For all that coach Sonny Lubick has done for Colorado State football, the Rams have experienced a lot of losing lately.
During his 15-year tenure in Fort Collins, Lubick has carried CSU (1-7 overall, 1-4 in the Mountain West Conference) to unprecedented heights, including six conference championships. But the Rams haven't had a winning season since 2003 and they halted a 13-game losing streak a couple of weeks ago with a win at UNLV. It was their first victory since beating the Rebels last year.
Though the losses are piling up, and with a trip to league-leader BYU on Saturday, Lubick says his players aren't giving up.
"We've just got to keep playing. I think the players will play hard, and they've been doing that," Lubick said. "At halftime (in last week's 27-3 setback to Utah) we were down, and anything could have happened for the worst. All we needed was a touchdown, but anyway we didn't do that. We just got to keep on playing. I don't see any let up in the front four on defense, or the front on offense line. I can feel and see a little improvement in them."
Due to the postponement of last week's San Diego State game, the Cougars have had extra time to prepare for CSU. They started watching film of the Rams Tuesday of last week.
BYU linebacker Kelly Poppinga said he's surprised how much CSU has struggled this season.
"They're a good team. Honestly, I'm very, very surprised they've won only one game," Poppinga said. "They're talented. Their running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks are good. I don't know how they've won only one game."
CSU running backs Kyle Bell and Gartrell Johnson rank among the MWC's top 10 in rushing, combining for more than 1,000 yards this season on the ground. Quarterback Caleb Hanie has thrown for 1,584 yards and 11 touchdowns along with 13 interceptions.
"I think they prefer to have a game where the point margin is very close or they have a lead and they can run the football and the play-action pass," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said of CSU. "The game they don't want to get into is when they are trailing and they have to step back and pass. Their turnovers are more prominent when they are trailing. In terms of exploiting it, we do have a strategy and that is to just start fast and hopefully get an advantage early."
CSU's biggest weakness has been on the defensive side, where it ranks last in the league in rushing defense, yielding 226.6 yards per game, and scoring defense, surrendering 30.8 points per game. The Rams are also next-to-last in total defense, giving up 419.1 yards per game.
BYU, on the other hand, leads the conference in scoring offense (31.8 ppg), passing offense (285.8 ypg) and total offense (441.4 ypg). The Cougars have also rushed for more than 200 yards in each of their last two outings.Lubick is impressed with the progress of BYU quarterback Max Hall. "(The Cougars) always have a good quarterback. I've never heard of them having a bad quarterback. This quarterback is getting better by the day," Lubick said. "And the reason they get better is they have a good passing attack. They are the best we've played against throwing to backs and tight ends, and getting their backs out of the backfield. They've been doing that for 20 years."
PRAISE FOR THE COUGARS: Lubick was asked this week about BYU's tradition."They are a classy, good football program," he said. "They have good tradition and players. They have a solid program with a lot of resources. There's only been one dip in the program in the last 20 years. In the 14 years I've been here, BYU has always been the team to beat. Their coach puts it together and keeps it together. A team like those guys is not going to stay down. The Utah coach will get mad at me for saying that, but Utah's a good team, too."
BOWL ELIGIBILITY: A win over CSU Saturday would give the Cougars their sixth win of the season, making them bowl eligible for the third straight year. BYU has not played in three consecutive bowl games since 1992 (Aloha Bowl), 1993 (Holiday Bowl) and 1994 (Copper Bowl). BYU played in 17 bowl games in a row from 1978-1994.
NOTES: The Cougars are looking to extend their MWC-record win streak to 12. That would mark their longest conference win streak since winning 12 in a row from November 1982 to October 1985 ... BYU is 15-2 in its last 17 games ... Linebacker Bryan Kehl has recorded interceptions in his last three games ... The Cougars own a 35-27-3 advantage over CSU in the all-time series, which dates back to 1922.