Mountain West Recap: Wolf [SPACE] Pack are back?

Week 3 of Mountain West play is over, and with that comes more clarity in the race for the Mountain West Championship game. In a week that featured some bizarre matchups, some teams impressed, others continued to embarrass themselves (looking at you, Fresno). Here’s what happened on Saturday, September 13th…

Saturday

Boise State 38, Connecticut 21 – Early on, it appeared all was going as planned. A blast from Armand Nance forced a fumble that Tanner Vallejo took to the house. #BEATEMDOWN, right? Not quite. On the worst playing surface I’ve ever watched Boise State play on, the Huskies appeared to have all the energy in the stadium. The Broncos looked listless, Ajayi worn-out. Whether that’s because of the early start time, jet lag from a long trip, whatever excuse, it was clear Boise State was lacking something. A UConn punt that hit Jack Fields was recovered by the Huskies, and they quickly capitalized. Broncos fans were getting nervous, but key INTs from Moxey and Deayon closed this game out for Boise State. Considering the circumstances, be glad the Broncos won this game.

Link to highlights

Air Force 48, Georgia State 38 – About those bizarre matchups, here’s another one. The Falcons traveled all the way to Georgia to take on the Panthers after losing in Laramie to Wyoming last week. The offense moved the ball easily all day behind Kale Pearson, throwing 224 passing yards (!!!) and the run game going off for 315 yards. The Falcon defense is still a problem, giving up 38 points and 532 total yards to a bad Georgia State team. That said, Troy Calhoun’s team needs to start winning again regardless of the circumstance. They’ll take the win.

Oregon 48, Wyoming 14 – Craig Bohl’s Cowboys are a tough team to figure out. After two slim victories at home against arguably to two worst teams they’ll see all season, they walk into Eugene and start off so well they led the Ducks (!!!) 7-0 after 1 quarter. Sure, eventually Mariota and the offense woke up and won comfortably, but Wyoming did some good things. 439 total yards on the Ducks defense is nothing to scoff at. I need to see more of this team, but Bohl’s team just might flirt with going bohling this season (see what I did there?). Shaun Wick might be the best RB in the MW you’ve never heard of.

Link to highlights

A certain king of all bandwagoners was rumored to be in the suites for this game…

Colorado State 49, UC-Davis 21 – The Rams opened their home slate vs. an FCS program, which is just what they needed after facing Boise State on The Blue. Garrett Grayson had another huge day through the air, going 22/31 with 425 passing yards and 4 TDs. Dee Hart seems to have cooled down since his breakout game vs. Colorado, rushing for only 38 yards, but backup RB Treyous Jarrells had a decent day with 84 rushing yards. WR Rashard Higgins looks like he might threaten to snag a 1st-team All-MW spot. Overall, the Rams got what they needed out of their home opener, putting together a solid 4-quarter performance.

Utah State 36, Wake Forest 24 – The craptastic offensive display in Logan continues. There were two TDs, one for each team, in the first quarter. They were both pick-sixes. Then the Aggie explosion occurred, going into halftime up 29-7. Then Keeton got hurt again. That inspired a mini comeback from the Demon Deacons, a comeback backup QB Darrell Garrettson squashed. The Aggies won 36-24 over the questionable Demon Deacons, but the real topic is Chuckie Keeton’s health. Keeton’s knee does not appear to be as far along as off-season reports would allow one to believe. A win is a win, but the Aggies got problems going forward.

Link to highlights

Northern Illinois 48, UNLV 34 – In classic Rebel fashion, Bobby Hauck’s team made this game weird. It appeared we were set for a standard UNLV blowout, down by the odd score of 5-28 in the 3rd quarter. However, the Rebels made a run in that 3rd quarter to close the score to 31-26 thanks to QB Blake Decker zoning in on star WR Devante Davis. 17 fourth quarter points were enough for the Huskies to put away the Rebels, but at least UNLV showed some heart in this one.

Nebraska 55, Fresno State 19 – Oh, Fresno. Everyone knew these first three games would be very tough, but this home game vs. Nebraska was supposed to be the most likely victory of the three. Or at least the most competitive. Instead it was more of the same. In front a packed crowd of red, 20,000 of them being Huskers fans, the Bulldogs were dominated from start to finish. Tommy Armstrong Jr., Ameer Abdullah, and the Huskers bounced back from a weak performance at home vs. McNeese State to whip the Dogs in every phase of the game. Once again, Fresno gave up over 550+ total yards, and the offense struggled to move the ball vs. the Huskers first string. The highlight of the game was probably the safety Fresno got as a result of a Huskers player batting the ball out the back of the end zone on a punt return. Apparently that dude didn’t know the rules. Fresno hopes to get Brandon Connette back soon and get back on track after this horrible start.

