While trying to resurrect the football program at San Jose State, second-year coach Mike MacIntyre is careful not to set unreasonable goals. He's also determined to convince his team that no single obstacle is too big.
"You can't come out and say you're going to win the national championship. That's not really reality right now for us," MacIntyre said. "Our idea is to get better, and there's some goals we've set that we're ticking away at."
For the Spartans, who ended a 13-game losing streak last week, the next notch they'd like to etch in their belts is winning on the road. They get the chance Saturday in a nonconference game against Colorado State at 5,003 feet above sea level in Fort Collins, Colo.
Coming off back-to-back 3-9 seasons, the Rams (3-1) of the Mountain West are a step or two ahead of SJSU (1-3) in their climb toward respectability. They were good enough last week to score a 35-34 double-overtime win at Utah State, regarded as one of the better teams the Spartans will face in the Western Athletic Conference.
San Jose State, meanwhile, has dropped 16 consecutive road games, 18 in a row on the road outside the WAC.
If that sounds daunting, consider that MacIntyre was a defensive backs coach at Temple in 1998 when the Owls -- winless and two weeks removed from a loss to William & Mary -- upset 14th-ranked Virginia Tech, a 351/2-point favorite, regarded as one of the biggest upsets in college football history
"I think anybody can beat anybody. I really honestly believe that," MacIntyre said.
CSU doesn't provide quite that challenge, but sophomore linebacker Keith Smith said the Spartans are eager to taste the road victory that has eluded the program since Nov. 1, 2008.
"Everybody says it's such a sweet feeling," Smith said. "We just want to really turn things around."
It's the next step for the Spartans, who are coming off a 34-24 home victory over New Mexico State.
"Our kids are not panicking anymore or hoping they win. They're trying to go win it," MacIntyre said. "Now we've got to do it on the road in a great environment against a football team that has done it themselves a couple times."