In 2007, the Rams lost six games in a row to begin the season and 13 total spanning from the end of 2006. They ended that losing streak in Las Vegas, defeating the UNLV Rebels 48-23.
Saturday, CSU (3-6, 0-5 MWC) hopes to end this season’s six-game slide against UNLV (3-6, 1-4) in Sin City.
“We’ve just got to out and do the same thing we did last time we went down there,” said offensive lineman Cole Pemberton.
Sam Boyd Stadium has been kind to the Rams in the past. CSU has never lost in Las Vegas, ripping six straight wins after tying the Rebels during its first appearance in 1979.
“We can’t really look at those stats,” Pemberton said. “I guess it’s a year-by-year thing, and we’ve had that streak going. But I’m sure that’s not on anyone’s mind.”
What is on the team’s mind is simply winning.
The Rams have not won since September, but still find themselves in position to be bowl-eligible if they can sweep their final three opponents in UNLV, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Not trying to put any extra pressure on themselves, players and coaches alike joked and laughed with each other this week in practice.
“The pressure has just built up, and it’s just getting to the point where everybody is so frustrated. We want to win so bad for the town and students and the fans,” said cornerback Nick Oppenneer. “I feel like if you’re maybe a little more lighthearted about things and a little more easy-going, good things can happen.”
Oppenneer made the trip with the team to Las Vegas as a sophomore in 2007.
“That was such a good feeling to win that game. Thirteen games is a long time, but the six have been tough, too,” the senior said. “Vegas isn’t going to give it to us. UNLV isn’t going to give it to us; we’ll have to take it.”
UNLV is lead by proficient quarterback Omar Clayton who has thrown for 1,701 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Clayton will be throwing to receivers Ryan Wolfe and Phillip Payne.
Both standing more than 6-foot-2-inches, the CSU secondaries, who have struggled this season, will have their work cut out for them. The unit will be down a man as nickelback DeAngelo Wilkinson is out with a foot injury.
“We’ve got no choice but to step up and make plays when the ball is out on the edge,” Oppenneer said.
Sophomore cornerback Brandon Owens will replace Wilkinson at the nickelback position and see time at corner as well. He is one of a handful of young players, including freshman running back Lou Greenwood, who will see playing time down the stretch.
“There are a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball, and in the grand scheme of things it’s going to pay off,” said head coach Steve Fairchild.
Football beat reporter Stephen Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.