Four consecutive bowl games typically means something to celebrate for most schools. And while he acknowledged its importance in growing a program, Mike Bobo is anything but content about where his Colorado State team stands at the moment.
"We did not capture the momentum that we needed to capture going into the offseason," Bobo told the media Friday morning at his end-of-season press conference. "You use it as a motivating factor of where we need to go and that we’re not there yet. I knew we weren’t there yet going into the bowl game whether we won or lost. But hopefully that will give us a sharper edge to continue to sharpen our skills and what we need to do as a coach, what we need to do as a support staff, what we need to do as a teammate to get where we want to go."
The Rams' head coach used the word "adversity" a number of times as he spoke. It's something that CSU must learn to deal with if they want to take that next step in what has quickly turned into the most highly anticipated football season in Fort Collins in a number of years.
“You didn’t respond well to the elements," Bobo explained, speaking to how the the Rams reacted mentally to the field conditions at the Potato Bowl. "Ultimately, that falls on the head coach for your mental condition and of how you’re going to handle adversity.”
Bobo continued his train of thought, saying “I thought there was some panic in that ballgame.”
Football coaches often use the offseason to get players stronger, faster and better acclimated to the overall grind that comes back in the fall. Bobo's coaching staff will definitely do that, but will also implement the "fourth quarter program" as a way to build up the team's mental edge, which was obviously lacking at times throughout the 2016 season.
“The fourth quarter program is a time to build the culture of your team of what we were talking of how to handle adversity, of how to fight through and things," said Bobo. "It’s going to be an intense program where you’ll be challenged and pushed to a level that you’ve never been pushed and how are you going to respond? You’re going to respond by realizing that you can go a little bit more than you thought. And with the help of your teammates, you can get it done. That’s the main purpose of the fourth quarter program of sacrifice and being vested in your teammates and program. Vested so much that if we lose a ballgame, it hurts really bad. I don’t know if we’re at that point yet.”
Consider how the Rams won games in 2016. Bobo depended on his offense to jump on the opposing defense right out of the gate, build a sizable lead and allow the defense to play with some wiggle room.
It worked for the most part. However, in all but one game, CSU could never put together a comeback win when their backs were against the wall.
“You play for 60 minutes," Bobo said. "You want to start fast. We talk about starting fast all the time - offense, defense and special teams. Our success this past year was when we started fast, other than the Utah State game. That’s part of learning how to win. That’s part of learning how to get over that last hump of being a championship football team.”
Following his first two seasons at CSU, Bobo sports an overall record of 14-12. It's respectable, but how does he propel the Rams to something more than a middling team in the Mountain West?
“The only way I know how to get there is turn up the heat," Bobo said. "That’s the only way I know. We’re going to be vested so much that it’s going to hurt if we don’t accomplish what we want to accomplish.”