Ketchup never has been so popular in Colorado Springs.
The condiment, or more specifically how it pours from a bottle, is the analogy Air Force keeps going back to when talking about its 28-14 upset victory over Boise State on Saturday.
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The Falcons had stressed the need for turnovers constantly throughout fall camp, an understandable reaction to a 2-10 season that saw just nine turnovers forced by a porous Falcons defense.
But the new, aggressive nature of the defense hadn’t produced anything of substance, forcing just one turnover in the first three games.
“We as a coaching staff said don’t lose the faith, guys, and that turnovers are like a ketchup bottle,” defensive coordinator Steve Russ said. “When you’re beating on that bottle it doesn’t always want to come out, even though you’re beating on it and beating on it. And maybe it comes out a little bit. And then, splat! It comes out.”
It flowed out to the tune of seven forced turnovers – including five interceptions, one more than last season – against the Broncos.
Gavin McHenry started all 12 games at cornerback last season for Air Force and had no interceptions. He got his hands on an early pass on Saturday that was initially ruled an interception before a video replay overturned the call. Later, he had another chance and got that first pick.
McHenry and the secondary are enjoying the new philosophy under Russ that ditches much of the keep-everything-in-front-of-you mentality and allows the corners to play tight, man-to-man coverage on many plays.
“It feels great,” McHenry said. “It allows us to play more and instincts just kind of take over. It feels great. I love the team right now. I love the effort everybody is bringing. I love the energy. I love everything about us right now. We’ve just got to keep it rolling."
The players needed to see that the new emphasis would work. There’s no doubt, now.
“I knew we’ve been doing the right thing this whole time, but seeing the results really feels good,” McHenry said. “Coach Russ is always talking about the ketchup bottle, how you keep pounding that bottle and once you get that first little bit out it will start flowing. That’s what happened. We got that first turnover and from there we couldn’t stop.”
Air Force may be catching fire at the right time, downing the Broncos (the first Mountain Division foe to do that since Boise State joined the Mountain West) and now welcoming archrival Navy this week.
Two victories in that span would taste incredible to this famished fan base, with or without some ketchup.
Next game: vs. Navy, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Notable: Right tackle Allen Caunitz suffered a high ankle sprain that will sideline him for 6-8 weeks. He’s the second right tackle to be lost for that amount of time, following Sevrin Remmo, who was hurt on Sept. 13 at Georgia State. The Falcons will adjust by sliding guard Andrew Reuchel to tackle, which is where he played through spring practice. Colin Sandor will step in to play guard. Linebacker Joey Nichol (groin) and safety Jamal Byrd (concussion) practiced on Monday. No word on their status for Saturday. Safety Weston Steelhammer earned the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week honor in addition to the Mountain West’s award after grabbing three interceptions and making a pair of tackles for loss against Boise State.
— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette
Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin has staked the success of his first season in his dream job on the experience and resolve of senior quarterback Grant Hedrick.
Hedrick will start Saturday at Nevada, a week after he was benched in the third quarter of the loss at Air Force.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Finley, who led two touchdown drives as the Broncos attempted a frantic rally before losing 28-14, might play, too.
But Harsin was adamant Monday that he won’t change quarterbacks based on Hedrick’s second four-interception game of the season.
The Broncos (3-2 overall, 1-1 Mountain West) might need to win the rest of their conference games to reach the Mountain West championship game.
“The natural thing is you want to fire a guy,” Harsin said. “Everyone wants to fire a guy immediately, and we are just not going to do that because we know the realities and we know exactly what happened and we know why it happened. That’s just not who we are. We’re not going to make knee-jerk reactions. Grant is going to play better this week. We’re going to do a better job coaching. The guys around him are going to play better. That’s the bottom line and that needs to happen.”
Teammates say Finley impressed them in his first extended playing time but they believe Hedrick will overcome his early-season inconsistency. Hedrick also tossed four interceptions in the season opener against Ole Miss but just one in the next three games combined before the Air Force implosion.
“I have all the confidence in the world in Grant,” junior center Marcus Henry said Saturday. “I love Grant. I think he’s going to bounce back next week. A little rough night for him — a rough night for us all together. It’s not all on him.”
