Although he couldn't put his finger on it, Colorado State coach
Sonny Lubick knew something was missing. Last August, as the Rams
were wrapping up their final round of two-a-days, Lubick scoured
the field trying to find the final piece to his team's puzzle.
"Great teams always have something they can pull out of their
back pocket when they get down," says Lubick. "I had no idea what
our surprise was going to be."
Neither did Dallas Davis. Going into last season, Davis, a
scrappy wide receiver, made only his own teammates squirm. He
spent summers interning as a keeper in the reptile cage at the
Denver Zoo and was the owner of four tarantulas, two six-foot
iguanas and an albino Burmese python. "Dallas is a cool guy,"
says senior quarterback Matt Newton, "but I don't like hanging
out at his place. All of his spiders and lizards creep me out too
But by midseason Davis was creeping out opposing defenders with
the way he slithered down the field on punt returns. In Week 8,
in a key game against Mountain West rival Utah, he became the
first player in school history to return two punts for touchdowns
in a game. He was no slouch as a wideout either, hauling in 51
passes for 665 yards. For Lubick it came just in time. After
losing its first two league games, Colorado State won its last
five regular-season games to earn a berth in the Liberty Bowl
against Southern Miss.
A year later it's time for Lubick to put the pieces of another
puzzle together. Newton, despite a slow start, threw for 2,369
yards and 18 touchdowns last season, and will have the luxury of
playing behind four returning starters on a line that allowed
just 10 sacks all year. Workhorse running back Kevin McDougal is
gone, so sophomore Rahsaan Sanders and junior Duan Ruff will
split time in the backfield.
The defense lost key players to the NFL but will get a huge boost
from the return of linebacker Rick Crowell, a punishing pass
rusher who was granted an extra year of eligibility after tearing
his left rotator cuff near the start of last season.
Lubick and Co. will be tested early with nonconference games
against Colorado and Arizona State, but the Rams should have
enough talent to remain atop the MWC for a second straight year.
Even if Lubick doesn't have any more tricks up his sleeve.
1999 record: 8-4 (5-2, T1 in MWC)
Final ranking: not ranked
Number of seasons with 10 or more wins during the 103 years of
football at Colorado State.
An opposing team's coach sizes up The Rams
"They like to use a lot of play action and set everything up
with the run. That's where losing McDougal really hurts. Sanders
is a decent replacement, but McDougal was a huge part of their
offense....Newton has a strong arm, but he's still learning how
to play....Davis is as good a receiver as there is....On D they
don't look that tough and won't pressure you much, but they also
don't give up the big play."
Strength: 81st of 115
Sept. 2 COLORADO*
9 E. TENNESSEE ST.
16 at Arizona State
30 at Nevada
Oct. 7 NEW MEXICO
21 at Utah
28 at San Diego State
Nov. 2 BYU
11 at Air Force
["TELLING NUMBER" COMPILED BY DAVID SABINO]