The College Bowl season opened with plenty of fireworks last Saturday when Colorado State recovered from a 22-point deficit to defeat Washington State 48-45 on a last-second field goal in the New Mexico Bowl.
One member of the CSU coaching staff trying to make sure players stayed along the sidelines during the comeback was 1978 Parkersburg South graduate Mike Kent, who serves as the program's head strength and conditioning coach.
"This was a neat game and for me I can't top it," Kent said. "I had to ask myself if this was really happening. I was doing everything I could to keep kids on the sidelines. It was absolutely amazing and a surreal moment after the game-winning field goal."
CSU trailed 45-30 with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but completed the comeback by recovering two Washington State fumbles, scoring two touchdowns and adding a two-point conversion which went under review.
"With all that going on, you felt like this couldn't be happening," Kent said. "All of a sudden we are lining up for a field goal. When he made it, it was absolutely incredible.
"The fans rushed the field so fast. There was a wave of (5,000 to 6,000) fans right behind us, and they were all gathered around for the trophy presentation. There was true elation in (CSU head coach Jim McElwain's) voice - he was real excited and real emotional."
Since arriving in Fort Collins, Colo., in January 2012, Kent has made quite an impact with the strength and flexibility of the players who wear the CSU uniform. Prior to their summer workouts, senior linebacker Shaquil Barrett created a motto for the Rams which read, 'One town, One team, One dream.'"
Members of the team bought into the theme and the entire coaching staff could see a noticeable difference when players reported for fall camp.
"As a program, we adopted that motto and it really fired up the fans," Kent said. "There was not only support from the athletic end of the university, but also from the university president. We had a good feeling with the direction we were going."
At the start of the 2013 regular season, CSU lost four of its first six games, including a 31-6 defeat at Alabama. The Rams, however, came away from that visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala., with confidence they could go toe-to-toe with any program in the nation.
"We went to Alabama and played hard, and came away with a learning experience," Kent said. "Even though we don't like losing, we felt confident that we could match up with them fairly well."
The Rams capped off the season 7-5 and received an invitation to play at the New Mexico Bowl.
"Just knowing that coming here in 2012 and helping bring the program back to prominence ... I was absolutely excited for the program at CSU and the community," Kent said. "It's a credit to our players and what they've put into the program. They've basically took off with it. To top off the season with a bowl game was a part of them reaping the benefit of their hard work."
Contact Kerry Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org