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Desperate U. faces desperate Rams

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Utah and Colorado State have established quite a series over the years. The Utes and Rams have split their last 20 meetings. Eleven of the contests have been decided by a touchdown or less, including the Rams' 21-17 win in Fort Collins last season.

"It's always been closely contested. I don't have an answer why," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It's just two good football teams going at it."

Today's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, though, pits two squads in desperate need of a victory.

The Utes (5-4, 3-2) are seeking bowl eligibility.

"Our goal right now is to get to six ... six wins. Technically, that gets you bowl eligible. So all our focus is on this Colorado State game," Whittingham said. "If we can take care of business there and get to six, we're at that magical number and then we'll worry about who's next."

The Rams (4-5, 1-4), meanwhile, are in the midst of their first four-game skid under longtime head coach Sonny Lubick.

In his weekly press conference, Lubick noted one thing might turn things around.

"It would help if (we) could get a big play," Lubick said. "An interception you run back and get good field position. A big play here, a play there, really helps. We need a punt return, or a big pass play."

Building confidence, he added, has been a challenge.

"When you win, it feels like next week you are going to win, then win the next one," Lubick said. "When you lose, you think things are a lot harder."

The remedy?

"You work to get better," Lubick said. "You keep working on it, and try finding things you can do."

Injury-plagued CSU enters today's game ranked 103rd nationally in total offense — due in large part to not having star running back Kyle Bell who has missed the entire season with a knee injury.

The Rams are, however, a respectable 24th in total defense.

"Defensively, they are scrappy and they play hard. Just what you'd expect out of a Sonny Lubick defense," Whittingham said. "They are very good in their zone coverage, they hustle to the football and they're tough guys."

Lubick had similar things to say about the Utes.

"I know that they'll play hard. That's one thing every time we've ever played the University of Utah," he said. "They've been very difficult games, tough football games."

Though it remains to be seen if another tight contest will follow, the Utes are determined to finish out their final three regular season games on a high note. They travel to Air Force next week before hosting BYU on Nov. 25.

"We've just got to play great football and play for each other. I think we're peaking at the right time," senior cornerback Eric Weddle said. "We're anxious to get back out there and have some momentum going into these last three games."

Whittingham said several Utes, including quarterback Brett Ratliff, had their best games of the season in the win over UNLV two weeks ago. A bye week followed, allowing the team to heal up for the final stretch.

Now, Weddle noted, Utah's focus has narrowed.

"Go 3-0, go to a bowl game and win the bowl," he said. "Let everything else take care of itself."

Offensive lineman Tavo Tupola, who is also a senior captain, was even more specific — adding a little more to the goal of going 3-for-3 and winning a bowl game.

Beating BYU in two weeks, he explained, would be the "biggest present" for him.

First things first, however.

The Utes, Weddle insists, are taking things one game at a time.

Utes on the air

Colorado St. (4-5, 1-4) at Utah (5-4, 3-2)

Saturday, noon, Rice-Eccles Stadium

TV: Versus (Comcast 34, Dish Network 151, DirecTV 608)

Radio: 700AM

E-mail: dirk@desnews.com