Spoiler alert – the ball is going to spend a lot of time on the ground at Falcon Stadium yet again this week.
Air Force, which boasts the nation’s No. 12 running attack, hosts New Mexico and its eighth-ranked ground game. With this falling two weeks after Air Force hosted Navy (ranked second in rushing) and a game before they travel to Army (ranked third), there will be a stretch of three times in four games in which Air Force features a running game ranked lower and a passing game ranked higher than its opponent. It would be a surprise if that has happened in the past 30 years for the option-based Falcons.
“There’s a lot of stress going into these weeks, there is,” defensive coordinator Steve Russ said. “I enjoy it because I’m a linebacker at heart. I love defending it.”
Air Force has fared well against the rush in general this season, ranking 17th in the nation in that department. It held Boise State to 97 yards and limited Navy to 36 second-half rushing yards in a pair of home victories.
Even in road losses, Air Force held Wyoming to 51 yards on 26 carries and Utah State to 77 yards on 28 attempts.
But Air Force knows the attack it will see this week is unlike anything it’s faced so far. New Mexico ran for 409 yards on Air Force in 2012 and 451 last year. Both games were close, with Air Force winning 28-23 in 2012 and losing 45-37 last year.
“They’re going to run the ball, there’s no secret about that,” Air Force linebacker Connor Healy said. “It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
Next game: vs. New Mexico, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday, Root Sports
Notable: Air Force will wear pink bolts on its helmets in support of breast cancer awareness. The Falcons are 3-0 at home and have not trailed at any point in those games. QB Kale Pearson missed much of the first quarter in a 34-16 loss at Utah State on Saturday with a sprained left shoulder (non-throwing). He returned for the second half and is expected to play this week.
— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette
The Broncos likely will play the rest of the season without one of their all-time greats.
Senior wide receiver Matt Miller underwent ankle surgery Monday to repair a damaged ligament. The goal is to get him ready for the NFL Scouting Combine in February, leaving little hope that he’ll play for the Broncos again.
Miller holds the school record for career receptions (244) and is 15 yards short of breaking the career record for receiving yards. Miller has 3,049 yards; Titus Young gained 3,063 yards from 2007 to 2010.
Miller also ranks third in career receiving touchdowns (29) and first in single-season receptions (88 last year). He led the nation with a 44-game streak with a catch — every game of his career until he sat Oct. 4 at Nevada. The Mountain West record is 47.
Surgery was not an easy choice for Miller, coach Bryan Harsin said, but doctors didn’t expect him to improve enough to play this season.
“He’s going to move on and play football again (as a pro),” Harsin said. “It was hard. I said, ‘Just do it.’ I said, ‘Get it done, because you’re going to have a chance to play again.’ “He wants to play. He wants to play with his teammates, but it’s not going to happen. He’s not going to be in good enough shape.”
Miller, the offensive captain, made 28 catches for 461 yards and three touchdowns this season in the equivalent of about four games (he appeared in five). He caught two touchdown passes and threw a third in the Sept. 13 win at Connecticut.
“Matt Miller is one of the toughest human beings I’ve ever been around in this game,” offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said. “This whole year, including spring ball, including fall camp and including the first five games he was in for — he would never say anything about it, but I think he was playing well below 100 percent in terms of being healthy. He had some nagging injuries going on. When they had a chance to really go in and look at everything after he did sustain his lower-leg injury, it was a pretty significant injury. He’s just a tough son of a gun.”
Sophomore Thomas Sperbeck is Miller’s primary replacement. He has nine catches for 130 yards in about six quarters in that role.
“Everybody’s elevated their game,” Harsin said. “The one thing I told the team: It’s not like Thomas Sperbeck has to come in and be Matt Miller. Everybody that has played, including defensive players, they need to step up and play better — not just the one guy replacing him. We’re going to try to be as productive — just do it in a different way.”
Next game: vs. Fresno State, 6 p.m. MT Friday, ESPN
Notable: Air Force’s loss at Utah State clears the path for Boise State to win the Mountain West Mountain Division with no outside help. If the Broncos (2-1) sweep their last five conference games, they’ll advance to the championship game. Utah State (1-0) and Wyoming (1-1) also can advance by winning out. Boise State is 20-5 in regular-season, Friday games, including 10-0 at home. The Broncos played six games (four on the road) in 38 days to start the season. They will play two games, both at home, in a 34-day stretch from Oct. 5 through Nov. 7.
— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
CSU is off to a 5-1 start for the first time in 14 years, receiving votes in both major Top 25 polls and preparing for its biggest home game in at least a decade Saturday against Utah State. It’s been a long time since there’s been this much excitement about the Colorado State football program. Not since the end of the 2002 season, when the Rams last won a conference championship, or the start of the 2003 season, when they were No. 23 in The Associated Press’ preseason poll.
