Team preview: Colorado State

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(All information as of July 1, 2005)


Between coming up a foot short in a madhouse at bitter rival Colorado in the Labor Day weekend rain to finishing 30 points shy at Air Force in a pre-Thanksgiving snow, a black cloud followed Colorado State throughout a forgettable 2004 season.

Until last season, veteran coach Sonny Lubick's 12th, CSU established itself as the class of the Mountain West Conference with five straight bowl appearances and six MWC or Western Athletic Conference crowns.

Before a slide that actually began in 2003, Lubick's teams were invariably disciplined, dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage, the defense swarmed to the ball and the offense effectively mixed the pass with a power running game out of a one-back set.

Big plays on special teams contributed to wins and the Rams often boosted return specialists high in the national rankings. Except for 1995 and 2001, one quarterback started every game all season.

The rest of the MWC started catching up after aiming for CSU for years, just as CSU had caught and surpassed BYU the previous decade.

It didn't turn sour over night. The erosion started on defense in 2003 after long-time coordinator Larry Kerr left for UCLA and injuries decimated the linebacking corps.

Special teams guru Brian Schneider went with Kerr. A year later, offensive line coach John Benton moved on to the Los Angeles Rams.

There was only one staff change this off-season but it hit much closer to home.