I didn’t believe Colorado State could beat could Alabama.
I really didn’t. Really. I mean, I wrote as much leading into the game. I maintained that for anyone to truly think the Rams had even the remotest chance of upsetting the Crimson Tide, it required a distinct break with reality.
But then it was the beginning of the fourth quarter, with Colorado State receiving the ball down only 11 after outscoring the two-time defending champs 6-0 in the third, and something happened: I found myself believing, even just a little bit.
But then, reality intervened.
On the Rams’ first offensive play of the final quarter, quarterback Garrett Grayson took a snap out of the shotgun, looked for a receiver, pumped once, and then scrambled right for a four-yard gain. It was as innocuous a play as could be, except for the fact that Grayson lost control of the ball when going to the ground.
The ‘Bama sideline erupted, but the officials ruled Grayson down by contact before the ball came out. The Rams lined up to run the second down play with no extra urgency, failing to get the snap off before officials stopped the game to review the apparent fumble. They confirmed what every Colorado State fan already knew deep down: The ball was coming out before Grayson’s knee was down.
The Tide took over at the Ram 30, and quarterback A.J. McCarron hit DeAndrew White for a touchdown on the very next play. Alabama reestablished their three-score lead, and eventually pulled away for a 31-6 victory.
On a day when the Colorado State defense limited the normally dominant ‘Bama offense to 338 total yards, the Rams offense failed to give them a chance for a win. The running back stable of Chris Nwoke, Donnell Alexander and Kapri Bibbs failed to establish anything on the ground, finishing with 35 yards on 19 carries. Grayson finished with ok numbers -- 24 of 38 for 228 yards -- but they only tell a part of the story.
No one expected the Colorado State offense to explode against the Crimson Tide, but the Rams simply haven’t been dangerous with the ball all year long, with the possible exception of the Cal Poly game. Grayson often looks panicked in the huddle and in the pocket, and plays like he doesn’t understand game situations, completing balls to receivers well short of the marker on third down. This was all doubly true against a tremendous Alabama defense.
It’s not like Grayson has to do it all on his own, either: receivers Joe Hansley, Rashard Higgins and Thomas Coffman and tight ends Crocket Gillmore and Kivon Cartwright have each played well at times, but they’ve also let him down with key drops in key moments, including against the Tide.
During the quarterback battle that dominated the offseason story lines, many viewed Grayson as the safe choice behind center, the player least likely to make game-changing mistakes, and for the most part that’s been true. But Grayson’s play through the first four games of the season has done little to quiet his critics.
As the Rams enter their conference schedule -- after taking on UTEP next week in Fort Collins -- it will be interesting to see whether or not head coach Jim McElwain believes a change at quarterback can jumpstart the Colorado State offense.
Until then, Rams fans might just have to be comfortable with wondering, "What if?"