Separated at birth?

Nov 062003
Authors: Steve Latuda

Last week, both Colorado State (5-4, 2-2) and New Mexico (5-4,

2-2) were in the driver’s seat to win the Mountain West Conference

title. Both teams were tied for the conference lead with one

conference loss. Both were playing teams struggling for wins. And

both were on a collision course toward today’s game, which would

have played a large part in deciding the conference title.

But both forgot to do one thing last weekend: win.

The Rams lost to border rival Wyoming on the road 35-28, and the

Lobos got more then they wanted when UNLV went into Albuquerque and

squeaked out a 37-35 victory.

“I am a little surprised that both of us lost last week,” said

New Mexico head coach Rocky Long. “I thought that CSU would win,

and I thought we would win as well.”

Because both teams came up lame last week, only one of the two

is likely to be invited to a bowl game, and the winner of this game

is likely to be that team.

“If we lose a game,” Long said, “we are not getting into a bowl


The Mountain West has contractual ties to three bowl games. The

winner of the league will most likely go to the Liberty Bowl and

face the champion from Conference-USA.

The two remaining bowls then choose among the remaining

bowl-eligible teams in the league.

The Las Vegas Bowl pits its MWC choice against the fifth

selection from the Pacific-10.

The Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl pits its MWC choice

against the Big East Conference number three, four or five, or

Norte Dame.

The way things are shaping up in the MWC the winner of this game

could be headed to the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl.

“We are in for such a tough battle,” said CSU head coach Sonny

Lubick. “Both of us are fighting for our lives. A win will help the

mentality of both teams.”

With both teams coming off of a tough defeat, the shortened work

week is a blessing to everyone because it gives both the Rams and

Lobos a chance to right the ship sooner then usual.

“This game is going to be a real head-banger,” said senior Lobo

linebacker Billy Strother. “It’s going to be a game where I think a

lot of people will come out bruised and may not be able to play the

following week. I think it’s going to be a really emotional and

physical game because both teams know what’s on the line and what’s

at stake.”

For either team to come out ahead in this game, turnovers must

be limited and big plays contained.

In last week’s loss, the Lobos turned the ball over six times

and UNLV converted most of New Mexico’s mistakes – three fumbles

and three interceptions – into points. The Rams committed only two

turnovers last weekend, but they were both big fumbles. One cost

the Rams seven points when they failed to score, and the Cowboys

turned the other one into seven points.

To be successful, the Rams must tighten up a secondary that was

exposed once again by a team able to throw the ball effectively.

The Cowboys threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns last week, and

with New Mexico the Rams can expect much of the same.

“They are well-coached,” Lubick said. “They have good talent on

offense, and they are not afraid to go downfield throwing the


New Mexico ranks third in the conference averaging 231 yards per

game through the air, and come tonight, the Lobos will look to add

to that number behind the arm of senior quarterback Casey Kelly and

the hands of his favorite receiver, senior Dwight Counter.

“I think we’re getting there, but we’re not quite there yet,”

Kelly said of the relationship he has with Counter. “I think Dwight

is a great receiver and if we can put it all together I think we

can be really dangerous.”

The same can be said when the Rams have the ball. Bradlee Van

Pelt has thrown the ball well all year and, thanks to the receiving

duo of Chris Pittman and David Anderson, he has totaled nearly

2,200 passing yards. That number should jump today thanks in part

to a horrid Lobo pass defense that ranks last in the league and a

healthier Joel Dreessen, who saw limited action last week but will

be a bigger part of the offense this week as H-back.

“I was really pleased with that young man last week,” Lubick

said. “He only practiced twice last week, and I was surprised he

played as much as he did. He sure is a special player.”

The game kicks off at 7 p.m. in Albuquerque, N.M. It will be

televised on ESPN2. CSU has won eight of the last nine games

against UNM, including each of the last five.




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