Ralphie the Buffalo rushed Folsom Field in an emblematic show of force and University of Colorado pride just before noon Saturday, setting the stage for the home opener of what fans are hoping will be a season that builds on last year's success.
The matchup against the Texas State Bobcats was the second of the season, following a decisive win against the Rams of Colorado State University last week. As they start on a strong note, the question lingers of how far CU will go this season.
But a sweet feeling long unfamiliar under the Flatirons was definitely in the air: confidence.
Folsom Field was filled to the brim with gold and silver, fans of all ages and even a few brave Texas State supporters. The energy was electric, with memories of an exceptional 2016 season still fresh in Buffs fans' memories.
"My husband called 10-2 last season and no one believed him. We're hoping they're going to do the same this year — but we're definitely looking at a winning season," said Kate Feldman of Longmont, with her two young Buff fans sitting on her lap.
CU ended at 10-4 in 2016, losing in both the Pac-12 championship game and the Alamo Bowl.
But optimism was the word of the day Saturday, and the slow start to the game failed to mute anyone's excitement. CU fans rejoiced as the first touchdown was claimed off a recovered fumble at the end of the first quarter by freshman Laviska Shenault.
"We've got some holes, but I think we've got the guys to fill those. I think they're just going to keep getting better and better with more practice," said an extravagantly dressed man who called himself simply Buffalo Phil. He shimmied away with black, silver and gold streamers in his wake, high-fiving a row of howling Buff fans.
The team's performance barely reached expectations in the early going, but improved as the game progressed, as the Buffs built a convincing lead over the Bobcats.
It appeared sufficient to fuel fans' hopes for the coming season.
"Our first three games against smaller schools will give us a chance to warm up and start the season out well," said Logan Lakos, a CU junior. "It'll be good practice until we face some bigger Pac-12 teams."
The Buffs brought home a 37-3 victory, holding their opponent without a touchdown for the second week in a row.
"Being a Buff feels amazing, especially after last year's season. Our spot in the top ten felt incredible, and I've got high hopes for this year," CU senior Kyle DeLong said.
Fans should be able to breathe easy through next weekend, with a home date on tap Saturday against the University of Northern Colorado.
Their team — and their confidence — will face a tougher test Sept. 23 versus the Huskies of the University of Washington.