CSU football is coming off back-to-back 3-9 seasons
The scoreboard from the final two games a year ago looked like this: Opponents: 93, CSU: 10.
â€œWeâ€™ve been using last yearâ€™s debacle up at Wyoming and BYU (the last two games of the 2010 season) as motivation all offseason,â€ sophomore quarterback Pete Thomas said. â€œWe want to be the team to turn CSU around and get it back on the map.â€
The road to redemption for the Rams begins on Saturday when they face a New Mexico team entering its third season under head coach Mike Locksley, who is 2-22 in those two years.
The Lobos will start sophomore Tarean Austin at quarterback after he won a battle with junior B.R. Holbrook for the starting job.
â€œBecause of Tâ€™s athleticism, when things break down, he gives us that much more of an aspect of making plays and prolonging plays with his feet than B.R. does,â€ Locksley said during Tuesdayâ€™s Mountain West coaches conference call.
Austin saw time in seven games last season as the Lobos used four quarterbacks due to a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness.
In those seven games, Austin completed less than 50 percent of his passes and had four interceptions and only two touchdowns. Despite being known as more of a running quarterback, he only averaged 2.4 yards-per-rush.
Locksley has said it is very possible that both quarterbacks could play, and with Holbrook being more of a traditional passer, it gives the Rams two different styles to prepare for.
â€œWhen you have a quarterback that can run, that brings in some option-type principles, some zone-read type principles that you got to work on,â€ said CSU coach Steve Fairchild. â€œIf you got a guy that is capable of throwing it and thereâ€™s no question theyâ€™ve got some good receivers,Â that adds that dimension to that offense.â€
Defensively, the Lobos boast one of the best players in the conference in linebacker Carmen Messina.
Messina is on the watch list for the Butkus Award, given to the nationâ€™s top linebacker. He has led the MW in tackles for each of the past two seasons and was second-team all-conference in 2010.
â€œHeâ€™s a good tackler number one,â€ Fairchild said. â€œHe plays the inside. He gets off blocks well…Heâ€™s a good player we have to find a way to get him locked.â€
The game against Messina and the rest of the Lobos presents a different first game than CSU usually plays. The in-state showdown with CU-Boulder usually kicks off the season, creating the most marquee game of the schedule right off the bat.
But getting a chance to start with a win and a place at the top of the conference creates a different dynamic for CSU.
â€œThere is no question this is a huge game and itâ€™s on the road. Itâ€™s in conference so it has that implication as well,â€ Fairchild said. â€œMake no mistake about it, our football program and our players understand how paramount this game is Saturday.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Colorado State v. New Mexico
*When: *Saturday, 4 p.m.
Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM
TV: The Mtn.
Series history: CSU leads 33-25