Steve Fairchild was 1-2 against Dan Hawkins.

Colorado State is coming off back-to-back 3-9 seasons.

The Rams are 2-0 this year, but only scored 14 points against lowly New Mexico in the opener.

Last Saturday, with Pete Thomas still throwing passes, CSU was outscored 14-6 in the second half by Northern Colorado.

Yet when Greg Brown turns on the film of the CSU Rams, the Colorado defensive coordinator sees the high-flying St. Louis Rams.

"Steve Fairchild is as good as it gets as far as an offensive mind. Look at the guy's background," Brown said when asked about the Buffs' looming Rocky Mountain Showdown with CSU on Saturday at Sports Authority Field. "He comes from the Rams when they were still the Greatest Show on Turf. ... The guy understands what's going on. He understands how to protect the passer and go after defenses."

Brown was the defensive backs coach for the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons when Fairchild was an offensive assistant in St. Louis under Mike Martz.

Before returning to CSU, where Fairchild played quarterback from 1978-80, he was the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills.

In 2009, Fairchild's Rams beat CU 23-17 in Boulder when Brown was Hawkins' secondary coach.

"Steve Fairchild came in here and dismantled the Buffaloes schematically," Brown said. "We tipped our hat to him. He flat-out beat us that day."

In last year's meeting in Denver, CU intercepted Pete Thomas three times and smothered CSU, 24-3, in a game that was all but decided by halftime.

Despite the dominating performance in 2010, Brown's respect for Fairchild seems to have trickled down to his defensive players this week.

And the CU defense certainly has a lot to prove after allowing Hawaii's Bryant Moniz (three rushing touchdowns) and Cal's Zach Maynard (four touchdown passes) to put up some nice fantasy football numbers.

"They're a hard-playing team and they always come out with something different. We've just got to play our game," CU safety Ray Polk said. "(Thomas) has improved a ton. He's definitely a different quarterback, and they're a different team. ...

"They're going to throw some stuff at us that we're not going to expect. We'll see how it goes. I look forward to playing them."

The Buffs sacked Maynard three times and Jon Major intercepted the Cal quarterback. But in overtime, Brown's boys allowed the Bears to convert a first-and-30 and then score the game-winning touchdown.

CSU quarterback Pete Thomas gets hit by CU’s Curtis Cunningham and Parker Orms during last year’s game which the Buffs won 24-3. Despite last
CSU quarterback Pete Thomas gets hit by CU's Curtis Cunningham and Parker Orms during last year's game which the Buffs won 24-3. Despite last year's success CU defensive coordinator Greg Brown believes the Rams are an offensive fire power. ( Cliff Grassmick )

"There were a few plays we were disappointed in where we should have made the play and we didn't," Brown said. "The call was OK, we were there, and then we didn't make the play. We need to get better. That's where we're at right now."

The Buffs' offense showed dramatic improvement from the opener to the second game. Now it's the defense's turn to make a statement on Saturday at Sports Authority Field.

"We've obviously made mistakes and had inconsistencies. We've also shown we can play really well," CU defensive end Will Pericak said. "There are times when there has been a communication error that led to a touchdown or a big play here or there.

"If we could just put together four quarters of good, solid defense, I'm confident we have the talent and the coaching and everything to put together a complete game."

Thomas, whose first collegiate game was last season's Rocky Mountain Showdown, has completed 73.5 percent of his passes and compiled a 218.5 quarterback rating this season.

However, Fairchild's sophomore signal caller has two touchdowns and three interceptions through two games.

Of course, Brown is still preparing as if he's about to face Kurt Warner.

"He's good now. And he's in an offensive system that will allow him to be good," Brown said of Thomas. "Fairchild just gets it. He's a tremendous offensive coach."

The feeling in Fort Collins is mutual.

When it comes to the rivalry, there is clearly a lot of respect between the men moving the pieces in the CU defense vs. CSU offense chess match.

"Number one, their defense is very complex," Fairchild said at his press conference earlier this week. "I've know Greg Brown for quite a while. He's done a great job everywhere he's been.

"They're very pressure-oriented. They do a nice job. It's different than what we've faced the first two weeks, obviously. That's a concern."