This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Coach Sonny Lubick said he will not be surprised if his Colorado State Rams go down and play "very, very well against the defending national champion and No. 1 USC Trojans on Saturday.
They just have to get over their last game first.
The Rams folded in the final minute of their season opener at Colorado last weekend, blowing a chance to finish a stunning comeback in Boulder when junior quarterback Justin Holland forgot the down and failed to spike the ball to stop the clock.
"None of us realized how fast that clock runs when you rush the football with no timeouts to go, Lubick said.
Obviously, they should have.
Trailing 27-24 with no timeouts, the Rams had driven to the 1-yard line with 34 seconds left. Holland spiked the ball on first down, then handed off to running back Marcus Houston for no gain on second.
But instead of spiking the ball on third down to stop the clock in the final seconds and give the Rams an organized chance for either a field goal or a touchdown - Lubick said he was going for the touchdown all the way - Holland frantically called a pitchout to running back Tristan Walker. The Buffs swamped the play easily as time ran out to end the game.
"I wish we would have spiked it, Lubick said.
He's not the only one.
The Mountain West Conference could have used fewer meltdowns on opening weekend, after spending the offseason pressing the case that they deserve an automatic berth into the Bowl Championship Series ahead of the weakened Big East Conference.
Had it not been for solid victories by Utah over Texas A&M and Brigham Young over Notre Dame, the league would have looked like Hurricane Frances just tore through it.
Not only did the Rams collapse, but New Mexico threw two interceptions and allowed a blocked punt in the fourth quarter to give away a home game to Washington State. Not that that's anything new, of course. The Lobos have lost eight in a row to Pac-10 Conference teams, including a 55-14 defeat to Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl last season.
Speaking of the Pac-10, the Cal Golden Bears bulldozed Air Force in the second half for a 56-14 victory at Falcon Stadium - "We were thoroughly embarrassed, coach Fisher DeBerry said - before UNLV was trounced at Tennessee in advance of their rematch against Wisconsin on Saturday.
Not the most convincing argument.
The Mountain West is 8-17 against teams from the BCS conferences since last season, and that includes losses to lesser teams like Stanford and Kansas, to which some around the league refer when they complain that crummy teams in powerful leagues have better access to the BCS money than they do.
None of which means the BCS is fair.
But it does mean that the big leagues that comprise it probably aren't going to listen real hard to what the Mountain West constantly tries to tell them (and itself) - that "there's a lot of great football teams in this conference, as Utah coach Urban Meyer put it.
Good, maybe, as the Ute and Cougar victories attest.
Only better performances against the best teams will convince many people of that. The Mountain West is not short on opportunity, though, with five teams other than CSU taking on teams from the BCS this weekend. And who knows? Maybe the catastrophe against the Buffs will help Lubick and his Rams at USC.
"If we go through it next week, he said, "I'd hope we'd be better.