Link to highlights

Arizona 35, Nevada 28 – We might have a clear favorite to win the West Division after Week 3. After upsetting Washington State last week, Nevada traveled to Arizona to play a second Pac-12 opponent, and they didn’t disappoint. Cody Fajardo struggled to run the ball effectively, but was nearly flawless through the air. Nevada’s run game altogether was stymied, but Fajardo made up for it. I know giving up 500+ total yards and 35 points isn’t exactly impressive, but the Nevada defense is clearly a top 2-3 MW unit. Anu Solomon and Nick Johnson were ultimately too much for Reno, but bottom line: MW fans, watch out for Nevada.

Hawaii 27, Northern Iowa 24 – Nothing better than closing the college football weekend with Robert Kekaula and an unpredictable Hawaii team. Hawaii will be without RB Joey Iosefa for at least another 3 weeks, forcing Steven Lakalaka (real name) to step up, and he did. 124 rushing yards on 32 carries, Lakalaka was the entire UH offense in this game. The defense did a good job of containing RB David Johnson, holding him to only 46 rushing yards on 18 carries. I know on the surface a 27-24 win over an FCS school isn’t all that impressive, but this is only the second time Norm Chow has won a game that wasn’t in the final week of the season. Northern Iowa is a pretty good FCS program too. Hawaii will take any win they can get. Upcoming weeks will show if UH can turn this thing around.

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Next up…Week 4

It’s all Saturday once again for the Mountain West. Hawaii travels to Colorado to take on the Buffs, which can be seen on the Pac-12 Network. Starting at 2 p.m. MT, San Jose State will be on the Big Ten Network playing Minnesota. Outside of those games, this week’s slate of games have been relegated to ESPN3 status. Boise State will play UL-Lafayette on CBS Sports, but you already knew that. Utah State-Arkansas State and San Diego State-Oregon State figure to be interesting games.

Clock flips on Boise State again this week, 8:30 p.m. start time. Get out to Albertsons Stadium and support the Broncos!

Mountain West Recap: #BEATEMDOWN

The gauntlet continues. Mountain West teams continue to take on the Power-5 schools, or apparently some are calling them the “resource conferences”. Whatever you call them, the Mountain West went through the grinder again this week with a handful of teams getting beat down by the superior competition. Not all of it was bad though, let’s take a look at how things panned out…

Friday

Nevada 24, Washington State 13 – Friday night presented an opportunity to Nevada that all MW fans wish for: the chance to play a Pac-12 team at home. Mike Leach’s Pirates Cougars showed up to Mackay Stadium looking to get an easy win over the mid-tier MW school. Instead they received an official end to the honeymoon between Coug fans and head coach Mike Leach. Nevada came out ready, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the early 2nd quarter. Connor Halliday managed to close that gap to 4 at 10-14 before halftime, but he and the Cougar offense struggled mightily in the red zone all night. The Wolf Pack held on in the 2nd half, thanks to clever zone-read play from Cody Fajardo to win an unexpected defensive struggle 24-13. Brian Polian and his team might not be perfect, but this start accompanied with a favorable schedule make them a nice dark horse to win the West Division.

Link to highlights

Saturday

Utah 59, Fresno State 27 – Another week comes and goes, and the Bulldogs continue to get slaughtered on the defensive side of the ball. Dominated. There is no way around it, even for the biggest Fresno homers. Not much analysis needed for this game. Travis Wilson and the Utes scored double-digit points in each quarter, and the backups were in the game midway through the 3rd quarter when the score was 45-7. Outside of some garbage time TDs, there aren’t many positives to take away from this game for the Dogs. QB problems are still there, and the defense looks worse than last season, which seemed impossible in the preseason. Things won’t get much easier this week, but at least they get Nebraska at home. Anyone, anytime, anywhere…right?

