Nov 30, 2013; Fort Collins, CO, USA; Colorado State Rams offensive linesman Brandon Haynes (75) with the trophy following the win over the Air Force Falcons at Hughes Stadium. The Rams defeated the Falcons 58-13. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
KUSA - For the first time since 2008, the Colorado State football team will be playing in a bowl game, accepting an invitation Sunday from the New Mexico Bowl.
The Rams (7-6) will play in the Dec. 21 bowl game in Albuquerque against Washington State (6-6). Kickoff is set for noon, and it is the first game of the 35 bowl games.
"The opportunity to play a Pac-12 opponent is something that we're really looking forward to," CSU coach Jim McElwain said. "I just can't tell you how rewarding it is for our seniors because of what these guys have done and how we have gotten progressively better."
Colorado State was worried about getting shut out of a bowl as the Mountain West had seven bowl-eligible teams but just six guaranteed bowl slots. The Mountain West has agreements with Las Vegas, Armed Forces, Poinsettia, New Mexico, Hawaii and Famous Idaho Potato bowls.
"Head Coach Jim McElwain is building something special in Fort Collins and we are very happy to be able to bring the Rams to New Mexico," bowl executive director Jeff Siembieda said in a news release. "This is a dynamic, fun team with a tremendous fan base who has been very clear: they want to be in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. People around the country and here in Albuquerque are going to love watching the Rams help kick off the bowl season."
McElwain was hired in December 2011 and took over a program that had four consecutive losing seasons. Last season the Rams were 4-8, winning three of their last five games.
The program's last bowl game was the 2008 New Mexico Bowl, and the Rams beat Fresno State 40-35 to finish 7-6. About 6,500 CSU fans went to that game.
"It's a proud moment for all the seniors because we've been here through rough times and we're finally getting it going on to more good times," linebacker Shaquil Barrett said. "We hope that in the coming weeks we can continue the good times by finishing up with a win. ... Colorado State is a proud football program and we're trying to get it back to that high standard."
CSU is 5-7 in its 12 bowl games. The Rams had a run of nine bowl appearances in a 12-season span from 1994-2005 under Sonny Lubick.
Washington State is making its first bowl trip since the 2003 Holiday Bowl, and 11th in its history. WSU is 6-4 in bowls.
"Throughout my career I have played in New Mexico a lot of times, I've visited New Mexico, I've skied in New Mexico and it's a great place," Cougars head coach Mike Leach said. "There is a great spirit to the people there, and we are honored to have the opportunity to go to Albuquerque to play another football game."
CSU coaches held practices the past three days to stay fresh in case they were selected.
"I might not have been totally focused on practice today, but I was proud of how the guys were and I think that's a credit to the coaching staff," McElwain said. "I had a pretty good feel from the get-go."
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