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Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Colorado State looking to hold onto the ball and right its season


FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The coaches at Colorado State, which hosts Fresno State in a non-Mountain West Conference game Saturday, have thrown the top running backs job up for grabs this week after a series of fumbles.

That means backups such as sophomore Uldis Jaunarajs and junior Jimmy Green are going to get a chance to replace Marcus Houston and Rahsaan Sanders, who have combined for 126 of the 138 fullback carries this season.

"Those untested guys are going to get an opportunity to show what they can do," running backs coach Mick Delaney said Tuesday. "We've got three days of practice this week, and we'll make a decision based on who won't turn the ball over."

Through five games, the Rams (2-3) have lost 10 fumbles, five of them by fullbacks. Houston had three Saturday against Utah, including one that led to a game-clinching touchdown.

"There are no excuses; if you put the ball on the ground, you're going to get beat," Delaney said.

Delaney said he puts his backs through drills every week to teach them how to hold onto the ball.

"It's not something you want to talk about all of the time, but at the same time, you can't ignore it and hope it goes away," he said. "Obviously, the problem is not going away, and it's something we can't tolerate."

The fullbacks aren't the only players with fumble fingers. Quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt has lost three to go along with six interceptions.

In all, CSU has had 16 turnovers and is ranked 112th out of 117 Division I-A teams in turnover margin.

"The problem is that we're trying too hard to make big plays instead of just playing football," Van Pelt said. "We've gotten a little careless with the football, and that has cost us."

Van Pelt, who ranks ninth nationally in total offense, was benched last week after a couple of bad option pitches that were recovered by the Utes.

"Sure, I was mad when I got pulled, but it was understandable because I turned the ball over carelessly," he said. "If I hadn't turned the ball over, I wouldn't have been pulled."