When Utah is passing the ball: In the Utes’ last game, quarterback Brett Ratliff had one of the better games by a Mountain West player this season. Ratliff decimated the Nevada-Las Vegas defense on his way to a 19-for-23 effort with 268 yards passing and four touchdowns. For the season, Ratliff has also been impressive with 17 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions. Receiver Brent Casteel is the deep threat for the Utes and will look to expose cornerback Joey Rucks. The whole tide of the game may depend on who wins this match-up.
When Utah is running the ball: Like most Mountain West teams, the Utes rely more on their passing game than their running game. Despite this fact, Utah’s running game is pretty efficient. Running back Darryl Poston isn’t a home run threat (his season-long run is 18 yards), but he does have four touchdowns and leads the Utes with 410 rushing yards on the season. Poston is coming off the best two games of his career and will look to continue that streak versus the Rams. However, one of the most famous defensive plays in CSU history came against the Utes last season with their goal line stand and there is no reason why the Rams can’t continue to stop the Utes’ running game.
When CSU is passing the ball: To say CSU is struggling offensively is an understatement. In their last 14 quarters, the Rams have scored a total of 24 points. While the Rams’ running game has been the scapegoat throughout CSU’s season, the passing game must produce more than it has in the past three-plus games. Since the Air Force game, Hanie has more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four). And to add to the Rams’ problems, Utah is led by All-American cornerback Eric Weddle. Through Utah’s first eight games only 11 passes have been completed to receivers guarded by Weddle.
When CSU is running the ball: Nnamdi Ohaeri played well against Brigham Young last week, rushing for a career-high 53 yards. Ohaeri will get the nod again at starting back and will hope to double up his BYU performance and eclipse the 100-yard mark for the first time this season. The offensive line is still rattled by injuries, but it will need to come together against Utah for Ohaeri to have a chance to shine. Defensive tackle Kelly Talavou leads a decent Utes defense.
Prediction: Sonny Lubick and the CSU football team are in uncharted territory. Never before has a Lubick-led team lost more than two straight conference games. You can get out all the clich/s for this game. The Rams’ backs are against the wall, it’s do-or-die and CSU needs three Hail Marys to make a bowl game. Their first Hail Mary will be on Saturday, and it will come from an unlikely source.
CSU 24, Utah 23
Sports Editor Mike Donovan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.