Kelly Lyell has covered Colorado State athletics for the Fort Collins Coloradoan for a long time, and here are the answers to the five questions I had for him leading up to Saturday’s Border War with Wyoming.
Let me know what you think, and we can discus this and many other things in more detail during today’s live chat at 3 p.m. Here is the link to the chat:http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2011/11/29/live-chat-thursday-december-1st-at-3pm/
What has gone wrong for Colorado State this season, and are you surprised with its struggles? CSU’s players and coaches appeared to think they were better than they really were after a 3-1 start that really wasn’t all that impressive considering the opponents they beat were New Mexico, Northern Colorado and Utah State in double-overtime, and the one they lost was to a bad Colorado team. They came out flat in their homecoming game Oct. 1 against San Jose State and never have recovered, losing that contest 38-31 and every game they’ve played since then, too. That loss dealt a serious blow to the confidence of a team that was just starting to develop some after back-to-back 3-9 seasons. I wasn’t expecting great things out of the Rams this season, but I thought they’d get to 5-7 or 6-6 simply because they do appear to have more talent on the roster this year than they’ve had the past two seasons.
Does coach Steve Fairchild keep his job after the season? If not, in what direction do you think the school will look in finding a new coach? It’s hard to see how Fairchild can keep his job after this season, given that he’s completing the fourth year of a five-year contract and the program is headed for a third consecutive 3-9 season. The buyout, though, $700,000, could be prohibitive for a program already facing cuts to cover tuition increases for its scholarship athletes, the new supplemental scholarship money approved by the NCAA and university-wide cutbacks to cover reduced state funding. They might opt for a one-year extension with a reduced buyout clause should they want to fire him next year, much as Mike Locksley agreed to at New Mexico for the current season.
If they do opt for a new coach, I think they’ll look at someone with no previous ties to the school who has been successful as a head coach at a lower level. Basically the football version of CSU men’s basketball coach Tim Miles.
What is the status of QB Pete Thomas this week? Does the future look bright at that position with him and the true freshman Garrett Grayson, or is that position in turmoil right now? Pete Thomas isn’t likely to play this week. His knee sprain still was causing pain in practice Tuesday when he tried to drop back, push off or move laterally, and he all but ruled himself out of the game afterward. If coaches truly let Thomas, Grayson and Connor Smith, the freshman running the scout team this year while he redshirts, compete for the quarterback job, the Rams should be in good hands there for the next few seasons. However, they’ll need to keep it open and competitive to keep whoever doesn’t win it next year from transferring, as the losers in most quarterback battles often do. In an open competition, I’m not sure which of the three will win out. Thomas has the experience, Grayson moves better in the pocket, and Smith has the strongest arm of the three.
It is Border War week and we know the cliches that go along with this game in terms of ‘throwing the records out and all that. Do you think CSU will be up for this game or has its struggles zapped this team of any energy and motivation? I think the Rams will have the kind of energy and motivation they need at the start of the game, but should they struggle early, I think they’ll back down pretty quickly and it could become a repeat of last year’s game in Laramie. That’s pretty much what happened this past Saturday against Air Force. The Rams were good early and led 7-0 after one quarter, but as soon as Air Force got its first touchdown, the floodgates opened, with 31 unanswered points in the second quarter and the rout was on. What little confidence the Rams still have is fragile.
Your thoughts on Wyoming this season and are you surprised it’s had the success it’s had to this point? Also, your predicted final score. Wyoming has surprised me this season, not only in its overall success but also in the way it has played against some of the nation’s top teams, like Nebraska and Boise State. I originally suspected the Pokes, under Dave Christensen, were following the same path as the Rams under Steve Fairchild, going 7-6 and winning the New Mexico Bowl — over the same Fresno State team, even — in Year 1, then falling to 3-9 in Year 2. I’m impressed that Wyoming has gotten its program back up into the top half of the Mountain West Conference in such a short time under a new coach, particularly given some of the adversity the program has had to overcome, such as the tragic death of receiver Ruben Narcisse last fall and the decision by quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels to transfer last winter. I expect the Cowboys to prevail in this one. Wyoming 35, CSU 20.