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Last visit to CSU still sore spot for Utes

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Time, apparently, doesn't heal all wounds.

Utah is still smarting over its last visit to Hughes Stadium — a 21-17 setback in 2005 where victory was just an inch or two away.

The Utes came up empty in three attempts to reach the end zone late in the game. CSU's goal-line stand left a lasting impression.

"That was probably the toughest loss I've ever had — playing any sport at any age," Utah quarterback Brian Johnson said. "To get down there on the 1-yard line and have three tries to win and you don't — that's disappointing. That will definitely be on some of the guys' minds."

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham also hasn't forgotten.

"That was a tough one to swallow," he said. "To get stopped right there on the 1-inch line, literally, that's tough to handle. It's something that will stay with you."

The Utes return to the scene this afternoon (3:30 p.m., The mtn.) eager for a different ending. They've won four straight games and can become bowl eligible with one more victory.

"Guys remember what happened in '05 and how we lost," Johnson said. "We know every time you play Colorado State it's going to be a battle. So guys are definitely going to have to bring their 'A' game this week."

The Rams (1-6, 1-3) snapped a 13-game losing streak last week with a 48-23 win at UNLV. The victory has provided a much-needed confidence boost for a program that used to be a perennial power in the Mountain West Conference.

"Without question, I think it makes them more dangerous," Johnson said of CSU's first triumph. "These guys, they want to win."

Whittingham and his staff have driven home the point that CSU, which had narrow losses like to Colorado and California earlier this season, isn't a typical 1-6 team. The Utes understand that.

"All you've got to do is watch the film, which they have done, and it's apparent they are a quality football team," Whittingham said.

"The record does not speak to the level of their ability or what kind of team they are."

The Rams are led by running back Gartrell Johnson, who earned MWC offensive player of the week honors after rushing for 162 yards and two touchdowns against UNLV.

Whittingham said that CSU has a solid one-two punch on the ground with Johnson and Kyle Bell. Quarterback Caleb Hanie is second to Johnson in pass efficiency, he added, and the Rams are doing the same thing defensively that they've done for years.

"They played well in the win," Whittingham said. "And I'm sure they're starting to get their confidence back."

After watching film of Utah, CSU coach Sonny Lubick noted that the Utes are on a roll.

"They create good opportunities for themselves," he said. "Utah, on paper — and I have to be careful saying this — might be one of the top couple of teams in the conference. They have a good quarterback who will help them."

And a determined one at that.

Utes on the air

Utah (5-3, 2-2) at Colorado St. (1-6, 1-3)

Today, 3:30 p.m.; Hughes Stadium

Radio: 700AM; TV: The mtn.