Lobos face uphill climb in clash with 22nd-ranked Rams

Fort Collins, CO (SportsNetwork.com) – Enjoying their longest winning streak
since 1997, the 22nd-ranked Colorado State Rams settle in at Hughes Stadium on
Saturday to host the slumping New Mexico Lobos in Mountain West Conference

The Rams are off to their best start since 1994 when the team opened with a
mark of 10-1 under head coach Sonny Lubick. The lone setback on the schedule
was a 37-24 loss to Boise State on the road in the second game of the season,
a defeat that could keep the Rams out of the conference championship game if
the Broncos are able to win out at this point.

Most recently the Rams were in action on Nov. 8 versus Hawaii at home,
capturing a resounding 49-20 victory, advancing to 5-1 in conference play for
the first time since 2002 when the program opened 6-1 on the way to the league

As for the Lobos, they are at the other end of the spectrum in the Mountain
Division of the MWC, winning just one of six league bouts to this point. The
team has a total of three victories overall, the other coming against Texas-
San Antonio in early October. Last weekend, New Mexico took a run at Utah
State in Logan but came up short in a 28-21 final, the squad’s second loss in
a row and the fourth in five outings.

The series is controlled by the Rams currently, 36-25, thanks in part to an
overwhelming 66-42 victory by Colorado State in Albuquerque last season. The
Rams have won four straight in the series, including three in a row in Fort

Freshman quarterback Lamar Jordan did everything in his power to get the Lobos
into the win column against Utah State last week, but it simply was not meant
to be. He converted 8-of-18 passes for 154 yards and a score, but was also
intercepted once in the close call. The signal caller ran for 80 yards, second
only to Romell Jordan who tallied 96 yards and a score on nine carries.

Defensively, it was Tevin Newman with a team-best seven tackles, Nik D’Avanzo
with a pair of sacks and SaQwan Edwards an interception that he returned 33
yards and six plays later, the UNM offense turned it into its first touchdown
of the contest.

“We gave up too many big plays,” said Lobo Coach Bob Davie. “To come up here
and win this game, we needed to play great defense and we couldn’t do that.

“We are good enough to keep it close, but we aren’t good enough to win a game
like this yet.”

The defense has been a concern of the Lobos all season long, with the team
giving up 498.9 ypg, ranking 116th in the country in that department. The run
defense has been the biggest issue as the group allows 276.7 ypg which is
122nd in the nation currently.

The bad news for the Lobos now is that linebacker Dakota Cox, one of the
nation’s top tacklers with 116 stops, is listed as questionable for this week
due to an ankle injury. Behind Cox, the second-best tackler is David Guthrie
who has 64 stops, so clearly there is a huge drop off in that department.

On the offensive side, the Lobos are fourth in the nation in rushing with
318.3 ypg, but are generating just 87.3 ypg through the air (124th). Thrust
into action due to the foot injury of Cole Gautsche, Jordan has done rather
well given the circumstances, throwing for 699 yards and five touchdowns on
just 50 completions.

On the ground, it is Jhurell Pressley who leads the way with 873 yards and 11
TDs, but he is just one of several options that the Lobos are leaning on these

As for the Rams, who have been out of action for a few weeks, they are finally
taking the field as a nationally-ranked squad for the first time since 2003.

“As I’ve said all along, it’s pretty cool that people are taking note of the
good things happening at Colorado State University,” head coach Jim McElwain
says of the national recognition. “This is just another step in the climb, and
I just can’t tell you how proud I am of this team. We have a long way to go,
but I’m happy for our fans, for this university and the people in the state of

Coach McElwain has the luxury of watching two players who may well be the best
at their position in the Mountain West right now in quarterback Garrett
Grayson and receiver Rashard Higgins. Grayson is the first quarterback in
program history to have three games with at least four touchdown passes in his
career, all of them coming this season against UC Davis, Wyoming and Hawaii.
Put it all together and the gunslinger is streaking along with 3,024 yards and
26 TDs on 65.6 percent accuracy.

As for Higgins, he too is in a class by himself and was recently named a
semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which recognizes the top receiver in
the nation.

“It was very exciting to hear this news this morning,” said Higgins of the
announcement. “It shows how much hard work really does pay off, and makes me
think how blessed I am to have great teammates and coaches. I set high goals
for myself and our team, and those goals can only be achieved with everyone
doing their part. To be in this position is a dream come true.”

Higgins entered the week leading all receivers in the FBS with 142.2 ypg and
13 touchdowns, while placing second in receiving yards with 1,280. He has a
school-record seven games with at least 100 yards receiving and his 14 catches
of 30 yards or more also paces the nation’s receivers.

In addition to Grayson and Higgins, the CSU offense is also supported by the
exploits of Alabama transfer, running back Dee Hart who has 909 yards and 11
TDs on the ground.

The Colorado State defense takes its cues from Aaron Davis who leads the group
with 95 tackles, 18 more than his closest teammate, while Cory James steps in
with 5.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss to pace the program in both of those