tailgating was very visitor friendly. I was able to buy a pass directly from the school which was greatly appreciated. I chose Lot 425. It was about a block from campus and 5 minutes to the stadium. There were RVs, some custom rigs and regular tailgates. You could tell the tailgating / parking was not too tight because there was no enforcement of one spot per parking pass. Many tailgaters took up two spots, closing up in time to fit in any late parking pass holders. It was nice to be able to spread out, but I would still prefer more tailgaters in the lot. The folks we met while tailgating were great. They were happy to share food and drink. The tailgating was not too elaborate with mostly standard burgers and dogs with the occasional game of cornhole. Speaking of dogs, I did see one tailgate with a hearty Labrador taking it all in. CSU tailgating is like a Labrador, nice and easy.

The Rams play at Canvas Stadium. As of this review, the stadium is about five years old. It is the right size for school, holding roughly 35k but expandable to 40k. It has a nice modern but outdoorsy architecture and it fits right in with the campus. It has bench seating on the perimeter and seat backs in the middle. There’s only one video board which is a shame because most new stadiums have two. It is not a real big deal as the stadium is a small enough that all the seats have a good view. Secondly, the video board didn’t show a lot of replays anyway. There are video ribbons around the stadium and the sound system was okay. Our seats were $35 from StubHub and were on about the 20 yard in the bottom of the second tier. We were facing the late afternoon sun. It gets hot so don’t forget the sunscreen. The stadium was about three quarters full with most of the suites and luxury boxes having some attendees, if not full. The concessions were fairly standard and the souvenir cup was pretty good. The bathrooms underneath the stands seemed a bit small, but there were some bigger ones in the endzone. On the open side of the stadium, Belgium Brewing has their own bar area. It appeared to be very popular.

Coming in, we really only heard of one tradition. CSU fires off a cannon before the game and at every touchdown. It is loud, but the tradition itself is not very unique. The mascot, Cam the Ram, was more visible before the game then during. The fans were not quiet, but they were not exactly fired up. There were no coordinated cheers. CSU has not had a lot of success as a program so the fans almost look forward to the tailgating more than the game. The students we met were friendly and polite.

The attire at CSU games is a traditional look, lots of t-shirts and shorts. I did not see any dresses or ties, although green and yellow overalls did make an occasional appearance. So did cowboy boots, but those were mainly on visiting WSU fans. CSU’s color scheme is green and gold, but orange was an original color when they were known as A&M Aggies. I liked seeing the orange here and there. It is a nice tip of the hat to their agricultural roots. Leaving half-time is a popular choice for many of the students. Being a smaller program, they do lots of “bits” during the game from kids kicking field goals, to costume races to t-shirt cannon catches. The band was a bit small, but they sounded good.

The Game:

The Rams, despite being the home team, were eleven point underdogs to the visiting Coogs. The game started out well enough with CSU holding WSU to only one first down on their opening drive. The Rams responded with a long drive that ended with a short field goal. Unfortunately, that was the last scoring the Rams offense would see until midway through the 4th quarter. CSU’s defense was not bad, but they were on the field an awful lot. They managed to force a turnover to keep it close-ish in the first half. The Rams offense was struggling and their passing game looked particularly overmatched. At halftime it was 17 – 3 WSU. Indeed, the video crew put together a first half highlights video that was virtually all defense.

The Rams opened the second half with another three and out. WSU promptly responded with a long touchdown drive. I looked at my buddy Pete, who had a couple hours drive home ahead of him, and said I don’t think this is going to get any better. We had not even exited the concourse when the Rams gave up a pick six to make the score 29 – 3. CSU did manage to score 21 points late including a 98 yard kickoff return. It was too little, too late. In general, the Rams have been a middling program with below 500 records in both total games and bowl games. They were best in the Sonny Lubick era, when CSU was consistently a winner, almost always in the top 25, and very strong at home. The late ‘90s and early ‘00s were great years for the Rams, but since then they have been average at best. However, anytime the Rams beat their rival, the Colorado Buffs, the season is considered a success.

Personal Notes:

As mentioned, CSU has a rich agricultural heritage and no where is that more present then in their annual Flower Trials. It started out as a way to see what plants would do best in the Colorado climate. The event has blossomed into a gorgeous display in the center of campus. It is worth stopping to see, especially if you less football focused folks in your traveling party. I know my wife found it more interesting than attending the game. As she noted upon my return, she didn’t miss much after watching the “awful” game back at the Airbnb. The CSU campus is worth the stroll, and it gives off a small hippy vibe. It is not often I see the sidewalk chalked up with lots of “save the animals” messages as you head to tailgate areas. It was not a bad thing, just a bit atypical on game day.

Like I said, there are lots of positives to visiting Colorado State. The town is great, the stadium is new, and the tailgating, if on the smaller side, is still very enjoyable. If the football team were better and more storied, it would be worth the trip. It is a lot like going Appalachian State except without a great football team and exciting in-game experience. If your team is visiting CSU, by all means go. You will not be disappointed. It, however, does not make the must-see list. Also, keep this in mind. Despite a better program down the road in Boulder, I would chose CSU over Colorado any day.

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