This week marks the end of an era of sports as the CU Buffaloes and CSU Rams will play the final Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver on Friday.
After this weekend, the two universities will have met 91 times, but the current iteration of the rivalry series has taken place at Mile High Stadium (both old and new) since 1998.
And while the annual matchup has fizzled in recent years, the Buffs and Rams have created quite a legacy.
To put it in perspective, Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan caught up with Neill Woelk of CUBuffs.com to get his perspective on the series as it wraps up in Denver, what’s expected this year and what does the rivalry look like in the future.
Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan digital producer Johnny Hart: As the Rocky Mountain Showdown concludes its run in Denver, what’s the legacy of the series’ current iteration?
CUBuffs.com Contributing Editor Neill Woelk: Fans will remember a series that had big crowds from both fan bases because of the neutral site. Definitely some memorable moments for both schools.
Hart: In your opinion, what’s the most interesting/iconic/etc. moment in the recent history of matchups between the Buffs and Rams?
Woelk: Two moments, one for both sets of fans. In 2002, CSU quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt spiked a ball off a CU player’s helmet after scoring in a CSU win. Three years later, Colorado running back Lawrence Vickers upped the ante — considerably — by literally spiking a CSU player on a touchdown run. As Vickers burst into the end zone, he was met by a CSU player. He raised his shoulder and slammed the Ram to the turf while scoring a touchdown. Both plays are on their respective school’s all-time highlight reels.
As for best game, the 2003 matchup produced a highly entertaining, wild 42-35 Colorado win over No. 23 CSU that ESPN dubbed an “instant classic.” Played in front of 76,219 — still the largest crowd ever in the series — the game saw the Buffs score in the final minute for the win. Joel Klatt, in his first start as a collegian, threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns in a great passing duel with CSU’s Van Pelt.
Hart: The current contract between CSU and CU, wherein the two programs play annually, expires after next season. Both schools will play home-and-home series in the future, but what will be the impact of not playing each season?
Woelk: I honestly think it will revive interest in the game when it is played again in 2023. A few years off will spark a renewed sense of rivalry and lend an air of excitement.
Hart: Which school/fanbase revels in a Showdown win more and/or which takes a loss harder?
Woelk: There’s never really been a question that it’s a no-win situation for Colorado and a no-lose scenario for Colorado State. CU is the Power 5 school and is expected to win, and a loss is an upset. CSU is the Group of Five school, and a loss is not a setback — but a win is a major feather in the Rams’ cap.
Hart: What’s your prediction for this year’s Rocky Mountain Showdown?
Woelk: Colorado’s offense makes the difference in this game. Colorado 39, CSU 24.
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