FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Fresno State coach Pat Hill has an uneasy feeling about Saturday's game.
Colorado State, a preseason favorite to win the Mountain West Conference title and which began the season ranked 23rd in the nation, has lost its last two games to fall to 2-3.
"Knowing the tradition and the pride that that team has," Hill said, "I think this is the week they really draw a line in the sand."
Hill leads his Bulldogs into Hughes Stadium against a team that is indeed angry, but curiously is taking a lighten-up approach.
"We're trying too hard," Rams quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt said. "We don't have to overhaul the offense or change personnel."
Van Pelt said Saturday's 28-21 loss to Utah "was a perfect example of us trying too hard to make plays instead of just going out and playing."
Van Pelt, benched in the second quarter after having a hand in four first-half turnovers, accepted much of the blame, insisting he must allow himself to be tackled instead of forcing a pitchout that might result in a fumble. He also threw two interceptions.
Overall, the Rams had six turnovers against Utah, the biggest coming when running back Marcus Houston fumbled and Utah cornerback Arnold Parker recovered, running 80 yards for a touchdown with 1:33 left for the clinching score.
As a result, coaches opened the running back position this week to four players, pending Rahsaan Sanders' recovery from a hip pointer that sidelined him for much of the Utah game.
"You've got to hang onto the football," Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick said. "That's just the name of the game. The same goes for the quarterback if he throws two or three interceptions."
After his rough start, Van Pelt re-entered the game and rallied the Rams to two second-half touchdowns, producing a 21-21 tie. And the Rams were in position to kick a winning field goal before Houston's critical fumble.
"Maybe it's a year when things start catching up with you -- from the injury standpoint and from a few breaks here and there," Lubick said.
The Rams lost one of their top defenders last week when linebacker Eric Pauly tore the ACL in his right knee.
Fresno State brings a 3-2 record into the game, having lost only to nationally ranked Tennessee and Oklahoma. The Bulldogs pounded Portland State 42-16 last week.
"They're real solid in all phases, like they always are," Lubick said. "I understand they might be getting their other quarterback back, so they'll have two top-flight quarterbacks that we'll have to contend with."
Paul Pinegar, the freshman of the year in the Western Athletic Conference in 2002, has been out since he tore a pectoral muscle on Aug. 20. He has resumed throwing and could see some action on Saturday, with senior Jeff Grady likely to start.
Fresno State has won the last three meetings, including 32-30 last year as Pinegar completed 20 of 28 passes for 184 yards and the Bulldogs knocked down Van Pelt's 2-point conversion pass attempt with 50 seconds left.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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