“We’ve definitely come a long way,” senior cornerback Bernard Blake said Monday. “I’ve always had a vision of being a winner. When I came on my visit here, I had a vision here along with the other guys of just restoring the tradition that was in the program and being a part of that. It’s good to see it play out.”
CSU (5-1, 1-1 Mountain West) received five points in voting this week for the Coaches Poll and three points in the AP media poll. The Rams had one vote in the Coaches Poll following their season-opening win over Colorado this year but hadn’t received votes in either of the major Top 25 polls prior to that since 2008.
These are heady times for the Rams, who were listed Monday by Las Vegas oddsmakers as a four- to five-point favorite over Utah State (4-2, 1-0), the MW’s defending Mountain Division champion. A win over the Aggies on Saturday in their annual homecoming game at Hughes Stadium would make the Rams bowl eligible for a second consecutive year, give them a share of the division lead and quite possibly earn CSU its first national ranking since that preseason poll in 2003.
It’s “exciting,” third-year coach Jim McElwain said. But it’s not entirely unexpected, either.
“This is what it’s all about,” McElwain said. “It’s what we’re here to build. We’re here to build a sense of excitement and increase the brand of Colorado State University from a national standpoint, a statewide standpoint and obviously up and down the Front Range standpoint.
“This is the expectation. I’m happy that people are starting to take notice. I’m happy that we’ve given them some pride in their Rams and yet we by no means are anywhere near where we’re going to be in the future.
“But it’s a start.”
The best in 14 years.
Next game: vs. Utah State, 5 p.m. MT Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Notable: RB Treyous Jarrells missed his second consecutive game with a right knee injury at Nevada and might be out this week, as well, McElwain said Monday. RB Jasen Oden, who would have helped pick up the slack, had to leave the Nevada game early because of tightness in his back and carried just twice. That put more of the workload on Dee Hart than McElwain would like, forcing the Alabama transfer to carry 23 times instead of his usual 10-15 a game. Hart finished with 90 yards and one TD. TE Nolan Peralta was suspended Tuesday by the Mountain West for the first half of Saturday’s game against Utah State for using the crown of his helmet to strike an opposing player. Peralta was called for a personal foul on the play, and the league office added the suspension after reviewing video of the play.. CSU is 5-1 for the first time since 2000. The Rams have won 12 of their past 16 games.
— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
Just because coach Bob Davie talks almost weekly about his five-year plan for New Mexico football, just because he preaches patience at every opportunity, doesn't mean he doesn't share fans' frustration with his 9-22 record (2-4 this season) as UNM's head coach.
"Darn right. I feel pressure every minute," Davie said after Monday's practice, "particularly when I'm not around the coaches and around the players. ... You're lucky you have a great spouse, because the pressure comes at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, when you need somebody to talk to about the big picture.
"I feel great when I'm in here with the players and coaches, I really do. But when I'm away from it, which isn't a whole lot of time, that's when the frustration really sets in and probably the anxiety sets in."
Having said that, however, Davie took another opportunity to say he believes the program is solid and is headed in the right direction.
"I feel pretty good of just the mindset of where we are right now," he said.
In the short term, Davie and his staff need to shore up their rush defense — ranked 124th among 125 NCAA FBS teams — and figure out what ails their usually productive triple option-based running game.
New Mexico rushed for only 152 yards, by far its worst production of the season, last week in a 24-14 loss to San Diego State.
The previous week, in a 21-9 victory at UTSA, the Lobo rushed for 283 yards. But 138 of those came on two plays, and the consistency was missing.
Davie said he likely will start junior Cole Gautsche at quarterback Saturday at Air Force, ahead of redshirt freshman Lamar Jordan, because of Gautsche's greater experience running the triple option. Both quarterbacks will play, he said.
Next game: at Air Force, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday, Root Sports
Notable: Senior running back Crusoe Gongbay underwent surgery for a mid-foot injury on Monday, and it is definite that his season and career are over. In searching for a replacement for Gongbay as the dive back on the triple option, Davie said he'll give Rio Rancho, N.M., redshirt freshman Romell Jordan a look. Jordan (5-foot-8, 175 pounds) certainly is no Gongbay, (5-11, 202), but Davie compared his style to that of former Lobo Kasey Carrier, who had great success running between the tackles despite his lack of size. ... New Mexico is dangerously thin at cornerback. Senior SaQwan Edwards likely is out for Air Force with concussion symptoms, and sophomore Isaiah Brown has a severe hamstring pull. Junior Cranston Jones and sophomore Jadon Boatright — who sustained a groin injury against San Diego State — are expected to start, with only one other corner who has seen action, junior Donnie Duncan, in reserve.
— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
Utah State coach Matt Wells doesn’t have to watch film of quarterback Garrett Grayson to become familiar with him. Wells knows him all too well.
Wells recruited Grayson while he was the quarterbacks/passing game coordinator at Louisville in 2009.
However, the future of the Cardinals changed when coach Steve Kragthorpe was fired at the end of the season and replaced by Charlie Strong.
Wells moved on to New Mexico as the receivers coach while Grayson, a senior from Vancouver, Wash., landed at Colorado State.
“We were going to get him,” Wells said. “I liked his mobility, he can throw on the run really well and is extremely accurate. He’s got a tough mentality and I like him a lot. He’s really grown up right in front of our faces as we’ve seen him a lot.”
Grayson ranks fourth in the FBS with 1,823 yards on 131-of-202 passing while his 16 touchdowns rank 13th in the FBS.
“Behind every successful team that is winning games is a very successful and efficient quarterback, and Garrett is no different,” Wells said. “I have a lot of respect for what he has done and his development.”
Next game: at Colorado State, 5 p.m. MT Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Notable: Football might be a team sport, but a few players for the Utah State Aggies, specifically brothers Zach and Nick Vigil, are making it hard to overlook some individual achievements. Last week it was Nick who garnered national attention for his efforts on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. This week it is Zach’s turn. Zach was named the Mountain West and College Sports Madness Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week after recording 22 tackles in the Aggies’ 34-16 win over Air Force. The senior linebacker’s tackles were the most in the nation at the FBS level for a single game. He also had a career-high four tackles for a loss, which was the most in the Mountain West this season and eighth-most in the nation. While Zach’s efforts provided plenty of highlights, none were better than his effort at the end of the game when he single-handedly blew up a reverse by the Falcons, first tackling quarterback Kale Pearson then recovering in time to tackle receiver Garrett Brown. Wells said it was one of the best plays he’d ever seen and continued to heap praise on the linebacker Monday. “I’ve never seen a linebacker performance like that as far as tackles are concerned,” he said. “He has been playing hard all year.” Utah State’s defense has forced 19 turnovers in its last five games. The Aggies have won six straight league games and have won 11 straight conference road games.
— Lya Wodraska, The Salt Lake Tribune
Road losses at a pair of top 10 teams — Oregon and Michigan State — were not pleasant, but expected, for the Cowboys.
But blowing an 11-point lead in the third quarter at conference foe Hawaii was the toughest blow for Wyoming to date. The Cowboys were outscored 28-7 in the second half, and they had difficulty tackling and staying assignment-sound in the secondary.
"It showed our guys we let one slip away," coach Craig Bohl said. "Now we have to show them what occurred and what we have to do to remedy it."
Wyoming (3-3 overall, 1-1 Mountain West) gave up 513 yards of total offense to Hawaii and has allowed 500-plus yards of total offense in each of its three losses.
Some of the secondary issues last week could be attributed to the loss of senior free safety and co-captain Darrenn White, who suffered a knee injury late in the first half and is likely done for the season.
But even before White's injury, Wyoming had issues tackling in the secondary — especially at the cornerback spot. Bohl and defensive coordinator Steve Stanard both said there won't be much live tackling done in practice from here on out, but there will be plenty of work done to fix the problem.
"The easiest thing to fix is the missed assignments and blown coverages," Bohl said. "That's a mental thing, not a scheme thing. With the tackling, it's always easy to say the guys aren't trying hard. That's not the case here. There's some technical things you can do to improve tackling. Some of it, just like when one of our guys breaks a tackle, is the play of some pretty good players."
Next game: vs. San Jose State, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: Sophomore Xavier Lewis will likely replace White in the starting lineup. ... Wyoming hopes to get senior strong safety Jesse Sampson (knee) back this week. Sampson's missed the last two games. ... The Cowboys also hope to get back senior right tackle Connor Rains (appendectomy) this week. They have had two offensive linemen this season miss games because of appendectomies. ... True freshman Ryan Cummings played in his first-ever game at Hawaii, and started at left tackle. Cummings will start against San Jose State. Cummings is playing for sophomore Nathan Leddige (concussion) and it is uncertain when and if he will come back this season. ... Saturday will be Wyoming's first home game in a month, and its only home game in October.
— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Fresno State has issues with its quarterback play, which were at times glaring in an overtime loss at UNLV. Junior Brian Burrell completed only 56.8 percent of his passes, which is in line with what he has done all season (56.9 percent). But it was his inability to extend drives and poor execution when on the Rebels' side of the field that hurt most - the Bulldogs converted only 2 of 14 third-down plays and Burrell had two costly turnovers on a lateral that was fumbled at the Rebels' 15-yard line and an interception at the 16.
This season, Burrell has completed only 51.8 percent of his third-down passes including 47.6 percent on the much more manageable third-and-1 to 6 yards to go.