Link to highlights

Arizona State 58, New Mexico 23 – It could have been worse. No, really! New Mexico is clearly a program going through a long-term rebuilding phase. They lost Cole Gautsche (I’m finally starting to spell his name right without looking it up) for this game, putting the Lobos behind the 8-ball. Despite that, the Lobos moved the ball effectively on the up-and-coming Pac-12 power, Arizona State. They scored 21 points before halftime behind QB Lamar Jordan and a solid rushing attack. Sure, they gave up 58 points and 621 total yards, but otherwise not bad! Lobos are still searching for their first win this season, but they can take some positives away from this game.

Auburn 59, San Jose State 13 – The trip down #BEATEMDOWN lane continues. Spartan QB Blake Jurich did make some plays occasionally, but this was a romp from the very beginning. The Spartans rushed for 65 yards total on 45 carries (!!!), while the Tigers put up 358 rushing yards. Highlights are below if you enjoy SEC dominance, or hate the fighting Gene Bleymaier’s for some reason.

Link to highlights

North Carolina 31, San Diego State 27 – This one will sting for Rocky Long’s team. Traveling all the way to the east coast, the Aztecs rebounded from an early 100-yard pick-six to take a 14-7 lead going into the half behind Quinn Kaehler and the two-headed rushing attack of Donnel Pumphrey and Chase Price. Leading 21-7 in the 3rd, it appeared the Aztecs might get a signature win over a ranked opponent. Then the 4th quarter happened. A 17-point rally for the Tar Heels gave them the win, leaving the Aztecs limping back to San Diego. To add injury to insult, the Aztecs could be without top WR Ezell Ruffin for awhile.

Link to highlights

Why yes, yes I did manage to sneak in a tweet about Johnny Manziel into this recap.

Utah State 40, Idaho State 20 – This game got banished to stream status on the Mountain West website, and boy are Utah State fans glad that it did. The perennial Big Sky doormat, the Idaho State Bengals, came to town to take on the reeling Aggies. The spread was -34 in favor of USU, with the possibility that this game could get ugly. It did not join the collection of #BEATEMDOWN games this week. In fact, this game was TIED 6-6 with 2 minutes left in the 2nd quarter! Keeton and the Aggies eventually pulled away, but the yardage total in this game was almost identical (USU 427, ISU 408) and Keeton was awful again (see box score). This is exactly the kind of team Keeton would have annihilated in the past, and he appears to be limping. Good performance from the Bengals, but the Aggies are clearly in a funk right now.

UNLV 13, Northern Colorado 12 – My condolences to anyone who had to watch this game, at home or in person. Especially in person. The box score indicates this was a total bore fest. The Rebels got the win over the Big Sky doormat, but there isn’t much to talk about with this game. Say Sean Rubalcaba 5 times fast.

Wyoming 17, Air Force 13 – In the late Mountain Division game fans weren’t watching, Troy Calhoun and his Falcons took on the Wyoming Cowboys, and the two were in a defensive struggle all night. The potent rushing attack Wyoming displayed in Week 1 vs. Montana disappeared as Shaun Wick and D.J. May were stymied by the undersized Falcons front seven. 51 rushing yards on 26 carries won’t get it done for Bohl’s Cowboys. Thankfully, Colby Kirkegaard came to the rescue in his best performance yet. Ten 4th quarter points were enough for the Pokes to come out on top. The Pokes now travel to Oregon as a 43-point underdog. Seriously.

Link to highlights

I’m sorry, I had to post this link.

Oregon State 38, Hawaii 30 – Hawaii and their 4th quarter shenanigans. For most of this game, it appeared the Rainbow Warrior’s Week 1 performance vs. Washington was a fluke. Down 7-31 at half, Norm Chow chased down the officials and screamed at them for a good 2 minutes. Apparently that fired up his team, because despite being down 7-38 in the 4th, Hawaii rallied to cut the game to 30-38. Chow’s team was notorious for such comebacks last season. UH recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the ball did not travel 10 yards. It wasn’t pretty, but Hawaii fans can’t complain too much about losing by 9 points total to two Pac-12 schools to open the season. Hopefully Iosefa returns soon.

Boise State 37, Colorado State 24So I have to have won something, right? I got the score right, but didn’t see the game turning out EXACTLY the way the 2013 game went. The Broncos jumped out to a huge lead through 3 quarters at 37-10, thanks largely to the efforts of Jay Ajayi, Grant Hedrick, and Matt Miller. The Broncos, like last season’s game in Ft. Collins, took the foot off the gas pedal too soon and allowed 3rd-down converting machine Garrett Grayson to make fans nervous when he trimmed the lead to 37-24. The Broncos were able to see this one out, but injuries are a concern and this team needs to learn how to finish games. 3 quarters is not good enough. Still, holding the Rams to 28 rushing yards on 23 carries is ridiculous. But Colorado Buffaloes!?

