Colorado State takes its two-game winning streak into Logan this weekend for a matchup with Utah State that will very likely be competitive.
Just about every time these teams meet up, the game is a back-and-forth affair. And with both schools looking to make pushes for the postseason after experiencing highs and lows in their respective non-conference schedules, the game feels like it means quite a bit for a contest this early in the season.
The Aggies beat a shorthanded Rams in Fort Collins last fall. With Clay Millen and Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi both injured, Giles Pooler got the start at quarterback behind a depleted offensive line and the Rams struggled to do much of anything. While it’s not on Pooler — it was pretty much an impossible position that night — after losing 17-13 in front of a Homecoming crowd, it was one of those games that left a bad taste in the mouth.
While it was definitely frustrating that the lack of offensive production cost the Rams an opportunity to win a game that was there for the taking, it was not surprising at all that the game was tight. The two teams have played 78 times over the years and the results have basically been split down the middle. It’s been Utah State that’s had the upper hand in recent years with four consecutive wins over the Green & Gold. CSU still leads the all-time series by two games though (39-37-2).
Going back to the 2013 season, the first year Utah State was in the Mountain West, the Aggies have taken six of nine contests against the Rams. The largest margin of victory for either side has been 15 points though. And five of the nine matchups have been one-possession games. Again, these teams pretty much always put on a good show.
Along with being evenly matched games, this series tends to have a flair for the dramatic. The game has been decided on the final play of regulation three times in the last 10 years alone.
When CSU played in Maverik Stadium under Steve Addazio in 2021, the Rams trailed 26-24 but had an opportunity to drive down the field and attempt a game-winning field goal. After getting the ball inside field goal range with 11 seconds to go, CSU had plenty of time to spike the football and send out the field goal unit at a comfortable pace. Unfortunately for Ram fans, however, chaos ensued and CSU completely botched the process. Instead of clocking the football, the field goal unit ran onto the field in confusion. And after rushing the process, the 42-yard field goal attempt was pushed wide.
In a freezing game at Canvas Stadium back in November, 2018, a three-win CSU team had a ranked Utah State on the ropes and damn near upset them with a Hail Mary. Trailing 29-24 in the final seconds, Collin Hill seemingly completed a 34-yard touchdown pass to Preston Williams as time expired. Unfortunately, as CSU’s players celebrated together in the end zone, a flag came out late and the officials ruled that Williams illegally touched the football after going out of bounds on his route. So instead of dramatically upsetting a top-25 team at home, it was game over and the Rams lost a heartbreaker.
Of course, the history has not always been bad for CSU. The Rams won a 16-13 thriller against the Aggies in 2014 when Jared Roberts hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired. The win came in front of the first sellout crowd at Hughes Stadium since 2004 and the fans stormed the field in triumph. On a personal level, it’s one of my favorite memories as a CSU student.
CSU has already started the 2023 campaign by going .500 in the non-conference slate for the first time since 2017. We’ll see if the Rams can do something else they have not done since 2017, and that’s win a road game against Utah State.
CSU has shown a lot of grit as a team over the last couple of weeks and getting to 2-2 before the conference opener was massively important. From this point on, though, the stakes are raised that much more.
This Rams team has aspirations of making real noise in the Mountain West and considering the talent on the roster, they should. If CSU is actually going to be a player in the league this season, winning these types of games will be really important.
It’s a big test for CSU this weekend in the conference opener. Time to see what the Rams are made of.