Following last Saturday’s 24-12 loss at Air Force, the CSU football schedule finally reached its final game.
This Friday against New Mexico, the 2-9 Rams will end a season that came nowhere close to reaching the expectations the program had before the team took its trip to Michigan in September.
For 17 seniors, this will potentially be their final game, although some still have the option to play one more year.
CSU head coach Jay Norvell wants to make sure those seniors, many of whom took different paths to get to their final game, are acknowledged.
“A handful of those guys do have an extra year of eligibility and possibly will return next year,” Norvell said. “We really want to honor these kids. I just think sometimes it gets overlooked what student-athletes do to complete four to five years of eligibility and play a college sport. They’ve been through a lot of changes, a couple different coaches a lot of them. A lot of them have had a lot of adversity over their careers, a lot of injury over their careers.”
For some, like linebacker Dequan Jackson, it will be the end of a long tenure at CSU that saw him play under multiple coaches. For others, like offensive lineman Gray Davis, they came to CSU with one year of eligibility left.
Davis played for Norvell at Nevada and made 40 starts on the offensive line during his time there. That consistency has continued this season at CSU. Davis started every game for the Rams this season and has played more snaps than any other player this year.
“It’s very difficult to transfer and start all over again,” Norvell said. “If you’ve ever had to move and start a new job, there’s so many new things that you have to learn and understand and have your teammates understand you. Those guys have quietly done their job but made a huge contribution to our ability to play. They are leaving their legacy. They are coaching these freshmen. They have done an amazing job. We would like to send them out with a win on Friday.”
For the departing seniors, this is their final week of practice and preparation for game day. Friday, they will do many more things for the last time as CSU football players.
They may not be thinking about it now because their focus is on winning their final game, but as the contest wears on and especially post-game, they expect to realize their ride is over.
“For me personally, I think I know my clock’s ticking,” Jackson said. “I’ve been paying attention and trying to make the most of every moment. I know it’s my last game. I’ve been reflecting a little bit already, but just focusing on finishing out and finishing strong and the rest will hit me afterwards. I’m not really too concerned with it yet. It’s one of those things you can’t control.
“I don’t even know how I’m going to feel. I may be emotional. I may not be. I may just be happy. I may cry. I may not cry.”
More than anything, the seniors want to go out with a win. It would be a positive end to a season that didn’t go as well as they would have liked.
But a win in the final game, for the seniors, would have a deeper meaning as well. Beyond leaving a positive mark on the season, it would be something for the players who are returning to build on.
“It would mean a lot for the seniors, at least,” Davis said. “It is kind of hard to, week in and week out, prepare, no matter how your season is going. Just being able to finish strong and end my college career on a strong note, that’s the first thing I think about. You want to be able to recollect on the past year, if you end it on a win, there’s things positive to go on and build on.
“So, I think there’s a lot of reasons why this game does matter for us seniors, for the program, for what’s going to be in the future. I think it will be an overall, positive boon for the program and the players all around if we can pull out a win here on Friday.”
CSU and New Mexico will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Canvas Stadium.
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