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Low Profile, but High Hopes

September 07, 2002|Steve Henson

Joey Cuppari is like many Colorado State players. The senior from Westlake Village Westlake High grew up a USC fan and wanted to play for the Trojans. Or UCLA. Even Arizona State would have been fine.

But no Pacific 10 Conference team deemed him talented enough. So off he went to Fort Collins, Colo., to forge a lower-profile Division I career.

Someday, Cuppari and his fellow Rams believed, the opportunity to prove they belonged with the big boys would come along.

How right they were. How about twice in two weeks?

Colorado State knocked off No. 7 Colorado last week and tonight sets its sights on the Bruins. For 36 Rams who hail from California, it's redemption time.

"UCLA had me go to games and meet [Coach Bob] Toledo, but when offers were made, I didn't hear from them," Cuppari said. "They would have been tops on my list. But you get over it."

Cuppari had only six receptions last season, after making 31 in 2000. This season, it appears he is back in a go-to role just in time for his date at the Rose Bowl.

"I grew up hoping I'd play in the Rose Bowl against them in a USC uniform," he said. "This will be the same atmosphere I hoped for."


Motivated by his elders, Colorado State Coach Sonny Lubick will receive a five-year contract extension that will keep him coaching through his 70th birthday.

"You see Joe Paterno [75] and Bobby Bowden [72] still going at it at their ages," he said. "They still have the drive and ego to coach football."

Lubick, who has led the Rams to eight consecutive winning seasons, was frightened during the off-season when abnormalities were discovered in his prostate gland. A biopsy was negative, however.

"I'm praying more now than I ever used to as a young man," he said. "That's the way it works, I guess. The older you get, the more you pray."


Although no UCLA starter is injured, four second-team players will miss the game: Fullback Pat Norton (ankle), linebacker Patrick Pierre-Louis (shoulder), tight end Keith Carter (ankle) and guard Shane Lehmann (suspension).... Attendance is expected to be about 55,000. Average attendance for home games last season was 66,613.


Colorado State (2-0)

at UCLA (0-0)

Tonight, 7:15

TV--Fox Sports Net, HD Net

Radio--Fox Sports Radio (1150 AM)


The experienced Bruin line has a size advantage over the Rams, who will blitz frequently. UCLA will try to exploit the unproven Ram safeties and stay away from cornerback Dexter Wynn. Tailback Akil Harris could be a 20-carry workhorse or give way to redshirt freshmen Wendell Mathis, Jason Harrison and Tyler Ebell. Manuel White will get carries on short-yardage and goal-line plays, lining up at either fullback or tailback. Expect Paus to throw to flanker Tab Perry and tight end Mike Seidman early, although Seidman will have to block when a blitz is expected. Backup quarterback Drew Olson is scheduled to play at least one series in the second quarter.


Tailback Cecil Sapp is a bruising runner who averages 130 yards a game. Quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt is a greater danger as a runner than as a passer, and Colorado State has several plays designed for him to carry the ball. The Ram offensive line is beat up after two games and could be vulnerable to an experienced Bruin front four. UCLA middle linebacker Marcus Reese has recovered from a concussion but will be watched closely by trainers.


1. Recognizing and picking up frequent Colorado State blitzes.

2. Containing Van Pelt, the Rams' elusive quarterback.

3. Avoiding typical first-game mistakes against an opponent that has already played twice.


*--* UCLA (2001) Colorado State (2002) 28.8 Scoring 27.0 20.5 Points Allowed 21.5 218.1 Passing Offense 198.5 169.9 Rushing Offense 169.5 388.0 Total Offense 368.0 198.9 Passing Defense 196.0 121.7 Rushing Defense 195.5 320.6 Total Defense 391.5


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