Hedrick’s nine interceptions this season are tied for the second-most among the 100 quarterbacks ranked in pass efficiency in the Football Bowl Subdivision. No Broncos quarterback has thrown more than 11 interceptions in a season since 2005.
Last year, Hedrick tossed five interceptions in 242 passes (2.1 percent). This year, he has thrown nine in 170 passes (5.3 percent).
“That is nowhere near our standard, to turn the ball over four times,” offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said, “and it can’t happen ever again.”
Next game: at Nevada, 8:34 p.m. MT Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Notable: QB recruit Brett Rypien, nephew of Super Bowl champion Mark Rypien, has signed a financial aid agreement with Boise State and plans to enroll in January. Harsin declined to provide injury updates this week. Among the key players who were out or limited last week or were unable to finish the game: CB Cleshawn Page, CB Donte Deayon, CB Bryan Douglas, S Jeremy Ioane, S Darian Thompson, LT Rees Odhiambo, LT Archie Lewis, WR Matt Miller and WR Troy Ware. Harsin on visiting Nevada: “I’m sure the fans in Nevada are going to welcome us with open arms like they always do.”
— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson has a sore and bruised right shoulder, but there’s nothing structurally wrong and he should play this week against Tulsa, coach Jim McElwain said.
Grayson took a couple of big hits during the Rams’ 24-21 win Saturday at Boston College and was obviously feeling some pain in his throwing shoulder. He barely moved it while talking to reporters during a postgame news conference.
The senior shook off a poor start that included two early interceptions to throw for 268 yards and two touchdowns, the last a 12-yarder to Charles Lovett on a fourth-and-11 play with 1:02 remaining that gave Colorado State its first lead of the game.
Grayson was examined in the locker room immediately after the game by Dr. Sean Grey, a shoulder specialist with the Orthopaedic Center of the Rockies and one of the team doctors. The only issue he found, McElwain said Monday at his weekly news conference, was to the “soft tissue.”
“That means a big, dark bruise, I guess, on an area where obviously your shoulder is,” the coach said. “But nothing structurally is wrong.”
Still, McElwain said he’ll probably give the quarterback a break in practice over the next few days, having him do more “mental reps” than physical drills. Grayson participated in the team warm-up at the start of Monday’s practice but stood alongside the other four quarterbacks during passing drills that followed. The remainder of the practice was closed, but Grayson was not expected to make any throws.
“There’s times that a quarterback gets beat up, and he’s got to do a great job mentally (until) he can then start to function at a high-speed level, which may not be until Tuesday or Wednesday,” McElwain said. “And yet we expect him to be ready to roll.”
Grayson missed half of his sophomore season with a broken left collarbone, an injury he suffered on a hard tackle after he had scrambled for a first down in a loss at Air Force.Grayson set CSU’s single-season passing record with 3,696 yards and 23 touchdowns last year and is closing in on the career records for yards and touchdowns. He’s thrown for 6,445 yards and 42 touchdowns and needs 698 more yards and 10 more TDs to become the all-time leader in each category.
Grayson wasn’t available for interviews Monday, but tackle Sam Carlson said the quarterback “is going to be fine.”
“... He’s a player,” Carlson said. “He’s the guy you want leading this team, because at the end, when he’s in so much pain, as he was, for him to stand in there and make a play like that, it’s what you ask for, it’s what you want.”
Next game: vs. Tulsa, 1 p.m. MT Saturday, MW Digital Network
Notable: Sophomore center Kevin O’Brien performed so well in his first start that coaches scrapped plans to try two or three other combinations on the offensive line at Boston College. The Rams ran for 162 yards against BC, which had held then-No. 9 Southern California to 20 rushing yards two weeks earlier. CSU has won three games in a row over teams from Power Five conferences and four of its past six. Kick returner Deionte Gaines and cornerback Tyree Simmons didn’t make the trip to Boston as punishment for what McElwain said was a minor infraction of team rules. Both should play again this week, he said. CSU will wear its orange jerseys and helmets with orange bone-style Rams horns instead of the usual gold ones for Saturday’s game against Tulsa as part of its annual Ag Day celebration. The original school colors, when Colorado A&M teams played as the Aggies, were pumpkin (orange) and alfalfa (green).
— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
Bob Davie was a frustrated man Friday night.
