The year 2002 has not been a strong year for most of the Mountain West Conference.
Thus far, the CSU Rams have taken advantage, and will take a 2-0 conference mark into Hughes Stadium tonight against yet another struggling conference foe, the BYU Cougars.
The Rams need little motivation for tonight’s game. Besides wanting to keep their conference record perfect and title hopes alive, there is the memory of last year, when the Cougars pummeled the Rams in Provo, 56-34.
Fortunately for CSU, these are not last year’s Cougars.
BYU has been unimpressive, starting 3-4 overall and 0-2 in conference play. Despite their mediocre start, and the fact the Cougars have only scored 12 combined points in their last two games, the Cougars still possess the top offense in the league, averaging 430.1 yards per game.
“They’ve always been one of the toughest teams for us to beat,” said CSU defensive coordinator Larry Kerr. “They have a great offensive scheme and they can do a lot of things. It scares me that they’ve only scored 12 in the last two because they’re due to get some points.”
BYU’s main trouble in scoring can be linked to the quarterback position. BYU started redshirt freshman Matt Berry against UNLV, but rotated in the equally inexperienced Lance Pendleton. The combination was not potent, but the
Rams will not rest easy as a result.
“It doesn’t matter who’s back there, I just want revenge,” said CSU linebacker Drew Wood. “We’ll be aware of their personnel changes because (Pendleton) likes to run a little more, but it’s not a big issue.”
Asked if he was concerned his unit had given up a season-high 481 yards to Utah last week, Wood said simply, “No. I have a short memory.”
One thing the Rams do remember is last year’s blowout loss in Provo. Though Cougars stars Brandon Doman and Luke Staley, who accounted directly for seven of BYU’s eight touchdowns against the Rams last year, are gone, the memory remains.
“It’s hard not to remember last year,” Kerr said. “Watching the tape, we weren’t very good in a lot of places. Obviously we want to perform better, but our main motivation is taking the next step toward a conference championship.”
Wood summed up the Rams’ defenses feelings.
“We got embarrassed in that game last year and we’re not going to let it happen again,” Wood said.
It’s possible weather could end up being a factor. Temperatures for Thursday night are forecast as just above 30 degrees Fahrenheit. While the Cougars run a spread-out offense, the Rams have always pounded the ball with the running game. This could play to the Rams’ advantage.
“This would be my first cold weather game since 2000, so hopefully I can still run the ball to the best of my ability,” said Cecil Sapp, the Rams’ running back who was held to a season-low 74 yards by Utah. “The yards I got last week were very tough yards. Utah was a tough, physical defense, but I have to pick it up this week.”
The game also comes on a short week for both teams. Thursday nights have been kind to the Rams at home, where CSU has gone 5-0 at Hughes Stadium under Sonny Lubick, including a 45-21 win over BYU in 2000.
“The advantage this week is it’s a shorter week for them,” Wood said. “We’re going to get in a practice (Wednesday) and they’re going to be traveling.”
-Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin