In its first two seasons under the direction of Mike Bobo, Colorado State has yet to storm out of the proverbial gate. It's been the back half of regular season play that's allowed the Rams to maintain their consecutive bowl streak.
Few gave CSU a chance in 2015 when it stared down a 2-4 record following a 41-10 drubbing to Boise State. But Bobo's Rams proceeded to rattle off wins in five of their final six games.
The 2016 season went eerily similar as CSU began the campaign 2-3 and on the heels of a dreadful Border War loss the first night of October. A rejuvenated Nick Stevens helped lead the green and gold to victories in five of CSU's last seven contests.
Both seasons resulted in postseason play, but it begs the question of how the Rams would fare if they started the regular season much like they've finished it under their third-year coach.
According to center Jake Bennett, it's been a focal point by Bobo and the coaching staff to not allow a third straight slow start to muddy the regular season.
“I think that’s been the emphasis this spring with Coach is we’re not going to wait," Bennett said. "I’ve certainly emphasized that to the team. We can’t wait, sit back on our heels, and wait until the second or third game of conference to realize we can play with everybody. I think that’s a big emphasis this spring that we’re going to be in midseason form week one and ready to roll.”
In terms of talent, CSU feels good about where it is currently compared to recent years.
“I think we’re a better team than we were last spring and I think we’re a better team progressing from the end of the fourth quarter program last year," offensive coordinator Will Friend told the media during his spring ball introductory presser.
Before the the calendar flips to October in 2017, the Rams play Oregon State, Colorado, Abilene Christian, Alabama and Hawaii. Take away the 14-1 Crimson Tide and CSU's first four opponents went a combined 9-27 in 2016, with the Buffaloes posing the next toughest task following a 10-4 campaign.
The opportunity is there for the Rams to begin 3-2 or even 4-1. While it may not seem like a huge difference between 2-3 and 3-2, it would definitely be worth seeing how CSU handles early success as opposed to playing catch-up in October.
For running back Dalyn Dawkins, the new mindset can only take hold when everyone is accountable.
"We have to make sure that everyone is doing their job," Dawkins said. "And to be in a quick tempo and not relaxing. We've got to have that sense of urgency."
Spring ball may be at the halfway point, but don't think that the Rams are just going through the motions and looking forward to an extended break prior to fall camp.
“We need to put a point of emphasis on this spring practice like it’s the middle of the season," Bobo said. "We don’t want to get in a hole. We need to start now. We want to act like we’re in that hole every day.”