DENVER — Jim McElwain deflected the praise to his players, who had better enjoy it because they’ll soon feel his wrath again anyway.
McElwain became the first Colorado State coach to win his debut in 42 years Saturday when the Rams rallied past their arch rival for a 22-17 win over the Colorado Buffaloes.
“The guys that are here are real guys and I’m just really proud of them. I’ve asked so much of them and it’s just great for our fans and Fort Collins,” McElwain said. “I’m excited for them, this doesn’t have anything to do with me. It’s one game.
“We have not arrived yet, and by the time I get done with them in film session, they’re going to understand that. We’ve got a long way to go. All that it means is that we’ve won one game.”
What a win it was.
Garret Grayson, a Heritage High School graduate who was making his fourth career start for Colorado State, completed 14 of 21 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns, and Jared Roberts kicked two fourth-quarter field goals after the Rams had fallen behind 17-16.
Grayson outdueled Kansas transfer Jordan Webb, who was 22 of 41 for 187 yards and two TDs for the Buffaloes.
“I’m more confident than I ever have been before,” Grayson said. “I told everyone before the game that I’ve been playing football since I was 4, and I’ve never felt like I’ve had these brothers. And I go out there and I play for them, and they play for me and I’m confident in them 100 percent.”
McElwain called the game “a great learning experience for Grayson.”
“The scheme (Colorado) played against today has NFL written all over it,” McElwain said. Grayson “was calm. I liked his eyes on the sideline. The game was not too big for him.”
Grayson’s Colorado State teammates echoed that sentiment.
“He’s always poised,” center Weston Richburg said. “That guy isn’t going to show any emotion or anything. He did at the end of the game, but that is just because we were really excited. He’s a cool customer in the huddle.”
McElwain, the former offensive coordinator at defending national champion Alabama, became the first Rams coach to win his debut since Jerry Wampfler in 1970.
None of the other 12 Rams coaches who have faced Colorado had ever beaten the Buffs on their first try.
“It is a huge win,” Grayson said. “And it’s a huge win for Coach Mac. First coach in CSU history that’s ever beat CU in their first game. Knowing that, that brings more confidence out in us that we’ve got this coach here and he’s with us. He’s been coaching for 27 years and this is his first head coaching job so to have him be with us, we’re behind him.”