Link to highlights

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Next up…Week 3.

What to watch…all Saturday games this week, and there are some bizarre ones. Obviously Boise State playing UConn at 10 a.m. MT is weird, and Air Force playing on the road vs. Georgia State is also an odd matchup. Wake Forest travels all the way to Utah State, and Wyoming will be sacrificed to appease Oregon. Broncos are the only team on one of ESPN’s primary affiliate channels, checkout Wake Forest-Utah State and Fresno-Nebraska on CBS Sports Network, and Nevada plays @Arizona on the Pac-12 Network, so have fun monitoring the box score with that one.

Bright and early next week, #BroncoNation! Go Broncos!

Mountain West Recap: 700 TOTAL YARDS!!!!

It happens every late summer in August without fail. That large pitcher of kool-aid is passed around from fan to fan, every team believes this could be “their year”. The practices are tougher, the players are better, all is well in the month of August. Week 1 in the Mountain West is over, and of the 12 teams in the conference, very few are still passing around that pitcher of kool-aid. Week 1’s Mountain West games stretched across four days from Thursday-Sunday, here’s how things played out…

Thursday

Ole Miss 35, Boise State 13 – Determining how this game went really comes down to your preference. Some will see the glass as half empty, others half full. The Bronco defense lived up to the off-season belief that they would play with a fire under Marcel Yates. Only down 6-7 in the 4th quarter, albeit struggling mightily with the Rebel defense, the Broncos looked like they might steal this one. Injuries to Tyler Horn and Donte Deayon allowed the floodgates to open, and it was all over very quickly. Hedrick had a night to forget with 4 INTs as the offense struggled in the red zone. Ajayi performed well, but turnovers and failed red zone trips hurt the offense.

San Jose State 42, North Dakota 10- The Spartans, who have surprised in recruiting as of late, held the North Dakota Fighting Sioux we don’t have a name’s to under 250 total yards on offense, and QB Blake Jurich impressed in his debut going 22/25, 250 passing yards, and 3 TDs. Maybe there is life after Fales for the Spartans.

Friday

Colorado State 31, Colorado 17 – The Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver was a game of momentum swings. The Buffs grabbed it early, opening the game up 10-0 and exposing the Rams secondary. A late TD from Dee Hart, the Rams newly-minted Alabama transfer, gave momentum back to the Rams going into halftime. That is all McElwain and the Rams needed to take hold of this game. RBs Dee Hart and Treyous Jarrells led a rushing attacked that gashed the Buffs for 266 rushing yards on the way to a 2-TD “blowout” in Denver. Impressive game from McElwain’s club, who are now as a result being touted as a MW favorite.

Arizona 58, UNLV 13 – There isn’t much to recap with this result. The Rebels held their own for about 10 minutes to start this game, but eventually Anu Solomon took over. The brand new Wildcats QB went off for 425 passing yards, 50 rushing yards, and 4 TDs. Devante Davis may be the MW’s best WR, and it looked like it in this game, but that’s about the only positive I can find for the Rebels.

Saturday

Air Force 44, Nicholls State 16 – Mountain West fans, meet Jacobi Owens. The sophomore RB from Las Vegas made a big impact in the Falcons opener vs. Nicholls State, going for 233 rushing yards on 23 carries. QB Kale Pearson returned from injury to contribute to the Falcons offensive onslaught. Obviously it may be too early to declare Air Force is back, considering Nicholls State would lose to just about any FBS school by 28 points, but this is a positive start for fly boy Calhoun.

Nevada 28, Southern Utah 19 – Considering the Wolf [SPACE] Pack are a darkhorse to win the MW for some, this was an underwhelming result for Reno. While the veteran-laden defense did their part, by all accounts the Nevada O-Line is still a liability on this team. The score was only 7-0 Pack at the half, not what you’re looking for vs. an FCS program. The offense eventually flipped the switch and rolled the Thunderbird defense, but overall a 9-point win over an FCS team doesn’t exactly scream “MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIP HERE WE COME!!!”.

