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A bona fide contender for the Western Athletic Conference title, a team on the upswing with an impressive veteran quarterback, experienced offense and stingy defense. Utah State has heard this description before - regarding Utah, which beat the Aggies 32-17 last Saturday.

This week that description fits new USU opponent Colorado State (1-0), which emphasizes error-free football, unlike Utah, which made numerous errors, one nullifying a made field goal, last week. "They're a very sound football team," says Utah State coach Charlie Weatherbie about the Rams, who have a four-game win streak dating back to last year and including a 34-21 win last week at Air Force. "They want you to make mistakes and not them, so they keep things real simple on offense and defense." The Rams threw one interception, made no fumbles and allowed only one quarterback sack at Air Force.They're a one-back team that runs first and passes later. They call themselves a "fast-break" offense. "I don't know what I'd consider it," says Weatherbie, as impressed as everyone in the WAC with versatile Ram quarterback Anthoney Hill, a speedster who'll run the counter, sweep and option, and with fullback E.J. Watson (177 yards rushing at Air Force). Hill ran for 30 net yards last week and passed for 243. Eight offensive starters plus the placekicker (David Napier, who has 26 straight PATs) return.

CSU emphasizes run defense more than the Utes, who held USU's veteran rushers to 39 yards. The Rams play a base 4-3 but support their run-stopping with what Weatherbie calls "two half-safeties and two roll-corners," a scheme that puts more men on the line with the main function to halt the run. Linebacker Kenya Raggsdale had 10 unassisted tackles against Air Force, 13 total, and led the defense last year with 98 tackles, 63 solo. Nine defensive starters return from '93.

Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick, who was a main candidate for the Utah State job that Weatherbie won in 1991 and who came to Fort Collins in December 1992 after being Miami's defensive coordinator, says he wasn't happy with his defense at Air Force and that the Falcons caught the Rams by surprise with an unbalanced line the first half. Adjustments at intermission helped.