Van Pelt fueling No. 23 Colorado State's rivalry with Colorado

Updated: August 29, 2003, 4:26 PM ET

DENVER -- Bradlee Van Pelt is doing his best to stir the animosity between Colorado State and Colorado.

The Colorado State quarterback set the tone for this year's game last season, when he spiked the ball into a Colorado player's face and called the Buffs the worst No. 7 team he had ever seen.

Van Pelt hasn't backed off this year and there's even a rumor that someone put a bounty out on him, further stoking the rivalry's fire for Saturday night's game.

"They are the ones, I think, who are getting frustrated," Van Pelt said. "We're focused on other things besides them."

There was a time when it was the other way around, and Colorado State seemed to be at a disadvantage against the Buffaloes.

While Colorado has won a national championship and plays in a BCS conference, the Rams have to fight for recognition and end up in the Holiday or Liberty bowls even when they have a good season.

On the field, Colorado has dominated the series for the better part of a century, going 51-17-2 before 1999, including an eight-game winning streak from 1987-98 and numerous blowouts.

But that has changed in recent years.

Starting with a 41-14 rout in 1999, Colorado State has won three of the last four games for its best run in the series since winning three straight in 1931-33.

And momentum isn't the only thing that has swung in Colorado State's favor. The Rams now believe they can win instead of hoping to keep it close.

"We developed confidence here and they're not as good as they think they are," CSU receiver Eric Hill said.

Van Pelt drove that point home with his face-spike last year.

With just over six minutes left, Van Pelt broke off a 23-yard touchdown run that proved to be the winning score. After he crossed into the end zone, Van Pelt turned and threw the ball at Colorado safety Roderick Sneed's helmet.

Van Pelt said at the time he thought Sneed was trying to pull his face mask, but the Buffaloes weren't buying it. Van Pelt's comments after the game only made things worse.

"I remember like it was yesterday, walking off that field last year and how it felt," Colorado receiver Jeremy Bloom said. "Obviously, I'm going to use that to my motivation and as a team we're going to use that feeling as motivation."

But the Buffaloes might need more than just motivation.

Colorado State has 15 starters returning from a 10-4 team last year and opened the season at No. 23. They also have Van Pelt, who backs up his cockiness with his passing and running.

Colorado has replaced most of its offensive line and its quarterback, Joel Klatt, has thrown just three passes in his college career. The Buffs also have been slow starters under coach Gary Barnett, losing their last four openers -- three to Colorado State -- and are two-point underdogs.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Barnett said. "The kids know it and the coaches know it."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index