Davie, New Mexico's head coach but also a longtime defensive coordinator, had just watched his defense give up touchdown drives of 75, 87, 92, 81 and 80 yards to Fresno State during a 35-24 Bulldogs victory — this, after Fresno State last season had torched the Lobos for a Mountain West Conference-record 822 yards of total offense.
Friday, UNM's inability to cope with Fresno State's up-tempo, no-huddle offense at times resulted in pure chaos. Davie was forced to call timeouts to avoid illegal-substitution penalties or simply because of mass confusion.
"We're just not good enough yet," he said after the game. "That's my responsibility. Right now, just being brutally honest, the game is too fast for us on defense."
By Monday, however, Davie was back to being his usual, stay-the-course self — even as folks on the talk shows and the message boards were ripping his game strategy and even calling for his ouster.
"You have to keep the big picture in mind," he said. "... If I weren't as experienced as I was, I'd probably be climbing the walls right now. I guess that's what age does and what experience does, but that's what being a leader of a program does.
"When everybody else kind of sees bits and pieces of things and kind of knee-jerk reacts ... I think that's where the leader of the program has to be the leader of the program.“I knew exactly what this was gonna be and it's been exactly what I thought it would be. We've made a lot of progress, but we've got a lot more to make until we can go win this conference championship."
Next game: at UTSA, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday, American Sports Network
Notable: Davie was optimistic but vague about the availability of junior quarterback Cole Gautsche for Saturday's game at UTSA. Gautsche injured a hamstring late in the season opener against UTEP, missed the Arizona State game on Sept. 6 and, following a bye week, played the first half of the New Mexico State game on Sept. 20. But he apparently tweaked the hamstring again, sat out the second half of the NMSU game and didn't play against Fresno State. "(The hamstring) is where it was for New Mexico State, maybe a little better," Davie said. "... But again, you don't know until he (plays). So, it's a bit of a gray area." In Gautsche's absence against Fresno State, redshirt freshman quarterback Lamar Jordan had another impressive outing — running for a touchdown and throwing for another. ... With the loss to Fresno State, Davie is 2-15 against Mountain West competition. ... Somewhat surprisingly, the oddsmakers have made UNM (1-3 overall, 0-1 Mountain West) an early 17-point underdog against UTSA (1-3).
— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
Which quarterback will start against BYU on Friday remains uncertain for the Aggies.
Utah State coach Matt Wells didn’t reveal much, other than to say Chuckie Keeton would be evaluated after he practices.
“We’ll get him to practice today and we’ll see what is going on,” Wells said.
Keeton hasn’t played in a game-and-a-half due to an injury to his surgically repaired knee, the same one he injured against BYU last season.
Doctor evaluations revealed Keeton’s knee was structurally sound, but he was unable to play against Arkansas State on Sept. 20.
Darell Garretson quarterbacked the Aggies in that 21-14 overtime loss, going 26-of-46 for 268 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
However, the offense failed to capitalize on several scoring chances. Utah State offensive lineman Kevin Whimpey said regardless of which quarterback starts on Friday the offense knows it has to play better.
“We haven’t been the offense we want to be,” he said. “Do we work hard in practice? Yes. Do we want to make Aggie Nation proud? Yes. But things haven’t fit together the way we wanted them to.”
Whimpey said the answer was simply more reps and experience for the offense.
But unfortunately for the Aggies, Friday’s game against the Cougars isn’t exactly the kind of situation a team would view as ideal for honing a struggling offense.
The 18th-ranked Cougars are undefeated and 6-1 against Utah State under coach Bronco Mendenhall. They also have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Taysom Hill, who is averaging 342.5 yards of total offense a game.
“They’ve got all three phases,” Wells said. “The receivers are playing well, they have a big-time running back and they’ve got a really good quarterback. We’ve got a major challenge on our hands to try and be able to slow them down.”
Next game: at BYU, 8:15 p.m. Friday, ESPN
Notable: BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall possibly meant his comments as a dig at Utah when he called it a huge game “considering only one in-state team will play us this year.” That crack made Wells smile and nod, perhaps because he had similar feelings. The idea that the Cougars thought of his team as a “huge” game for whatever reason was “cool” in his estimation. “It’s a big emotional game, especially for the in-state kids,” Wells said. “It’s on national television, a big stage, we’re excited to get there.” Running back Joe Hill is listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury. The Aggies are 1-6 against BYU teams coached by Mendenhall and haven’t won in Provo since 1978. Linebacker Zach Vigil said the bye week was good to rest up. “My legs were tired,” he said. “When you play 80 to 90 reps a game for four weeks it takes a toll on the body.”
