By John Hirn
CSU Athletics Historian
In 2014 the Rams mark the 20th anniversary of the great season of 1994 and the school's first football WAC championship. To celebrate this anniversary, members of the '94 team were asked to look back at Sonny Lubick's second-year as head coach of the Rams and remember those amazing feats that occurred on the gridiron.
The 1994 season started with the last game of the 1993 season and a throttling of the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie. Ray Jackson went as far to announce after the '93 Wyoming game that the Rams would win the WAC in 1994, and that momentum carried on to the following spring.
Matt Phillips, a senior wide receiver in 1994 said 20 years later, "The competition during Spring Ball was very intense and then the summer workouts made it clear - this was going to be a special season. Everyone had bought in and they were determined to do their part to help make this a successful season."
Each individual member of the Rams played for the sake of team and made it a family affair on the football field. Paul Turner, a sophomore wide receiver 20 years ago said in a 2014 interview, "I just remember the family environment. It wasn't about I need stats to get into the hall of fame and it wasn't about being the star, it was about each individual doing their job. The guys on that team have become my family for life and the coaches that were on staff at the time went on to very successful careers."
The 1994 Rams did more with less both on and off the field in a time before the facility upgrades. Paul Turner remembered, "The athletes there [at CSU] now have no idea about the facilities we had in `94. The wide receivers met in the coach's office, the running backs met in the rafters in Moby Gym." George Schramm echoed Turner's memories on facilities saying, "None of us thought twice about it. We were there for one thing only. To get better together and win. Period. No one cared about our facilities. Low on the priority list."
Despite the facilities, the intensity of the team brought about one of the finest seasons of football ever seen in Fort Collins. The Rams beat Air Force easily in the season opener and continued to beat teams with a potent offense and an amazing defense. After beating BYU in Provo and San Diego State narrowly missing a field goal at Hughes Stadium, the Rams jumped to a 5-0 start on the season.
Nobody will ever forget what happened in Tucson, Arizona on October 1, 1994 and every player interviewed had their memory of beating the 6th ranked team in the nation on their own turf. The Rams came out to play in that game and beat Arizona's No. 1 ranked "Desert Swarm" defense at their own game. Anthoney Hill connected with Justin Shull for two touchdowns, but it was Sean Moran's 77-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown that will forever be ingrained on the memories of fans and players.
Adrian Ross, a freshman linebacker in 1994 who later went on to play six seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals remembered, "I've never seen a team go on the road (Arizona) with such focus! Coach Lubick gave us a game plan to execute and we did just that! I was speechless when Sean Moran picked up that fumble and ran it back for a TD! I quickly became aware that he was now tired and I had to go in as a freshman and replace him! There was no better feeling than to relieve Sean and get a sack on their last drive and hearing the CSU fans that made the road trip cheering!" Steve Dundee's memories from the Arizona game were, "Hearing that the Fort was erupting because of the win and all the fans that met us at the facilities in the morning as our buses pulled up. That game was the spark that lit our rocket."
The win in Arizona truly put CSU football on the map and after a disappointing loss to Utah in week eight gave the Rams their first loss and possibly took away their chances of a WAC title. However, Utah obliged with losses in the following weeks, making the Border War the next great obstacle in the Cinderella Season.
After falling behind 24-7 in the third quarter, a nationally televised game on ESPN made 35,514 fans at Hughes Stadium silent and some even headed to the exits. That was until Matt McDougal faked his punt and threw a pass to bring back the spirits of the Rams and the fans. CSU scored 28 unanswered points to win the game 35-24 and continue to propel themselves in the national polls.
A win at Arkansas State the week after the Wyoming game led to a showdown in Fresno against the Bulldogs for the WAC Championship. The Rams were caught napping and fell behind 21-0 early in the game, but as Van Ward remembered 20 years later, "Every time that we stepped onto the field we knew we would win. There was never a doubt in our minds that we were the better team."
Win they did and WAC commissioner Karl Benson presented the championship trophy to the Rams in their Fresno locker room for the school's first ever WAC Championship in football. CSU finished the regular season ranked 10th in the nation and went on to a tough loss to a very talented Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl.
After the loss in the Holiday Bowl, CSU ended the season ranked No. 16 in the AP polls; the highest national ranking to that date and the second-highest still 20 years later.
In 1995 John Karbula published the book titled "Every Fan's Dream", which chronicled the 1994 Rams from week to week during what is truly a dream season - even 20 years later.
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