By Ryan Hope
The Cougars look to rebound from consecutive conference losses to Air Force and UNLV, when they take on Colorado State Thursday Oct. 24 in Fort Collins.
The Cougars, 3-4 overall, 0-2 in Mountain West Conference, must win three of their remaining five games to be eligible for a postseason bowl.
“Colorado State is a good football team,” head coach Gary Crowton said. “Their defense is very sound. Offensively, they”ve got some weapons.”
Colorado State comes into tonight”s contest 6-2 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference.
All of the Rams” six victories have been decided by nine points or less.
“They”ve got some great senior players,” Crowton said. “And when the game goes down the stretch, they don”t make a lot of errors.”
The Rams are led on offense by junior running back Cecil Sapp who has rushed for 926 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
“Sapp is a very savvy, very physical player who can run the ball,” Crowton said. “He”s been around for a while, so he is very mature as a player.”
Sapp rushed for 841 yards in 2000 and was named first team all-conference by the coaches.
Sapp missed the entire 2001 season due to a benign tumor that had to be surgically removed from his right heel.
Junior quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt joins Sapp in the CSU backfield. Van Pelt has thrown for 1,286 yards and rushed for 506 yards on the season.
Last season Van Pelt rushed for 174 yards against the Cougars and passed for 158 yards in a 56-34 BYU victory.
The leading tacklers on the Colorado State defense are junior linebackers Eric Pauly and Drew Wood and senior safety David Vickers.
Junior cornerback Dexter Wynn is the Rams” top pass defender and is also the top punt returner in the Mountain West Conference, averaging 17.1 yards per return.
Redshirt freshman Matt Berry makes his second start for the Cougars tonight.
Crowton said Berry played well enough against UNLV to warrant taking most of the snaps against Colorado State. Berry split time with freshman Lance Pendleton and junior Bret Engemann against UNLV.
“I”m going to be going with him (Berry) a little more exclusively this week, unless there”s an injury,” Crowton said. “I still may use Pendleton some, but not as much as I did last week.”
Crowton also said on Monday that Engemann would back up Berry, but BYU reported on Tuesday that Engemann would not make the trip due to an injury to his lower back.
Junior cornerback Jernaro Gilford also will not make the trip due to recurring problems he has had with his knee.
The cornerback position has been hit particularly hard by injuries this season.
Aside from Gilford, senior Mike Sumko, junior Brandon Heaney and sophomore James Allen have been fighting injuries all season.
Junior Chad Barney, a transfer from Dixie College, has filled in at cornerback for the Cougars this season, but Crowton said that he would like to move Barney back to his natural position at safety.
The Cougar offensive line is also heading into tonight”s game shorthanded.
Senior guard Ryan Keele has been hobbled by a torn ACL that he is trying with. Keele has seen limited minutes in practice and will need to be relieved at times during tonight”s game.
When Keele comes out, senior tackle Isaac Herring will move into Keele”s position and junior Brandon Stephens will take Herring”s position at tackle.
Stephens moved to the offensive line from defensive end after senior offensive tackle Ben Archibald was lost for the season due to a broken leg suffered in fall practice.