The fortunate five: These Rams set for fourth straight bowl

Kickoff for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 22  is set for 5 p.m., with ESPN providing exclusive coverage. Tickets are still available online or by calling the CSU ticket office at (970) 491-7267.

Punter Hayden Hunt is one of five seniors preparing to play in a fourth consecutive bowl game.

In the 123-year history of CSU football, a very select group of Rams have had the privilege of playing in a postseason bowl.

Heck, no one played in a bowl game in the first 56 years of the program, with the 1949 Raisin Bowl team ending that drought. And then it was another 41 years before the Rams played in the Freedom Bowl, meaning that from the program’s debut in 1893 to 1990 – just shy of a century – fewer than 100 Rams got to experience a bowl game.

Bowl drought

Since 1990, though, bowl games have been a regular occurrence at Colorado State, with Thursday’s battle with Idaho in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl the Rams’ 15th bowl game in 26 years. Hundreds of Rams have played in bowl games, helping elevate the program to new heights.

On Thursday, though, a unique group of Rams will take their place on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Five Rams – punter Hayden Hunt, tight end Danny Nwosu, defensive lineman Johnny Schupp, cornerback Tyree Simmons and cornerback Jordon Vaden – will join a very exclusive club: participants in four CSU bowl games.

Rare feat

Since CSU has played in four consecutive bowl games just once before – the Rams reached the postseason five straight years from 1999 to 2003 – a very small number of players have experienced four bowls. The uniqueness of their accomplishment is not lost on this year’s fortunate five.

“It makes you feel special, that you had a hand in jump-starting the program,” said Simmons,  who got significant playing time as a true freshman. “It’s kind of weird to think about – we’ve played in 15 bowl games since 1990, and I’ve played in four of them. It’s definitely something to brag about.”

Cornerback Tyree Simmons has been a solid player since arriving. as a true freshman.

The five Rams have had varying levels of influence on the team’s success the past four years. Some are starters, others valuable role players.

They were there when the Rams pulled out an improbable win over Washington State in the 2013 New Mexico Bowl, and again in 2014 when CSU cracked the Top 25 and won 10 games. This year the Rams rallied from a tough start to win four of their last five to finish 7-5 and qualify for a bowl game.

Few players have played a bigger part than Hunt, CSU’s All-American punter. He will finish his career as one of the greatest punters in school history.

“When I got here there was a culture where players weren’t expecting to go to bowls,” Hunt said. “Coach Mac (Jim McElwain, now at Florida) helped change that thinking, and (current) coach (Mike) Bobo has continued that winning culture. Players before were looking for a long (holiday) break, but if you love the game you don’t want to have a long break – you want to play in bowl games. Now, it’s almost a disappointment and a shock if we don’t go to a bowl game.”

Looking to go .500

While going to a fourth consecutive bowl is important, the Rams don’t want to just go – they want to win. The five playing in their fourth bowl are just 1-2 in postseason games, and Thursday’s game provides an opportunity to finish their careers at .500.

“We expect to win to win this game,” Hunt said. “The way we’ve been coming together down the stretch I’m really expecting us to come in and shatter expectations and let people know that this team will be challenging for a Mountain West title next year.”