— Lya Wodraska, The Salt Lake Tribune
First-year coach Craig Bohl has said numerous times since he was hired that he wants the Cowboys to be a physical, hard-nosed football team.
Wyoming got a first-hand look of that in its 56-14 loss at No. 10 Michigan State last Saturday.
"It wasn't a fun experience, but I'm convinced we will be better as a football team as a result," Bohl said. "That's a style of play we eventually want to get to. We are licking our wounds up. We need to improve this week, hone in on our fundamentals, get stronger in the weight room and get healed up."
Wyoming (3-2 overall, 1-0 Mountain West) is off this week, and plays at Hawaii (1-3, 0-0) on Oct. 11.
The Michigan State game was similar to the Cowboys’ 48-14 loss at No. 2 Oregon on Sept. 13.
Wyoming allowed 533 yards against Michigan State, and 566 against Oregon. The Cowboys committed three turnovers in both games. They lost 53 yards rushing against Oregon and 52 against Michigan State — due in large part to a combined 11 sacks.
Bohl hopes to use the bye week to work on Hawaii, improve fundamentally and have his staff do some recruiting. The Cowboys practiced for the first time this week on Tuesday, and will take Friday and Sunday off before getting back to game mode next week.
"I think we have a lot of room to improve," senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard said. "In some of the closer games we've won (Wyoming's three wins have been at home by a combined 10 points) we still have not played like we know we can, which is promising. We know we can perform a lot higher."
Wyoming needs to be better in a lot of areas. It is 118th out of 125 FBS teams in scoring (16.4 ppg) and has yet to score more than 20 points in a game this season. It also is 122nd with 22 sacks allowed, and 119th in third-down conversion defense (50.6 percent).
Next game: at Hawaii, Oct. 11
Notable: Junior running back Shaun Wick is 16th in the nation with a 6.89-yards-per-carry average, and 18th in rushing yards (489). ... Bohl said senior strong safety Jesse Sampson (knee) will be out a couple of weeks. He didn't play at Michigan State. ... Sophomore starting left tackle Nathan Leddige suffered his second concussion since fall camp late last week and didn't play at Michigan State. ... The Cowboys continue to be one of the least-penalized teams in the nation with 3.4 penalties and 29.2 yards per game. ... Wyoming has lost 22 consecutive games against ranked teams dating back to 2002.
— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Fresno State played two quarterbacks in its first two games of the season and three of the first four, waiting anxiously for Brian Burrell or Brandon Connette to seize the starting job.
Neither really did — Connette lost reps due in part to a right hand injury, which kept him out of the game against Nebraska and limited his reps and effectiveness against Southern Utah.
But Burrell, who was tabbed the starter going into the Mountain West opener at New Mexico, completed 27 of 39 passes for 318 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 35-24 victory over the Lobos and along the way was able to sustain drives. That is something they had struggled with early in the season, when playing a bit over their head at USC, at Utah and against Nebraska.
A lot of that is due to the quality of opponent it faced, and a lot of that is due to operator error, not only by the quarterback, but the offensive line, the inside and outside receivers groups and the running backs.
But the Bulldogs, who have punted 35 times in five games including 17 times after a three-and-out possession, put together five touchdown drives of at least eight plays that covered at least 75 yards.
They went 75 yards in eight plays, 87 yards in eight plays, 92 yards in 12 plays, 81 yards in 11 plays and 80 yards in nine plays, scoring a touchdown each time.
That required a heightened level of execution from all involved parties, certainly more than they had been able to display in their first four games of the season.
And that would be ... growth.
"I was really pleased with the way Brian led our guys down the field," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "I think he's getting more and more confident, I think the guys around him are getting more confidence in him, and he's able to play with tempo and get us in the right play and get going fast."
In the Bulldogs' first four games, they started 40 drives at or inside their own 25-yard line and made their way into the end zone only seven times.
Five times in one game, that hadn't happened often at Fresno State.
In 2006, the Bulldogs had only nine touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer all season.
