CSU quarterback Caleb Hanie’s favorite moment in a Ram jersey isn’t what some may expect. Nevermind the 14 consecutive passes he completed to open this year’s 2006 Rocky Mountain Showdown win over Colorado-Boulder or his first career start in the Border War against Wyoming when the Rams won 30-7.
Hanie’s favorite memory came from a game he didn’t even play in.
Hanie, who was backing up starter Justin Holland at the time, is talking about the infamous goal-line stand last year by the CSU defense that sealed a 21-17 I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened win over the Utah Utes.
“I remember it was a big controversy on the sideline if we should just let them score and leave some time for the offense,” Hanie said. “After we got a couple stops though it was kind of obvious we were going to try and stop them. We put the game on the defense and they stepped up big time.
“Probably the best feeling I’ve had here so far.”
With less than a minute left on the clock, the Utes tried pounding a game-winning touchdown with current NFL running back Quinton Ganther from inside the 1-yard line three times.
Three times they came up short.
“On the play I went down to the ground and popped up and didn’t see what had happened,” said defensive lineman Blake Smith. “I turned to the ref and he said, ‘Your ball.’ I thought I was dreaming.”
Fast forward to today and the Rams (4-5, 1-4 MWC) need to pick up right where they left off last year. After a four-game losing streak it may be do-or-die time.
Fortunately for their fans, the Rams are planning on doing.
“We need a win bad right now; we’ve lost four in a row,” Hanie said. “There’s this feeling of wondering if we’re ever going to win one again. But no one is giving up. We just need to get the offense going again and we’ll be back rolling.”
Getting the offense going is priority No. 1 for the Rams. While Utah (5-4, 3-2) has scored the second-most points in the Mountain West Conference, the Rams’ defense has shown all year they’re not scared of a challenge.
“The defense will go out and do their thing,” Hanie said. “They’ve been playing great all year.”
The Rams’ offense has been asked the same questions for the better part of a month now and their answers are always the same. Nothing’s going to change; they just have to play better.
“We’re not adding anything new except for a few wrinkles,” Hanie said. “We’re actually going back to our basic plays, things we know we can run well.”
The major concern the Rams will have on offense is all-American candidate defensive back Eric Weddle, “the nation’s premier cover” according to Sports Illustrated. Weddle has returned two of his six picks for touchdowns this year.
While they may have one of the best defensive backs in the country, the Utes’ defense as a whole struggles against the pass, allowing 219 passing yards per game. Part of that may be their decision to run man coverage on receivers, something the Rams will look to exploit with their talented receiving group.
“We’re not used to seeing a lot of man coverage, they do it every play,” said receiver Damon Morton. “We’re going to need to get used to that, get our timing down. As a receiver, we love that man-on-man coverage.”
The Utes’ vulnerability to a strong passing game, coupled with the Rams’ inconsistent rushing game, could equal a big day for Hanie, who is known for spreading the ball out to different receivers.
Maybe by the time the team returns to Fort Collins after this weekend’s road trip to Salt Lake City, its starting quarterback will have a new favorite memory of Ram football.
Football beat writer Brett Okamoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.