Duan Ruff knifed for a 1-yard scoring run with 9:27 left, and Colorado State hung on to hand Utah its first conference loss, 19-17 on Saturday.
"We're still alive, and that's all that matters," wide receiver Pete Rebstock said. "We know we still have life.
"Other teams in the conference may have been taking us lightly, but now they know we're for real. We're starting to play better football at the end of the season, like we always have."
The Rams (4-4, 3-1 Mountain West) rallied from 7-0 and 14-13 deficits to end Utah's four-game winning streak.
Utah (5-2, 2-1) got a late field goal to cut the lead to 19-17 and gained possession again with two minutes left. But Lance Rice, under pressure from safety Ameer Lowe, made a hurried, off-balance throw and was intercepted by safety Jason Gallimore with 1:15 remaining.
"It helped that the quarterback had a lot of pressure," Gallimore said. He threw the ball short, and I was just in the right spot."
Gallimore also had a key fumble recovery in the third quarter, thwarting a Utah scoring threat.
Rice threw two touchdown passes, including a 47-yarder to Josh Lyman late in the third quarter which put the Utes ahead 14-13.
With 10 minutes to go, Colorado State's Bradlee Van Pelt hooked up with a wide-open Rebstock on a 46-yard pass play. Ruff ran for 18 yards, offensive tackle David Shohet took a lateral 3 yards and Ruff scored. The Rams missed the 2-point conversion on an incomplete pass.
Utah's Dameon Hunter then accounted for 71 yards rushing on a 72-yard drive which stalled at the Colorado State 8-yard line. Ryan Kaneshiro kicked a 25-yard field goal with 6:07 left.
After a punt, Utah moved to its own 32, where Rice underthrew Lyman and Gallimore picked it off.
"Even though Utah is a very physical offensive team, we knew if we could just eliminate the big plays we'd have a chance," CSU coach Sonny Lubick said. "They got two big pass plays on us, but other than that they had a hard time making consistent drives.
"Offensively, we did what we had to do. I thought Bradlee threw the ball a little better. If he can hit a couple more passes, we can be a whole different offense."
CSU has won five conference titles in the last seven years under Lubick.
"We're still in the race," he said. "Since I've been here it seems like we've always been in the race, all the way down to the last week or last two weeks of the season. I don't think we've ever been out of it, really."
Utah coach Ron McBride said his team "didn't take advantage of our opportunities. CSU had opportunities and took advantage of them. That's the difference. They made two or three big plays in the game that hurt us.
"At the end of the first half, we're at the 2-yard line. That's a chip-shot field goal. You've got to make that field goal. We had another opportunity where we had a guy wide open in the end zone and he drops the ball. You have to make plays to win games."
Colorado State, winning for the fourth straight time in the series, fell behind 7-0 when Rice passed 1 yard to Rob Sirstins. Rice's 35-yard pass to a diving Cliff Russell set up the score.
The Rams countered just two minutes later when Dallas Davis beat cornerback D'Shawn Crockett deep down the left sideline and hauled in Van Pelt's 51-yard scoring pass.
Davis' subsequent 43-yard punt return set up another potential score, but Kent Naughton was wide right on a 40-yard field-goal attempt.
Henri Childs' 17-yard run with a lateral and Van Pelt's 13-yard pass to Davis on third-and-11 set up Naughton's 33-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
The Rams got another field goal on their next possession, following Dexter Wynn's 24-yard punt return to the Utah 35.
Utah threatened in the closing seconds of the half, driving to the CSU 2 but coming up empty. First, Kaneshiro missed a 36-yard field goal, but Gallimore was whistled for roughing the holder, moving the Utes to the 9. Then, Kaneshiro's 18-yard attempt was blocked by a leaping Rhett Nelson.
Utah was deprived of another score in the third period when Russell, stretching to reach the goal line on a short pass, fumbled into the end zone, where Gallimore recovered for a touchback.
It's a short week for the Rams, who travel to Provo, Utah this week to face nationally ranked BYU in the second of three scheduled Thursday night nationally televised MWC battles.