"I was really happy," Burrell said after the game. “I liked the balance. Every single person contributed. We ran the ball. We passed the ball. So I was really pleased."I felt more comfortable as the game went on. I think a lot of it is trusting my receivers, trusting myself. There were several times I just threw the ball to the receivers and they made plays."
Next game: vs. San Diego State, 8 p.m. MT Friday, CBS Sports Network.
Notable: The Bulldogs held an open tryout for full-time students trying to find a kicker to add some depth — since Colin McGuire withdrew from school to return home to Texas to take care of some personal issues, they have one kicker (Kody Kroening) and one punter (Garrett Swanson) in the program. They got 23 applicants including one 50-year-old and one young woman. They all got their chance to kick on Saturday, and there were no roster additions on Sunday. It did not go well. "I think the longest field goal that was made was like 18 yards," DeRuyter said. ... Fresno State will be playing its 1,000th college football game Friday, when San Diego State comes to Bulldog Stadium. The Bulldogs are 579-393-27 all-time. ... Fresno State rushed for 272 yards on 45 plays in its victory at New Mexico, this after racking up 389 rushing yards in that blowout victory over Southern Utah, for a total of 661 over the two games. That is the most rushing yards for the Bulldogs in back-to-back games since rushing for 503 yards in a 70-14 victory over Hawaii and then 279 yards in a 54-17 victory over Nevada in 2004. ... The Bulldogs also had six explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards in that win — they had only 11 in their first four games combined — and another that went for 19 yards. Burrell had pass plays of 32 yards to Aaron Peck and Da'Mari Scott, 28 yards to Josh Harper, 25 yards to Peck, a 23-yard touchdown to Harper and a 21-yard pass to Marteze Waller. The 19-yard play went to Harper, on a third-and-5. ... In its three losses this season Fresno State has allowed opponents to convert 25 of 50 third-down plays into first downs and in its two wins they have allowed only 8 of 29 (28 percent).
— Robert Kuwada, The Fresno Bee
After this past weekend's bye, the Warriors will be back on the road, this time traveling to Houston to play Rice. This will be the Warriors' fifth non-conference game in a row. The Warriors used the bye to heal and evaluate key positions.
Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey, who was pulled in the second half of the past two games, will make his fifth start this Saturday. His primary backup, Jeremy HIggins, suffered a season-ending hand injury, which created movement on the depth chart. Taylor Graham, who began his career at Ohio State, ascends to No. 2 quarterback. Beau Reilly, who was a receiver on the scout team, is now No. 3. Reilly initially signed with Colorado State before going on a two-year church mission. Former USC quarterback Max Wittek, who must redshirt this season, is the scout quarterback.
Steven Lakalaka has produced consecutive 100-yard-plus rushing games since running back Joey Iosefa suffered an ankle injury. Diocemy Saint Juste is considered Lakalaka's primary backup. The past week, fullback Justin Vele and walk-ons Jason Muraoka and Pereese Joas have been getting reps at running back. Daniel Lewis, who played running back against Colorado two weeks ago, is back at safety.
Next game: at Rice, 5 p.m. MT Saturday, American Sports Network.
Notable: Joas was initially invited to join the Warriors for spring training in April 2013. But he did not have enough credits to participate. Sixteen months later, he met the requirements and joined in the middle of this summer's training camp. Joas is 5-foot-5 and about 160 pounds, but his first-step quickness has intrigued the coaches. Austin Slade-Matautia, another walk-on, will be getting extended playing time at outside linebacker. Slade-Matautia is a walk-on who transferred from Oregon State last year. He switched from tight end to linebacker this past spring. The Warriors technically travel with two punters, although Scott Harding also is the team's punt returner and starting slotback. Backup punter Ruben Guzman has not punted in a game this season.
— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Wolf Pack coach Brian Polian told his weekly lunch crowd that he had two main takeaways from Saturday’s 21-10 victory at San Jose State.
“We didn’t play our ‘A’ game in any phase and we still found a way to win, and good teams do that,” he said. “And the other takeaway was there were a lot of distractions last week (mainly missed practice time and an adjusted travel schedule because of the King Fire smoke in Reno). And our guys, who are very much creatures of habit and very much set in their routine ... they handled it with incredible maturity. And for that I am very, very proud of them.”
Polian said one of his biggest takeaways on the season so far has been a love that the players have for one another.