Wyoming 17, Montana 12 – I watched this game via the MW stream available at themw.com. Bohl’s offense looked NDSU caliber on their first drive, establishing a very impressive power run game. QB appeared to be an issue for the Cowboys, as they simply could not finish drives with Kirkegaard throwing the ball. Despite two lightening delays, the Cowboy defense maintained an aggressive edge all day. A 17-12 win over an FCS school is certainly nothing impressive, but the Pokes showed flashes of what Bohl brings to the table. 2014 may be a struggle with a brutal schedule, but I liked what I saw from Wyoming. Give Bohl time, Cowboy fans.

San Diego State 38, Northern Arizona 7 – Not gonna lie, I did not watch this game. Quick look at the box score suggests the Aztecs didn’t exactly blow the lid off of the Lumberjack defense, but a 38-7 win over Northern Arizona is much better than what happened in their last encounter with an FCS program.

USC 52, Fresno State 13 – What else can be said for Fresno after Week 1? They couldn’t replace Derek Carr effectively at all (both QBs finished with less than 100 passing yards), and the defense gave up an astounding 700 total yards (!!!) to USC, who clearly weren’t feeling the effects of a drama-filled week. Lots of time to turn things around, but the schedule won’t get any easier for this team. At least Lord Derek Carr is making positive news.

Courtesy of espn.com

Courtesy of espn.com

UTEP 31, New Mexico 24 – Like many of you, it’s almost impossible to watch ALL of the Mountain West games each week, and this one fell under the box score watching category. I’m guessing the game only lasted 45 minutes or so, considering the Miners and Lobos combined for 740 rushing yards (!!!). Cole Gautsche is still at New Mexico, and rushed for 184 yards in the losing effort. UTEP, led by former Boise State OL coach Sean Kugler, gave the ball to RB Aaron Jones who in return rushed for 237 yards. Defense was optional in Albuquerque. Great win for UTEP, but bad loss for the Lobos. This program loaded up on JUCO transfers to make a run in year #3 of the Bob Davie era, and so far not so good.

Washington 17, Hawaii 16 – Pete in purple, that will take some getting used to. The perplexed grimace on his face, the same one you make when you can’t figure out why students at Idaho keep falling off balconies, on the other hand, is all too familiar. No getting around it, this game was the Mountain West shocker of the weekend. The Huskies were favored by as much as 21.5, and didn’t come anywhere near covering that spread. The predictable Husky offense was dominated by a Hawaii front led by sophomore Kennedy Tulimasealii (get used to hearing that name). The Huskies were out-gained 424-336 in total yards against a team that went 1-11 last fall, and while Hawaii looks MUCH improved, this was a bad showing for Chris Petersen. Mental mistakes and missed field goals are the only thing standing between Petersen and a shocking loss to Hawaii. Still, feel free to jump on the bandwagon that started in Pago Pago, America Samoa. RB Joey Iosefa is leading UH to what could be a surprise season in the MW.

Sunday

Tennessee 38, Utah State 7 – Nobody in the MW received more positive hype this preseason than the blue Aggies and Chuckie Keeton #ChuckieForHeisman. The Vols are inexperienced, having lost all starters on both lines, and are still very much rebuilding as a program. The Aggies, despite having similar problems with inexperience, were expected to compete due to the phenomenal abilities of one Charles Keeton. What ensued was not expected, even from the biggest Aggie haters. 244 total yards and an abysmal performance overall from the Aggie offense, including Keeton was the culprit to this 7-38 beat down. Add injury to insult, star LB Kyler Fackrell sustained a knee injury that could have him missing time, potentially lots of time. Nothing went right in this game for Utah State. Both lines were not enforcing their will on their opponent like in the past, and the skill positions sucked. Even Chuckie Keeton looked slow. There is still lots of time to turn things around, but the Aggies took a shot to the ego, and possibly a shot to their defensive potential if Fackrell is done. [UPDATE] Fackrell done for the season with ACL tear

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Next up….Week 2.

What to watch…..Friday night serves up a treat with Nevada hosting Washington State on ESPN. No rest for the weary, as Fresno State has to travel to Utah, and Hawaii will take on a second Pac-12 opponent as well in Oregon State. The late Saturday night game on ESPN2 between Boise State and Colorado State is being hailed by some as the game that could decide the Mountain Division. Can’t wait.

Make it out to Albertson’s Stadium! Harsin and this team deserve a raucous crowd. Go Broncos!!!