Pack, CSU look to move on after tough weeks

Chris Ault and Steve Fairchild still have a bitter taste in their mouths.

"We certainly feel fortunate to have come away with a win," said Fairchild, referring his Colorado State Rams' narrow 24-23 victory over Weber State a week ago. "We certainly didn't play as well as we expect to play or need to play."

Ault, whose Nevada Wolf Pack (0-1) will take on the Rams (2-0) at Fort Collins, Colo., on Saturday (2 p.m. kickoff), feels the same way about his team's most recent effort.

"We're bitterly disappointed," said Ault of the Pack's 35-0 loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 5. "The whole thing was a letdown. The game, the emotion, everything."

The loss was the first time the Wolf Pack has been shut out in the regular season since 1980. The Pack has also lost its last 12 games when opening the season on the road, a streak that dates back to 1987.

"If you would have told me before the game what the score was going to be, I would have laughed at you," Wolf Pack running back Vai Taua said of the nationally-televised Notre Dame game.

Nobody in Wolf Pack silver and blue has laughed in nearly two weeks.

"I told the players, 'I want you to remember it,'" said Ault of the Irish game. '"You had a chance to do something very, very special in your life and it didn't happen. Ten or 15 years from now you'll sit down and say, 'I played at Notre Dame.' And then you'll say 35-0. That's the bottom line.'"

Ault wants his football team to remember vividly what happened in Notre Dame for the rest of this season. The Colorado State game begins a stretch of 11 consecutive weeks with a game, the Pack's longest stretch without a bye since the 2002 team also played 11 weeks in a row.

"We have players who need to understand that you need to be a competitor and not just go out there and wear a uniform," Ault said. "You need to play this game with passion. You don't play this game with passion, you're going to get whipped. We've been very blunt with our seniors, our captains. But you have to be honest. I always have been."

Colorado State leads the all-time series with the Wolf Pack, 8-1. The Pack, though, won the last meeting between the two teams, 28-10, behind quarterback Jeff Rowe (19-of-22 completions) in 2006 at Mackay Stadium.

"They (Colorado State) win games with good team defense," said Ault who remains two victories away from No. 200 (198-92-1) in his career. "Their offense is a ball-control offense. They want to run the ball first. And they are a very physical team."

Colorado State features the most experienced offensive line (125 combined career starts) in the nation. It is the second consecutive team (Notre Dame's OL had 100 career starts) with a veteran offensive line to face the Pack this year.

"There's nothing greater than experience, especially in the game of football," Ault said. "Their offensive front is the strength of their football team."

The Rams, who play out of the Mountain West Conference, beat Colorado 23-16 in their season opener for their first victory in Boulder, Colo., since 1996. They are now looking for their first 3-0 start since 1994. Fairchild, a former CSU quarterback and assistant coach, is in his second year as head coach (9-6 record).

"We're certainly excited about the direction we're going, but we need to continue to put the pedal down," said Fairchild. "We still have a lot of work to do."

The Rams, it seems, beat teams with defense. And it all starts with linebacker Mychal Sisson, who has a team-high 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

"He's their leader on defense," Ault said. "He lines up all over the field and how he lines up gives you an indication of what they want to do."

Colorado State needed a trick play (a wide receiver pass to the quarterback for a touchdown early in the first quarter) and a huge play on defense (a fumble recovery in the final seconds near their own end zone) to beat Weber of the Big Sky Conference.

"We have inconsistent play in every area," said Fairchild, whose Rams were 7-6 a year ago and beat Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. "Last year we played smart football and almost penalty-free football and we didn't do that in the first two games."

The Rams feature a fifth-year senior quarterback in Grant Stucker, who will be making his third career start Saturday. Stucker has thrown for 411 yards and two touchdowns and has also been intercepted three times. Stucker's favorite target is former Mojave High (Las Vegas) wide receiver Rashaun Greer. Greer, who is on the Fred Biletnikoff Award watch list, has eight catches for 212 yards.

"He (Stucker) understands what they want in their offense," Ault said.

Fairchild said he is impressed with the Wolf Pack.

"That's the most talented team we've seen this year," Fairchild said. "From what I've seen on tape, they have much better personnel than what I remember them having. We'll certainly have our hands full."

Ault said his football team is filled with players who are more than ready to get back on the field.

"If we don't there's something wrong," he said.

Taua, who ran for 114 yards against Notre Dame, is hoping for a fast start.

"No matter how we start the game, if it's on offense or defense," Taua said. "If it's the defense, we want to go three (plays) and out. If its offense, we want to go down and score. And from there we're going to roll."

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