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…
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.
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?
Apparently Fresno State is not so good this year.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) September 6, 2014
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.
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.
Why yes, yes I did manage to sneak in a tweet about Johnny Manziel into this recap.
— Judson Richards (@Judson1360) September 7, 2014
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.
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.
— Ben Eshleman (@BenEshleman) September 7, 2014
Boise State 37, Colorado State 24 – So 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!?
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!