Ah, game day. In the state of Colorado, nothing matches the excitement and rivalrous tension that the Rocky Mountain Showdown brings every year. This year, the fans and teams didn’t disappoint.
2:30 p.m.: Sports Authority Field tailgates
I arrived at lot D to check out the tailgating festivities, whereupon University of Colorado alum Devin Hegger and his family adopted me for a short time. Amidst all the Colorado State smack talk, we embarked on the most competitive game of cornhole I’d ever been a part of. My partner and I dominated.
Thirty-one-year-old Jonathan Searle, Hegger’s brother-in-law, has seen his fair share of Showdowns since the dawn of his Buffalo allegiance.
“This is probably my 13th year at the showdown,” Searle said. “I graduated in 2007, I’ve had season tickets since and I went a couple years while I was in high school too.”
The love for his alma mater, he said, is one that cannot be matched.
“I’m a huge Buffs fan,” Searle said. “When CU wins, it’s a better weekend for me. When CU loses, it hurts my weekend.”
3 p.m.: crossing into enemy territory
After circling the entire parking lot of Colorado-clad fans, expert photographer Elizabeth Rodriguez and I ventured into the land of green and white to fraternize with the enemy. Well, sort of.
For the most part, our Buffalo gear garnered a host of nasty comments and “*expletive* CU” chants, but we finally managed to find one, semi-sober Ram who was willing to talk to us.
Sam Ballard, a Colorado State sophomore, spent the entire day partying his heart out in the blistering sun. From 9 a.m. on, he and his Fort Collins buddies sparred in a competitive game of beer pong. By the time we me up with the squad, the majority of the kids were burned out, but Ballard claimed he had been dominating the competition all day. Allegedly.
He kept flipping back and forth on his predictions for the game, but in the end he decided that the Rams would steal the victory by the end of the night.
“I’m pretty confident that we’re going to win,” Ballard said. “CU’s good. We’re better though. We went to a bowl game last year.”
Too bad that bowl game cred couldn’t save them at the end of it all.
3:30 p.m., heading back to the Buff Zone
After a failed attempt at grabbing the attention of the Ralphie handlers, Elizabeth and I decided to sail back into warmer waters. The looks we had been receiving from the CSU fans were ice cold, and we didn’t feel the need to stick around.
On our way back up to Lot D, we ran into 23-year-old former CU cheerleader Taylor Ullemeyer, who had just gotten to the stadium minutes before we rendezvoused.
For the past four years, Ullemeyer enjoyed attending games with the cheer team, so the tailgating experience was something completely unfamiliar to her.
“It’s definitely strange,” Ullemeyer said. “I’m not used to being out here (tailgating). I don’t know what to do.”
4 p.m.: the athletic Buffs come out to play
On our way to the stadium entrance, Elizabeth and I caught up with a few current and former Colorado basketball players. Alumni Spencer Dinwiddie, Ben Mills and Beau Gamble proved their athletic skills reached beyond the court as they threw a football with the likes of current players Tre’Shaun Fletcher, Brett Brady and Derrick White across a considerable distance (with the space that was left in the parking lot).
Gamble, who graduated from CU a couple years back, said he and his squad arrived just past 1 p.m. as soon as the gates opened for the game day festivities.
For him, the Rocky Mountain Showdown has always been something he looks forward to every year.
“I’ve been coming since I was a little kid,” Gamble said. “Truthfully, my parents have been season ticket holders since the 80’s, and they don’t even like coming to this game because of all the havoc it creates. But it’s awesome for me and all my friends, and we have an epic tailgate.”
His game prediction, unlike Ballard’s, was a little more on point.
“I’m 100 percent confident in a win today,” Gamble said. “I hate CSU. I bleed black and gold. The Buffs are going to win.”
4:15 p.m.: game bound
After the gates opened and Elizabeth and I went our separate ways, I headed into the stadium with my friend to secure our seats in the south end zone. But, as we waited too long to get in line, we were forced to sit in the seats directly behind the student section.
But, fear not, the newly-hatched alumni were just as rowdy as the college kids.
5 p.m. on: game time, baby
When the clock started counting down after kickoff, this student/alumni section could not be tamed. After the Buffs stopped the Rams on their first drive of the game, the infamous Colorado smack-talk chant came out in full force.
“I said it sucks, to be, a CSU Ram!”
But only for a brief moment was that true. With nearly eight minutes left in the first quarter, the Rams’ Dalyn Dawkins threatened to crush Colorado’s hopes and dreams with a 13-yard touchdown to give the Rams the edge early on, 7-0.
Safe to say the Buffs fans weren’t too thrilled, but hope was not yet lost. It just sucked slightly less to be a CSU Ram at that point in time.
Fast forward about five more minutes on the game clock to CSU’s second consecutive touchdown. It was 14-0, and the fans around me were beginning to lose hope. Some lamented the work of the defense, while other moaned about the state of the offense up to that point. Either way, it wasn’t pretty. Life was looking good through the green and gold lens.
That didn’t last long.
Throughout the rest of the half, the Buffs fought their way back into the game with an aced field goal by Diego Gonzalez and a beautifully-executed, single-play touchdown pass by Sefo Liufau to Shay Fields. After all that, the Buffs fans were back in action and going batshit crazy.
Fast forward to the end of the third quarter, when the Buffs and Rams were all tied up at 17. CSU’s kicker, upon missing one of many botched field goal attempts that would have given the Rams the lead, elicited strong reactions from the fans around me.
Mason Johnson, 22, summed up the game perfectly in just 10 words. “This game is the roller coaster that is my life.”
And tumultuous, it certainly was. Amidst all the hype leading up to the game, I guess the teams decided to carry that excitement in overtime after both teams failed to break the 24-24 score at the end of regulation.
In the end, the Buffs walked away with a massive victory in the most heart-attack-worthy game I’d ever been a part of. As the fans all streamed out of the stadium at the end of the night, fans continued their “It sucks to be a CSU Ram” chants.
Throughout the concourse behind gates nine and 10, the glorious words echoed down the halls of Sports Authority Field once more and redeemed, yet again, the pride in this matchup that had been dormant for CU since 2013.
After all, the Buffs now hold a 63-22-2 all-time record over the Rams, and stats don’t lie.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org.