On the other sideline

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The Utes, who haven’t exactly had a stellar season themselves, have no idea what it’s like to live the nightmare that has become reality for the Colorado State Rams.And their season started off so well.After beating in-state rival University of Colorado, the Rams went on to post a 4-1 record.But then something snapped. The Rams lost four straight conference games. Since then, they have dropped to No. 102 nationally in scoring, and have put just 22 points on the board in the last 14 quarters.It’s the worst losing streak during one season that head coach Sonny Lubick has suffered in 14 years at the helm.Last week, things continued to worsen for CSU as the Rams lost 24-3 to conference-leading BYU.CSU simply could not move the ball against the Cougars, netting just 125 yards of total offense compared with 402 yards for BYU. And just like that, the Rams sunk below .500 with a 4-5 record, putting their hopes for a bowl-game invitation into serious jeopardy.With a conference record of 1-4, CSU is battling it out in the gloomy conference basement with the UNLV Rebels, who have yet to win an MWC game.A quick glance at CSU’s schedule reveals that its 4-1 start wasn’t much of a feat after all. The teams that the Rams managed to beat have a combined record of 6-30. Among those opponents are three one-win teams, including Colorado (1-9), Fresno State (1-7) and UNLV (1-8). The other win came over Weber State (3-6).CSU’s downfall appears to stem from the myriad of injuries that its offensive line has suffered throughout the season. Only one offensive lineman has started every game, and CSU has used five different starting-line combinations.Without adequate pass protection, BYU sacked quarterback Caleb Hanie five times last week.”Can’t blame it on just the O-Line,” Hanie said. “You have to be able to win games with what we got and we aren’t doing that.”The running game has been the most significant victim of the offensive line’s woes.The Rams are averaging a measly 2.2 yards per carry and 69.2 rushing yards per game–stats that are bad enough to rank them 114th nationally in rushing. With such a poor running game, CSU’s only productive method of moving the ball is its passing game, which has actually been relatively good–that is, when the line can hold off the defense long enough for Hanie to get the ball away.Hanie is averaging 227 passing yards per game, connecting with receivers Johnny Walker and Damon Morton for 59 yards and 67 yards per contest, respectively.The injury bug has struck more than just the offensive line. Fourteen would-be starters have missed 45 games.If the undoubtedly dejected Rams have anything going for them against the Utes, it might be a slight mental edge that can be linked directly to what CSU’s defense did to Utah’s offense in the closing moments of last year’s game–or more accurately, what Utah’s offense did to itself.Does “first-and-goal at the CSU 4 to win the game late in the fourth quarter” ring a bell?After a three-yard Quinton Ganther rush to the 1, Utah attempted two straight QB sneaks, followed by a fateful up-the-gut run by Ganther on fourth down that left the Utes six inches short.It was one of the most memorable offensive breakdowns in recent Utah history and earned offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig a wave of criticism. Still, that’s not much to go on, and CSU has shown no concrete signs that it’ll be turning around the slump any time soon.From the Utes’ perspective, it’s time to kick the Rams while they’re down.