“Some people get it and some people roll their eyes,” he said. “People who have been around team sports, especially football, probably get it better than others. But there is a love on this team. And I am not afraid to use that word. I use it a lot. There is a love for one another on this team, and I’ve never been around a really good team that didn’t have that.
“That exists this year. It did not, for whatever reason (last year). ... That matters.”
Polian said it’s impossible to get all 105 players to love each other, but it’s happening within each position group, and that’s key.
“It’s been fun to watch,” he said. “I enjoy this team.”
Next game: vs. Boise State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Notable: The smoke from the King Fire forced the Wolf Pack to leave for the SJSU game a day early, on Thursday, and the team practiced at the San Francisco 49ers’ facility at Levi’s Stadium on Friday. Coach Jim Harbaugh, whom Polian worked for at Stanford in 2011, and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Nevada, 2007-10) spoke to the team. Saturday’s game against Boise State is sold out. The player-of-the-week team awards went to running back Don Jackson (12 carries, 106 yards), safety Nigel Haikins (27-yard interception return for a touchdown and third on the team with seven tackles) and special teams player Alex Bertrando.
— Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal
SAN DIEGO STATE
Short week. True freshman starting at quarterback. Playing without their defensive leader.
San Diego State will get an early taste of what it’s truly made of on Friday night at Fresno State.
Senior starting quarterback Quinn Kaehler will not play against the Bulldogs, head coach Rocky Long said on Sunday evening, because of a sprain to the AC joint in his throwing shoulder suffered in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 34-17 victory over UNLV.
Kaehler will be replaced by true freshman Nick Bawden, who has seen only mop-up duty without throwing a pass in the team’s two victories this season. After joining SDSU in the spring following an early graduation from Los Gatos High in Northern California, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Bawden decisively won the backup job with his performance in fall camp.
Bawden, 18, threw for 1,622 yards, with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a high school senior. He was rated a three-star recruit by ESPN.com and Scout.com.
“As compared to Quinn, he moves around the pocket better and gets out of trouble better,” Long said. “He’s got a stronger arm, but he’s not as accurate with the football yet. He’s got some things that are a positive. But obviously the negative is a lack of experience.”
Long said Kaehler couldn’t lift his arm above his head on Sunday, and the team’s physicians will continue to evaluate him for future availability. The second-string quarterback now is Carlsbad High product and true freshman Christian Chapman. Chapman threw for 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior.
Kaehler was off to an inconsistent start this season, throwing two TDs against six interceptions. His efficiency rating is down considerably – 113.99 compared to 136.06 in 2013.
Of playing without Kaehler, who has gone 10-5 (7-2 in the MW) as a starter since getting the job in last season’s third game, Long said, “You get guys hurt. It doesn’t make it easy. It’s going to make it harder for us to win. That’s just the way it is. You’ve got to live with it and do the best you can.”
Bawden will be the fourth Aztecs starter at quarterback in the last three seasons, with every switch being prompted by an injury.
Long said Bawden has been getting about one-third of the reps in practice and faces one less day to get ready for Fresno State (2-3) because of the Friday game. The Bulldogs have an extra prep day because they played on Friday, beating New Mexico 35-24.
“He doesn’t seem like a guy who gets overly concerned, nervous or jumpy,” Long said of Bawden. “I think he’s pretty confident in his ability. Being here in spring ball, he understands the offense fairly well. We’ll tailor the offense to what he does best.”
Next game: at Fresno State, 8 p.m. MT Friday, CBS Sports Network
Notable: Likely gone for 3-4 weeks is arguably the player who is the Aztecs’ quarterback on defense. Senior linebacker Derek Largent had to have his appendix removed at midday Saturday. Long said Largent is the team’s “biggest, strongest, fastest” linebacker, so the loss will be felt deeply at a position already made thin by injuries, including the continued absence of Jake Fely (neck). The linebackers played solidly in Largent’s absence against UNLV, Long said, adding that Josh Gavert, Largent’s replacement, had a particularly strong game. Gavert is second on the team in tackles with 16 unassisted and 26 total. San Diego State has allowed 83 points through four games this season (20.8 ppg, 38th nationally). That is the second-fewest points allowed through four games for an Aztec squad in the last 11 seasons (allowed 55 points in 2010). Running back Donnel Pumphrey (167 yards vs. UNLV) has three 100-yard rushing efforts in four games this season. His nine rushing TDs ties him for second nationally.
— Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN JOSE STATE
Joe Gray remains San Jose State’s quarterback, likely for the foreseeable future, after playing a mostly solid game in his first collegiate start against Nevada.
Gray completed 32 of 46 passes for 276 yards, although he threw a critical interception that was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 21-10 defeat.
“I’m very encouraged with Joe Gray,” coach Ron Caragher said. “That’s his first start. I take things in that perspective.
“That was his first time playing as a Spartan really in a situation where the game is still in the balance.”
The natural question becomes why did it take four games before Gray saw that type of action?
He was clearly the better quarterback last spring before some struggles in the fall opened the door for Blake Jurich to win the job. But Gray, as a junior, always offered more upside than the senior Jurich.
Caragher and offensive coordinator Jimmie Dougherty both said the competition this fall was extremely close, so it’s possible they went with Jurich because he might be better suited to absorb some hits during the Spartans’ nonconference games at Auburn and Minnesota.
Whatever the reasons, Gray likely played well enough to secure the job for the time-being and the expectation is he should improve as he gains critical on-field experience. San Jose State will need that to happen this week because a loss to UNLV would be a setback to the season it may not be able to recover from.
Next game: vs. UNLV, 6 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPNews
Notable: Tight end Billy Freeman suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury late in the Nevada game when a Wolf Pack lineman rolled up on the back of his legs while he was engaged with another defender. Before the injury, Freeman was enjoying his best game of the year with six catches for 76 yards. That included a 25-yard pass that saw him hurdle over Nevada’s Nigel Haikins, a play nearly identical to his leap over Wyoming’s Marqueston Huff last year. Freeman's status for this week isn't known yet.
— Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
UNLV faces a team in San Jose State on Saturday that is in a remarkably similar situation.
Each football team is on a three-game losing streak, each has won one game, each has given away winnable games with egregious mistakes, and each has discovered just how difficult it is to replace quality talent.
UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said the teams are even much alike in their offensive and defensive schemes.
"We see them a lot in recruiting," Hauck said. "We see ourselves in them, to a degree."
The Rebels (1-4, 0-1 MW) and Spartans (1-3, 0-1) got to this spot in the season in amazingly alike ways.
UNLV played San Diego State almost evenly statistically Saturday, getting outgained 466 yards to 455. But the Rebels made a series of mistakes, including twice having passes intercepted while driving for potential touchdowns, that helped lead to a 34-17 defeat.
San Jose State can tell a similar story of its 21-10 loss to Nevada this past weekend. The Spartans outgained Nevada 446 yards to 256, but they also committed three turnovers to none for the Wolf Pack.
Both teams also are trying to replace key players from last season.
UNLV has been trying to make up for the losses of quarterback Caleb Herring and running back Tim Cornett. Herring rescued the Rebels' season last year by passing for 2,718 yards and 24 touchdowns. Cornett became the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,733 yards.
Decker has shown promise in following Herring, throwing for 1,229 yards, but he also has tossed nine interceptions to five touchdown passes. At running back, the Rebels have used Keith Whitely and George Naufahu to take Cornett's place, and they have combined for 400 yards and two touchdowns.
San Jose State is trying to overcome the departure of quarterback in David Fales, the only player in school history to pass for 4,000 yards in a season. The Spartans first tried Blake Jurich, then went with Joe Gray for the Nevada game. Now Gray, who completed 32 of 46 passes for 276 yards with two interceptions, is the starter.
Next game: at San Jose State, 6 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPNews
Notable: UNLV plays at San Jose for the first time since 1996 when both teams were in the Western Athletic Conference. ... The Rebels make their first appearance on ESPNews. ... This is the final game of a three-week stretch of road games. ... UNLV is one of nine teams nationally that hasn't lost a fumble. ... Walk-on redshirt freshman Jay Mitchell had a 48-yard punt return at San Diego State on Saturday. It was the longest punt return for a Rebel since Tremayne Kirkland ran one back 75 yards in 2003 at New Mexico. ... Linebacker Ryan McAleenan, who received his first career start against the Aztecs, signed with San Jose State in 2012 and redshirted there. He then went to a junior college before signing with the Rebels.
— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal