Air Force is entering the heart of its Mountain West schedule and looks to be getting back a key piece of its offense for it.
Tight end Garrett Griffin went through a full non-contact practice on Monday while wearing a brace on the left knee that was rolled up on during pregame warmups just minutes before the season opener on Sept. 5. The injury caused a second-degree sprain of the MCL, which typically requires 7-8 weeks of rehab. If Griffin plays this week, he would have done it in six weeks.
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“The job our training staff has done and the job Garrett has done has been spot on with the rehab,” coach Troy Calhoun said.
Griffin, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior, caught 16 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns last year. What he would bring to this offense could be invaluable, as a passing game that has struggled to get going under Karson Roberts could benefit from having a large, experienced player running short routes.
“He’s great with the ball, great ball skills,” Roberts said. “It will be a great asset. He’s played a lot of football for us, he’s a great asset to have.”
The coaches at Air Force (3-2, 2-0 Mountain West) haven’t given an exact date for Griffin’s return. If he were to play this week at Colorado State, it would likely be in a tightly limited role.
Offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen said the offense wouldn’t be overhauled just because Griffin might be back in the mix.
“I still think we are who we are,” Thiessen said. “We haven’t changed anything with him gone, so we’re not going to add something new with him back.
“But he’s not back yet.”
Next game: at Colorado State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Junior safety Brodie Hicks, a Colorado Springs-area native whose father teaches at the academy, earned MW defensive player of the week honors after intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble in a 31-17 victory over Wyoming. Cornerback Roland Ladipo said Hicks is now known to his teammates as “Brodie Picks.” … Four players made their first career starts last week, a list that included cornerback Jesse Washington, linebacker Claude Alexander III, nose guard Lochlin Deeks and punter Steve Brosy … Air Force has won eight of nine in the series against Colorado State. … With 59 yards last week, wide receiver Garrett Brown became the 11th player in Air Force history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards. ... Cornerback Kalon Baker injured his hamstring in practice last week and missed the Wyoming game. He won’t play this week, either.
-- Brent Briggeman, The Gazette
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin knew when he looked at the Broncos’ schedule that mid-October was going to be a challenge for his team.
The Broncos are playing their first nine games of the season without a bye. They played Saturday at Colorado State and will play Friday at Utah State -- a pair of road games in a six-day span against possibly the two most physical Mountain West teams on the schedule, Harsin said.
“Bye weeks usually happen right about now and we don’t have it until (after) week nine,” said Harsin, whose team will have a home game against Wyoming and a trip to UNLV before getting a break. “... We’re going to have to find ways to be creative to keep our guys healthy and have them ready to play. But we also knew what we were getting into before we started. How we handle it, I don’t know yet.”
The Broncos took their day off Sunday and will practice Monday-Wednesday, moving the schedule up one day. They bus to Logan, Utah, on Thursday and home after the game.\
They sacrificed some of their time to enjoy the victory and analyze the video to turn quickly to Utah State preparation.\
The program usually has a “24-hour rule” for digesting the previous game.
“That’s over now,” junior nickel Chanceller James said about 16 hours after the game. “It’s not 24 hours this week.”
Coaches got an early start on the game plan Sunday morning. Offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz made no concessions to the short week.
“There’s still plenty of time,” Drinkwitz said. “The biggest thing is don’t cut corners. Don’t try to say you’re squeezed for time and not do your due diligence. ... This is definitely one of the top defenses we’ve played this year so we’re going to have to be prepared.”
Next game: at Utah State, 7 p.m. Friday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: RB Jeremy McNichols, who leads the nation with 14 touchdowns, is questionable this week. He took a helmet-to-helmet hit at the goal line last week at Colorado State. ... WR Thomas Sperbeck has caught five touchdown passes in the past four games. ... Senior WR Shane Williams-Rhodes threw a 53-yard TD pass to Sperbeck last week. It was the first pass of Williams-Rhodes’ football career. ... S Darian Thompson tied Eric Weddle’s Mountain West record with his 18th career interception last week. He has four in six games this season.
-- Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
Nick Stevens is still the starting quarterback for the Colorado State football team.
But backup Coleman Key will continue to see playing time for the Rams, too, coach Mike Bobo said Monday at his weekly news conference.
The Rams (2-4, 0-2 Mountain West) used both quarterbacks Saturday in a 41-10 loss to Boise State, and neither was particularly effective. Afterward, Bobo said he’d have to review video Sunday and meet with his coaching staff before determining who would begin this week as the starter.
Colorado State finished with 151 passing yards and a season-low 256 yards of total offense.
“You’d like for everything to be going smoothly at all positions, but it’s not,” Bobo said. “And sometimes when the quarterback position is a little bit unsettling, that’s what we all want to talk about. But there’s a lot more issues than just the quarterback.”
Stevens, a sophomore who has started every game this season for the Rams, was pulled Saturday after just two offensive series and replaced by Key. The redshirt freshman led a 16-play, 75-yard scoring drive on his second series, throwing his only pass at the end for a 13-yard touchdown to Joe Hansley.
Key completed just 5 of 19 passes for 56 yards and was intercepted twice in his most extensive action of the season. Bobo said he stayed with Key “because of the momentum, not necessarily what he was doing.”
Stevens returned in the fourth quarter and completed eight of his last nine passes for 60 yards, with no interceptions and no touchdowns. He was 8 of 10 for the game and was sacked three times.
“The whole position’s got to play a little bit better,” Bobo said, noting that the Rams have gone up against some pretty good defensive teams in Utah State, Boise State and Minnesota.
Stevens has completed 98 of 171 passes for 1,190 yards and 10 touchdowns so far this season, with five interceptions. His pass-efficiency rating is 129.20.
Key is 21 of 42 for 251 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions. His rating is 109.49.
Neither quarterback has shown he’s good enough to warrant shelving the other for the remainder of the season. So both will continue to play, Bobo said.
“We’ve played some talented defensive football teams, and a first-year starter, with a new system, there’s growing pains,” Bobo said. “There’s more growing pains than I would like and I’m sure our fan base would like, but that’s part of it.
“We’ll get it right, and we’ll have consistent quarterback play; I guarantee you that.”
Next game: vs. Air Force, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: CSU remains one of the most turnover-prone teams in the nation with a minus-9 turnover margin that ranks next-to-last among FBS schools. Central Florida is at minus-11. … The Rams are among the most-penalized teams in the country, too, with 53 for 458 yards through six games. Their average of 8.8 penalties a game ranks No. 119 among the nation’s 128 FBS schools. … Two defensive starters -- S Trent Matthews (hamstring) and LB Kiel Robinson (shoulder) -- left the Boise State game early with injuries. Bobo said Monday he expects Matthews to practice and play this week. The status of Robinson, who had his left arm in a sling when he left the field after the game, will be determined later in the week. … WR Rashard Higgins had just three catches for 42 yards and no touchdowns against Boise State, his lowest output since the 2014 season opener, when he caught one pass for a 16-yard touchdown against Colorado. Higgins had 10 100-yard receiving games last year, when he led the nation in receiving yards (1,750) and touchdown catches (17), and he’s had three in the five games he’s played this season. … CSU fell to 0-5 all-time against Boise State.
-- Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
Did Nevada suddenly turn into Boise State, or did New Mexico just make the Wolf Pack look that good?
Far more important this week: Will the Lobos make Hawaii look like Nevada?
New Mexico (3-3, 1-1), still smarting from a 35-17 loss last week in Reno, faces Hawaii on Saturday in Albuquerque. A loss to the Rainbow Warriors (2-4, 0-2) would severely damage the Lobos’ hopes for a minimum of six victories and bowl eligibility.
Nevada seemingly manhandled the Lobos on both sides of the ball, outgaining UNM 517 yards to 273. The Wolf Pack climbed into the Lobos’ wheelhouse, rushing for 351 yards while holding UNM to 135 -- not even a good half’s worth for a New Mexico offense that lives by the run.
Upon further review, UNM coach Bob Davie said, the Lobos’ problems were more of their own making than Nevada’s.
“When you come back in (Sunday) morning and really dig into the tape,” Davie said Monday in an interview on KNML-AM, “with no disrespect to Nevada, it was more what we didn’t do than really what they did.”
On defense, Davie said, the Lobos panicked a bit and began getting out of their gaps -- helping Nevada running backs Don Jackson and James Butler combine for 297 yards rushing on 43 carries.
“(It’s a matter of) not really having the confidence that we can be good on defense,” he said.
The Nevada defense, Davie said, played UNM’s base triple option essentially the same way Wyoming and New Mexico State did in New Mexico victories -- but just were a lot better at it.
“There is a pattern of how people are playing us defensively now,” he said, “a little bit more from the outside in trying to take away (quarterback Lamar Jordan), definitely taking away the pitch, making us give the ball up in there (between the tackles) and then really forcing us to throw the ball a little bit more.”
Backup quarterback Austin Apodaca entered the game in the fourth quarter and drove UNM 64 yards to the Nevada 11 before wide receiver Dameon Gamblin fumbled into the end zone from inside the 1-yard line.
After Sunday evening’s practice, Davie said the Lobos likely will incorporate more run-pass option into the offense -- but said he believes Jordan is as capable as Apodaca of doing so.
Next game: vs. Hawaii, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (Root Sports)
Notable: The Lobos actually had more passing yards than rushing yards at Nevada -- a rare occurrence and not a good thing in this instance, since the passing yardage amounted to just 138. ... Davie made the case in his radio interview that the Nevada game was more competitive than the final score suggested, noting that had Gamblin not fumbled, a UNM touchdown and a two-point conversion would have cut the Nevada lead to 28-25 with 8 minutes left in the game. He didn’t mention that, had the Wolf Pack not gift-wrapped 10 of UNM’s points via turnovers, the outcome could have been far worse from a New Mexico standpoint. ... Cornerbacks Isaiah Brown (hip) and Bijon Parker (collar bone) sat out the Nevada game. Starting strong safety Ryan Santos came out of the game with an undisclosed injury. Santos had injuries to both shoulders during fall camp.
-- Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
Utah State students lined up before dawn Monday morning to secure their tickets for Friday night’s Mountain West Conference showdown with No. 21 Boise State.
Aggie coach Matt Wells and new athletic director John Hartwell joined them.
Wells and Hartwell greeted the ticket-seeking students at 6:45 a.m. They brought doughnuts with them and visited with the group for about 30 minutes.
“It was good,” Wells said. “… The job they do is very much appreciated by myself and our players. They are a big part of having a home-field advantage. Hopefully, they will be exactly what they always are — loud.”
While the Utah State-Boise winner is not assured of a division championship and its accompanying berth in the Mountain West title game, Wells admitted the Aggies or Broncos will be “in the driver’s seat.”
A sell-out crowd will almost assuredly attend.
Construction at Maverik Stadium this season has reduced seating capacity to 22,059. The school said only 500 non-student tickets remained Monday morning.
The Aggies have already played two home games this season. They drew 21,209 for the opener against Southern Utah. Their game against Colorado State two weeks ago was sold out.
The Utah State-Boise game will be the 20th in history between the two schools. The Broncos have won 15 of the first 19 meetings, including a 50-19 blowout last season in Boise.
According to Aggie defensive end Ricky Ali’ifua, however, Utah State won’t be looking for revenge after the 31-point defeat.
“I don’t know if revenge is the right word,” he said. “For me personally, I’ve noticed how that can sometimes cloud your responsibilities — as far as what you’re supposed to do — and override everything and sometimes drain you mentally because you want to do something so bad. I remember (the loss) very vividly. It’s very fresh in my mind. But I don’t think we’re going in with the mindset of revenge because of what they did to us.”
Ali’ifua and his teammates know the significance of the rematch.
“If we want to reach our goal of a Mountain West championship, we know the road goes through Boise,” he said. “Every team in the nation knows Boise State is a good team.”
Next game: vs. Boise State, 7 p.m. MT Friday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Utah State and Boise have been members of the same conference three different times over the last two decades — the Big West (1996-2000), the Western Athletic (2005-10) and now the Mountain West. … Utah State has won 11 straight home games, which is the fourth-longest streak in school history. The Aggies’ last home loss? Boise State scored a 34-23 win in Logan on Oct. 12, 2013. … Utah State’s defense has forced 10 turnovers in the last three games.
-- Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune
Coach Craig Bohl didn’t have a lot of answers Monday about the health of his team following its 31-17 loss at Air Force last Saturday.
Three defensive starters left that game with concussion-like symptoms: junior middle linebacker Lucas Wacha, senior defensive end Siaosi Hala’api’api and sophomore cornerback Robert Priester.
“They all may be available or none of them may be available,” Bohl said during his weekly news conference.
“The initial response from our sports medicine department staff was that Robert and Siaosi were coming along very well. Lucas may be a little further behind.”
All three were listed as starters on this week’s depth chart.
Senior running back Shaun Wick has missed the last two games, and sophomore right tackle Taylor Knestis has missed the last four due to concussions. Bohl said both continue to have concussion-like symptoms.
Wyoming has had around 15 players this season deal with concussions.
“We’re in the process of trying to evaluate why our numbers are as high as they are,” Bohl said. “We’re acutely aware of head injuries and concussions. Our protocol here is very stringent. Our sports medicine group does an excellent job.
“I can tell you our position coaches are aware, and have forwarded concerns to the sports medicine staff. Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our players. Our (concussion) numbers are much higher than they’ve been, but we don’t quite have an answer right now.”
Next game: vs. Nevada, 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: Bohl said senior cornerback Tyran Finley is suspended and didn’t give a time frame for how long. Finley didn’t play at Air Force and wasn’t listed on the two-deep roster. Finley played in Wyoming’s first five games, and started against Washington State and New Mexico. He has 10 tackles and one tackle for loss. ... True freshman Davion Freeman is listed as the backup at the field cornerback position this week behind true freshman Antonio Hull. If Freeman plays, he will be the 27th true or redshirt freshman to play for UW this season. That would tie Clemson for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Wyoming has played 16 true freshmen this season, which was the fourth-most in the FBS prior to games last week. Georgia had played the most at 19. ... The Cowboys have started a season 0-6 for the first time since 1939, which also was the last time it went winless for a season. ... Wyoming committed a season-high four turnovers against Air Force, which led to 21 points. It also forced two turnovers in the game for the first time this season. ... True freshman walk-on kicker Tristan Bailey made his first-career field goal at Air Force -- a 41-yarder. Bailey was 0 of 4 prior to that.
-- Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports
The choices were extremely limited, down to just two healthy scholarship quarterbacks. But the Bulldogs picked one and are set to go the remainder of the season with Kilton Anderson as the starter, choosing the redshirt freshman rather than going back to third-year sophomore Zack Greenlee.
Anderson made his first career start in a 56-14 loss to Utah State, completing 10 of 20 passes for 112 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. His passing efficiency rating was just 83.54 and he averaged 5.6 yards per pass attempt, but coach Tim DeRuyter and offensive coordinator Dave Schramm felt there was enough there to build on going forward.
“I liked his demeanor on the field,” DeRuyter said. “While he made some mistakes, he was quickly aware of what the mistakes were. You’d grab him on the sidelines and he could communicate what he saw and why he made the decisions that he made. Those are things that need to happen with a quarterback, and I thought he did a nice job with those things. We just have to get him to where he has plenty of reps where he’s not making the initial mistake.
“There are a lot of plays that he’d like to have back, but he is very cognizant of the mistakes that he made and how to correct them. I think he has a good awareness. When a guy is out there for the first time, there’s going to be mistakes made, just like at any position. But I like his work ethic, I like his understanding. I think he’s going to grow and we’re going to grow with him.”
With Greenlee, that was in doubt. The third-year sophomore had started the Bulldogs’ first two games including their only victory to this point, over FCS Abilene Christian. But he took every snap and struggled in a loss at San Diego State when generating only 89 yards of total offense, and he had been very shaky when in a starting role or against FBS competition.
In his four career starts, he has completed only 46.8 percent of his passes (36 of 77) for 301 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. His passing efficiency rating in those games is 94.14 and he has averaged only 3.9 yards per passing attempt.
Anderson was told on Saturday morning that he would make his first career start against Utah State, and after the game admitted that he did not see any of it coming after he was the first to be pulled out of what was a four-way fall camp competition to be the starting quarterback.
“No, I did not,” he said, “but you have to be ready for anything that’s thrown at you. I was always getting mental reps. I was always on the sideline paying attention and came out ready to go.”
Next game: vs. UNLV, 8:30 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN2)
Notable: The 1-5 Bulldogs have a scoring differential of minus-22.3 per game. Only North Texas (minus-34.4) and Kansas (minus-26.4) are below them. … Fresno State had only 30,540 at its homecoming game against Utah State, its lowest homecoming crowd since 2011, and it is expecting fewer than that on Friday against UNLV going up against high school football in the area. … The Aggies had seven rushing touchdowns, the most allowed in a game by the Bulldogs since Nevada had seven on Nov. 14, 2009, in a 52-14 victory. The Wolf Pack in that game churned out 461 rushing yards on just 50 plays, averaging 9.2 yards per play. … In the 20 games since Derek Carr played his last game in a Fresno State uniform, the Bulldogs have completed 394 of 712 passes (55.3 percent) for 4,091 yards with 38 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. In the first 20 games after David Carr played his last game for the Bulldogs, they completed 370 of 678 passes (54.6 percent) for 4,410 yards with 27 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Those numbers are fairly similar. These are not: the Bulldogs are 7-13 after Derek, and were 12-8 after David. … The Bulldogs have gained 67, 22, 71 and 126 total yards in the last four halves of football. ... Also, 20 of the past 29 Fresno State possessions have lasted three plays or fewer. … Anderson’s passing efficiency rating for the game was 83.54, the second-lowest by a Fresno State starter this season. Greenlee had a rating of 109.39 in the victory over FCS Abilene Christian, 102.30 in the loss at Ole Miss and 87.07 in the loss at San Diego State. Freshman Chason Virgil had a rating of 76.59 in the loss to Utah and junior Ford Childress had a rating of 115.50 in the loss at San Jose State. …
-- Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
These days, you can’t tell the Hawaii players without a medical chart.
In the 28-14 loss to San Diego State, the Rainbow Warriors started the sixth different lineup on offense in as many games. Three receivers are wearing knee braces. Quarterback Max Wittek, who entered with a sore left knee, exited for two series after suffering an injury to his right knee. Wittek said he expects to make his seventh consecutive start in Saturday’s game against New Mexico.
A bigger concern is an offense that has not scored in all three road games (against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Boise State) and was shut out in the opening quarter against the Aztecs. The Warriors’ next two games are on the road as part of a stretch of four road games in five weeks.
“We’re going to get it together,” Wittek said. “We’ll get after it. We’ll be all right. It’s a long season. We have a tendency to fight our butts off.”
The Warriors are focused on more energetic starts — opponents have scored first in five consecutive games — and creating turnovers. They have one takeaway in the past three games.
“The only one that matters is the next one,” head coach Norm Chow said. “We still have a shot to play as well as we can and finish this strong.”
Next game: at New Mexico, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (Root Sports)
Notable: In last week’s practices, inside linebacker Julian Gener wore the red jersey for ailing players on a limited-contact status. Against San Diego State’s run-oriented schemes, Gener played the newly created rover position in the Warriors’ 3-5-3- defense. Gener produced 19 tackles, including 17 solo stops and a backfield tackle. … Backup quarterback Ikaika Woolsey was summoned after Wittek went to the sideline for treatment. Woolsey completed all five of his passes before Wittek re-entered. Although Woolsey started 12 of 13 games last season, there is no quarterback controversy. Wittek will start on Saturday. … Pereese Joas was used as the kickoff returner against the Aztecs. Joas had hoped to join the Warriors as a walk-on in 2013 after moving from Dallas. But he did not have enough transferable credits at the time to qualify for a roster spot. He continued to train on his own and, when his financial aid ran out, was homeless for about a month. He made the team last year. This summer, he was awarded a football scholarship.
-- Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
The Wolf Pack offensive line has been hit so hard by injuries that Nevada had to dip into the scout team to find two starting guards in its game last week against New Mexico. Those guards responded.
Ziad Damanhoury, a sophomore, and Daren Echeveria, a freshman, made their first starts and helped Nevada to 351 rushing yards and 6.5 yards per rush in the win over New Mexico. Damanhoury, Echeveria and the rest of the offensive line was named the team’s offensive player of the week.
“These two guys started the season on the scout field,” coach Brian Polian said. “That’s a hell of a promotion. That’s a battlefield promotion and they held their own.”
Damanhoury and Echeveria are expected to start again this week against Wyoming as starters Jeremy Macauley (knee) and Adam Khouri (concussion) and their top backup, Joey Anglemire (knee), remain out. Macauley and Anglemire are close to a return, but until then, it’s up to the two inexperienced guards to help lead the way for Nevada’s rushing attack, which averages 222 yards per game.
After the 35-17 win over New Mexico, Polian singled out Damanhoury and Echeveria for their play.
“I’m just so proud of those guys,” he said. “The way they handled all of the movement and pressure (from New Mexico) and to get thrown into that and do their job, that’s really, really good. I would be lying to you if I wasn’t worried about them at first.”
Polian said Macauley and Khouri will regain their starting jobs when healthy, but if Damanhoury and Echeveria continue to play well they will get time in Nevada’s offensive line rotation.
Next game: at Wyoming, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: Wolf Pack RBs James Butler and Don Jackson are the only teammates in the FBS who are both averaging at least 94 rushing yards per game. ... WR Jerico Richardson, who has been playing on a sprained ankle, leads the MW with 37 catches. … The last time Nevada played at Wyoming, in 2000, the Wolf Pack were late for the game because of a crash on I-80 between Cheyenne, where the team stayed, and Laramie, the site of the game. Kickoff was delayed for an hour. … PK Brent Zuzo is the only kicker in the MW and is one of nine kickers nationally with a perfect field-goal percentage and at least seven attempts.
SAN DIEGO STATE
San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey went from doubtful to play against Hawaii to the Mountain West’s Offensive Player of the Week.
The junior was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain after SDSU’s home victory over Fresno State. Yet by Monday of the Hawaii week Pumphrey was lightly working out and by Thursday he was deemed healthy enough to travel to the islands.
Then he was the dominating force in a 28-14 win over the Rainbow Warriors.
Pumphrey had 30 carries and rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns, giving the Aztecs their second straight win after three straight defeats to raise their record to 2-0 in conference.
Pumphrey had two receptions for 49 yards to go along with his rushing, giving him 197 of the Aztecs’ 402 yards in total offense. Backup running back Chase Price, who stepped in when Pumphrey was injured last week, carried 16 times for 60 yards.
“I guess we didn’t know the severity of the injury, or he’s the fastest healer of all time,” Long said. “We asked the doctors and the trainers if there was any chance of him reinjuring it or if they were OK with him playing. He wanted to play and they said it was OK, so he had a great night.”
Quarterback Maxwell Smith was 11-for-15 passing for 184 yards and a touchdown. He completed more than half his passes for just the second game this season, the other occasion coming in a 10-for-19 effort against Cal.
“I thought he played well,” Long said. “I thought there were some open receivers out there that maybe he took a sack and scrambled when maybe he could have gotten the ball to them. But he was a lot more efficient than he’s been to this point.
“If we can continue to run the ball pretty well, we’ll get the big plays when he throws it deep.”
A week after holding Fresno State to 89 yards in total offense, the Aztecs held Hawaii to 251 yards, including 53 on the ground. Junior linebacker Calvin Munson had a team-high 12 tackles and 1 1/2 of the team’s four sacks.
Next game: at San Jose State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU)
Notable: The Aztecs lost two defensive players to injury following Hawaii. Backup defensive lineman Dakota Turner suffered a torn knee ligament and is out for the season, and linebacker Randy Ricks has a broken toe that will keep him out 4-6 weeks. Both players rotated regularly with the starters, so their losses will be felt … Sixth-year linebacker Jake Fely leads the team with 42 tackles. Munson has 40 tackles and tops the Aztecs in tackles for loss (7) and sacks (4). … SDSU continues to rely heavily on its running backs in the passing game. Pumphrey leads the team in receptions with 16, and four of the top seven receivers are from the backfield. The only two receivers in double digits for catches are Mikah Holder (12) and Eric Judge (11).
-- Tod Leonard and Kirk Kenney, San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN JOSE STATE
It’s too early to make any definitive statements about the West Division title race, but halfway through the season, this week’s matchup between the Spartans and San Diego State feels like it will have end-of-the-season implications.
The Aztecs (3-3, 2-0 Mountain West) sit in first place, but San Jose State (3-3, 2-1) could wrest that away with a win on homecoming night.
“We tell our guys, ‘Every game is important,’ “ coach Ron Caragher said at his Monday news conference. “But then as you get into it, as you continue winning, the bar gets raised and the importance of that game really rises along with your success.”
Beyond simply the standings, the Spartans and Aztecs have looked like the two biggest contenders in the West Division. For San Jose State, though, a loss this week would make any path toward a division title extremely difficult.
The Spartans’ November schedule is brutal: they host BYU on Nov. 6, travel to Nevada, where they haven’t won since 2000, on Nov. 14, take the always treacherous trip to Hawaii on Nov. 21 and then host Boise State on Nov. 27.
The fortunate thing is SJSU won’t travel again for a month when it buses up to Reno, but the next two games in particular look like must wins. After the San Diego State game, New Mexico comes to Spartan Stadium.
The Spartans have some momentum after winning two straight Mountain West games -- both West Division matchups, too. That includes Saturday’s overtime win at UNLV to snap a seven-game road losing streak.
“I’m looking forward to building upon that,” Caragher said of the UNLV win. “I think when you fight through a tough game like that that goes into overtime, it builds character in a team. It shows resiliency and I think those are great things that add value over the course of a season.
Next game: vs. San Diego State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU)
Notable: Austin Lopez was named the Mountain West special teams player of the week after making two field goals, three PATs and booting five touchbacks in the win over UNLV. He missed the previous week against Auburn with a knee injury, but bounced back and his kickoffs were especially vital for a team that ranks 125th (out of 127 teams) in kickoff coverage. .... Tyler Ervin was named to the Paul Hornung Award weekly honor roll after racking up 249 all-purpose yards against UNLV. He had 73 rushing yards, a career-high eight catches for 74 yards, four kickoffs for 100 yards and a punt return for two yards. He leads the FBS in all-purpose yards at 231.2 yards per game.
-- Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
From one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, that’s where UNLV finds itself.
The Rebels spent last week preparing for San Jose State, and they were coming off a big victory at Nevada. Now they’re having to get ready for Fresno State, and they are coming off a stinging defeat to the Spartans.
UNLV lost 33-27 in overtime to the Spartans on Saturday in a game the Rebels had every chance to win. They rallied from 20-10 down in the fourth quarter on two touchdown passes from Kurt Palandech, the last one a 22-yarder to Devonte Boyd with 3:41 left that put the Rebels in front 24-20.
San Jose State then drove to UNLV’s 21-yard line, and the Rebels were aggressive in forcing three incomplete passes in a row. They went aggressive again on fourth down, but Spartans quarterback Kenny Potter completed a throwback screen pass to running back Tyler Ervin, who easily scored with 1:08 left for a 27-24 lead.
But UNLV got into field-goal range, and Nicolai Bornand sent the game into overtime with a 49-yarder with 11 seconds remaining. His 43-yard field goal in overtime, however, was blocked, and Ervin soon after rushed in from 2 yards for the game-winner.
“You should see that locker room,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “It’s absolutely devastated in there. That’s a tough thing, but at the same time, it’s a positive thing because these are games we expect to win now. We go out and play with that kind of attitude, and it hurts because we know the game was very winnable for us.”
The Rebels (2-4, 1-1 MW) still have their goals in front of them of competing for the Mountain West title and going to a bowl because the West Division is so down. Even so, the loss to the Spartans was a considerable setback.
“That’s going to be a tougher road, but it’s still doable,” Sanchez said.
Next game: at Fresno State, 8:30 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN2)
Notable: No decision has been made on whether quarterback Blake Decker will play. He did not play against San Jose State because of a dislocated non-throwing (left) shoulder, but Decker returned to practice on Sunday. If he doesn’t start, Palandech will get the call for the second game in a row. … UNLV is 7-2-1 on Fridays. This is its only game not scheduled on a Saturday this season. … Nine players have intercepted passes, tied with California for the national lead. The Rebels have 10 interceptions overall, tied with six other teams for fifth nationally. … Fresno State sophomore linebacker Robert Stanley played for Sanchez when he coached Bishop Gorman High School.
— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal