The Rocky Mountain Showdown isn’t your daddy’s rivalry game
Get ready to yell loud. Get ready to boo louder. Get ready to love. Get ready to hate. Get ready to go to battle. You are now a part of one of the biggest rivalries in college athletics. You are now a part the Rocky Mountain Showdown, CU vs. CSU. It is fair to say your life will never be the same.
This isn’t your grandma’s squabble with grandpa over whether to eat at Country Dinner Buffet or stay home and watch “60 Minutes”. This is a little bigger than the anger you felt towards the other team in the homecoming game in high school. This is a roll-up-your-sleeves, scratch and claw throwdown. Let’s just say, this is big.
“CSU is a great team,” senior wide receiver Dusty Sprague said. “We always have to play our best football against them, and they play great against us. That game has just a little more excitement to it.”
The rivalry came back into focus during the 1983 season, when the CU vs. CSU game was re-introduced as nothing more than a throw-in non-conference game for CU. Just like the Montana States of 2006, CSU was a small conference pushover put in the schedule for big conference CU to pad its national ranking.
CU won ten out of eleven games between the two schools from 1983-1998, winning by an average margin of more than two touchdowns. CU basically took CSU’s lunch money, took CSU’s girlfriend to dinner with it, then kicked dirt in CSU’s face and sauntered away with a smug snicker.
This was not a rivalry. This was a grown man lighting his cat on fire. There can’t be a rivalry when one school dominates the other every year.
Then came 1999. This was the second year the game was played in Denver at the old Mile High Stadium. The game didn’t sell out; most everyone was expecting another spanking from CU.
What those who were there saw was David laying the smack down on Goliath. CSU, the little school full of farmers and teachers, shocked the Colorado community and dominated CU, winning 42-14. The next year, the Mountain West Conference bottom feeder knocked out the Big 12 big boy, 28-24. With those two events, a rivalry was born.
“Losing two to them gets us more focused,” former CU linebacker Sean Tufts told the Rocky Mountain News before the 2001 game. “We can’t lose again.”
The Buffs wouldn’t lose in 2001, winning huge again, 41-14, in the first game played at INVESCO Field at Mile High. Over the next four years, arguably four of the best games in the rivalry’s history were played and the annual game grew into the bona fide, fist-clenching fight it is today.
CU would win three of those four games. They won with a last minute touchdown in 2003 after a back and forth affair. Then bad clock management by CSU led to another nail-biter of a win in 2004. Last season, Buffs kicker Mason Crosby celebrated his 21st birthday by booting in a field goal with four seconds left to clinch the win for CU.
After the 2005 game, the CU student section rushed the field, a tradition normally reserved for an upset victory. The students’ field frenzy goes to show how important this game has become to fans of both schools, and how big a win against CSU is.
“The CSU game is the best game every year,” said Stephen Sanchez, a sophomore environmental design major. “Everyone gets real hyped up for that game. I think a lot of kids feel that game is a reflection on themselves.”
The rivalry doesn’t stop with football, as the rivalry has trickled down to nearly every sport. When CU plays CSU, whether it is basketball, football, lacrosse or soccer, anything green and gold might as well be the devil incarnate on game day.
Jake Burkett, a senior defenseman on the lacrosse team, echoed that idea.
“CSU is our biggest game every year,” Burkett said. “They don’t like us very much and we don’t like them either. We go out there hoping to win, and win by a lot.”