Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre has often said that Colorado State has an advantage over the Buffaloes by playing an early game.

After facing Hawaii on Saturday night in Fort Collins, the Rams are used to game speed and their newcomers have got the first-game jitters out of the way.

With the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown coming up Friday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver, however, the Buffs at least still have their preseason optimism intact.

CSU has to quickly regroup after a surprising 43-34 loss to Hawaii.

"We can't feel sorry for ourselves," CSU head coach Mike Bobo said. "It is a rival game (against CU). I know our fan base is excited about playing in that game. We're going to be ready to play on Friday, I guarantee you that."

Bobo admitted the short week to prepare for CU will be tough on his team, but the Rams have no choice but to go to work and not make excuses.

"We can sit here and point fingers and say what's wrong and listen to everybody else or we can come in tomorrow and we can take criticism," Bobo said. "We can look ourselves in the mirror as a head coach, an assistant coach and players and take ownership."

Saturday's loss was stunning, considering Hawaii is projected to be one of the bottom teams in the Mountain West Conference. The Rainbow Warriors' offense features just one returning starter, yet it rolled up 43 points and 617 yards against the Rams — both numbers better than in any game last year.


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MacIntyre said Saturday, before the CSU game, that he expected the Rams to put a lot of points, and they did — eventually. After falling behind 37-7 in the third quarter, the Rams battled back, scoring 27 points in the final 17 minutes, 20 seconds.

The Rams finished with 653 yards — their highest total since a 2014 game against New Mexico. Quarterback KJ Carta-Samuels, a grad transfer from Washington who was making his CSU debut, set a single-game school record with 537 passing yards.

As disheartening as the loss was for the Rams, the late offensive explosion gave them a chance to win and, they hope, some momentum going into Friday.

"We showed a lot of fight at the end," Carta-Samuels said.

CSU is seeking a sixth consecutive bowl appearance, and while they didn't look like a bowl team against the Rainbow Warriors, Carta-Samuels said this is no time for the Rams to hang their heads.

"This is really a true test," he said. "This is when we're going to see what kind of team we are; if we're going to lay down and just kind of get run over the rest of the season, or if we're going to step up, get to work and go back on Monday and start working for this next week.

"This is CU week, and it's a big statement. (The loss to Hawaii) doesn't matter anymore. This game is gone. We have to forget about it and on to the next. I'm excited about what we can do. I think we can do really good things."

Ready to roll

CU athletic director Rick George is ready to get the football season going for the Buffs, and after they missed out on a bowl last year, there's no doubt what he's got in mind for this year.

"My expectation is always: We win more than we lose and we get in a bowl game," he said. "What's most important is what Mike's expectations are for the team and what they accomplish. Expectations are great; we just have to go out there and play football and win games."

While George is obviously very in-tune with what's going on with the football program, he said he has not attended any practices, which is typical for him.

"I just don't go out to practices and I don't want to get in anybody's way," he said. "I don't go to practices in any sports. I like to go to the games and see how they do and let the coaches have their space and do their job."

Pass rushers coming along

The Buffs are looking to several outside linebackers to generate pressure on the quarterback after the defense had just 19 sacks a year ago. While senior Drew Lewis, a converted inside linebacker, will play a key role, he's not alone.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said true sophomore Jacob Callier had a good preseason camp.

"He's playing really hard and, second year in the system, he's learning it better," Eliot said.

The Buffs are also seeing good things from junior Nu'umotu Falo, back after sitting out the 2017 season.

"Nu'umotu has really improved from the spring," Eliot said. "He was a little rusty in the spring, but we've seen a lot of improvement from him. He's done well."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.