FORT COLLINS — Colorado State could not have asked for a better way to open its brand new, on campus stadium.
Playing in front of a sell-out crowd of 37,583, CSU thumped Oregon State, 58-27 and then celebrated with students and fans in their new home.
"It was an awesome day to be a Ram," head coach Mike Bobo said. "It was a test and it was a good test against a Pac-12 opponent in an opening of a new stadium, under pressure. Not just an opponent you were playing, but the pressure of having to win this ball game for your fan base and your community and for each other; that was a test. Within that test, you had multiple different tests.
"That was good for our team."
This was more than just a good win for the Rams, however. This was a statement and a warning to their future opponents — starting with the rival Colorado Buffaloes — that they can't be taken lightly.
CU and CSU will play Friday night in the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, and CSU's performance against Oregon State suggested this year's Showdown won't look like last year.
A year ago, CU crushed the Rams, 44-7. CSU wasn't ready for CU's speed and tempo, got punched early and couldn't recover.
Saturday's win, in which the Rams racked up 525 yards in total offense and forced Oregon State into five turnovers, should ensure that they'll be better prepared for Friday's matchup with the Buffs.
"It's a confidence booster," said receiver Michael Gallup, who caught 11 passes for 134 yards. "We're in the Mountain West and everybody says we can't hang with anybody out there. We proved them wrong today."
In March, CSU moved the Oregon State game from Sept. 23 to create a bye week in the schedule. But, Bobo knew all along that it could also offer his team a chance to get used to Pac-12 speed and better prepare for the Buffs.
They certainly looked and felt more prepared Saturday, which can only help them going forward.
"It was definitely good to come out and experience success with this team," said quarterback Nick Stevens, who threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns. "We are definitely a lot more together and with a lot more chemistry than we were at this point last year. It was good to put that to the test against somebody else and come away with a victory."
Of course, winning at home against an Oregon State team that's now lost 14 in a row on the road doesn't mean the Rams will look great against CU, but they are sure to take some momentum from Saturday.
"We have to regroup," Bobo said. "We have to get ready to play this week. Now it's a lot easier to regroup when you've got a W under your belt.
"We have to be mature enough as a football team to understand how we got to this point to win this ball game, by doing the little things every day."
Bobo said he wants his team to stay humble and focused as they get patted on the back this next week. Memories of last year's 37-point loss to the Buffs are sure to keep the Rams sharp.
"Nobody likes to get embarrassed like that," receiver Detrich Clark said of last year's loss to CU. "I remember I almost cried after the game I was so embarrassed.
"I think it's more so of us being more mature than last year and knowing where we're supposed to line up. We can play a lot faster when we know what to do."