But the focus this week is on improving the play around Burrell more than making a change and getting more reps to graduate-transfer Brandon Connette or redshirt freshman Zack Greenlee.
"I don't care who is the quarterback, if we're doing the things around him that we did (Friday) night, no quarterback is going to be successful," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "Yeah, Brian has got to get better at what he has to get better at, particularly taking care of the football. But it's not just a quarterback situation, it's a team situation and it's not just the offense, it's in all three phases."
One, DeRuyter said, has had an impact on the other and the development of the offense. The Bulldogs are leading the Mountain West in passing attempts per game with 41, but are ranked only eighth in completion percentage (56.1 percent), ninth in efficiency rating (117.12) and 11th in yards per attempt (6.1).
"The quarterback obviously gets the blame when things don't go well, but he's not the one dropping passes, he's not the one slipping," DeRuyter said. "There are some things he has to get cleaned up, but he's not the one running the routes at the wrong depth and having to throw the ball in different spots than what we do in practice. Some of it is him, but a lot of it is not. "He has to get better. He's not shirking any of the responsibility because there are quite a few things, especially in ball security, that he has to do a much better job of. But it's not just Brian Burrell. He's not the sole reason we're not executing on offense. We have to get the guys around him much better."
Next game: at Boise State, 6 p.m. MT Friday, ESPN
Notable: The secondary has been a jumble of moving pieces most of the season, with three players getting starts at one cornerback spot, two at the other and two at strong safety. But it appears at strong safety Charles Washington, who has started games this season at cornerback and as a nickel back, has settled back into his favored position. He is on the depth chart this week at strong safety — and only strong safety. ... Nose guard Tyeler Davison and defensive end Todd Hunt both have been in on 32 tackles and are leading all defensive linemen in the conference. Davison had a career-high 14 tackles in the overtime loss at UNLV, most by a Fresno State defensive lineman going back through 2000. ... Fresno State usually gets reps to running backs Marteze Waller and Juice Quezada early in games and then goes with the hot hand, but Waller may be playing his way out of that. He gained 137 yards and scored one touchdown on 17 plays in the loss at UNLV and has put up 100 or more yards in three of the past four games. "He's really, I think, stepped his game up, not that Juice has done bad, but he has separated himself by performing and we're going to play the guys that get it done on Saturdays and if he'll continue that, he'll earn more reps," DeRuyter said. ... Freshman tight end Chad Olsen caught four passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns at UNLV. He is one of two true freshmen in the bowl subdivision to catch two touchdown passes in a game this season, the other Syracuse wide out Steve Ishmael, who had two last week in a loss to Florida State.
— Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
Here are the highlights of coach Norm Chow's past week: He returns to Honolulu after being bedside with his wife, who is recovering from a brain aneurysm at UCLA Medical Center; he attends a memorial service for his mother, who died in August; his Warriors rally from a 14-0 deficit to beat Wyoming in the MW opener; and star running back Joey Iosefa is arrested on suspicion of drunken-driving. One more thing: A tropical storm that might or might not become a hurricane was on a path toward the state.
Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey, who was inconsistent in his first five starts, was demoted in the practices leading to the Wyoming game. Taylor Graham started, but then suffered a fractured right foot on the final play of the first half. Woolsey replaced Graham, going 8-of-9 for 173 yards and two touchdowns in rallying the Warriors. Woolsey will start in Saturday's road game against San Diego State. The other UH quarterbacks with game experience — Graham and Jeremy Higgins (fractured left hand) — are not expected to play the rest of this season.
Without ailing running backs Iosefa and Steven Lakalaka, the Warriors turned to sophomore Diocemy Saint Juste, who rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown. If Iosefa and Lakalaka are not available, this week's running backs are Saint Juste, fullback/tight end Justin Vele, and walk-ons Jason Muraoka and Pereese Joas. Muraoka is 5-foot-7; Joas is 5-6.
Next game: at San Diego State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Notable: Inside linebackers Simon Poti and Benny Fonua played all 63 defensive snaps against Wyoming. Fonua, a junior, made his first UH start in place of injured inside linebackers Julian Gener and Tevita Lataimua. The Warriors are trying to preserve freshman linebacker Malachi Mageo's redshirt status. Joas gained 14 yards in his only carry. Slotback Keelan Ewaliko, a former champion bull rider on Maui, is being considered as the No. 3 quarterback behind Woolsey and freshman Beau Reilly.
— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
In the face of back-to-back, heart-wrenching losses in which the Wolf Pack had the ball in the final minutes with a chance to win or tie, coach Brian Polian’s message to his team was, “Hang in there we’re getting better.”
“We’re 3-3, we’re not 0-6,” said Polian, a second-year coach whose team lost 51-46 at home to Boise State on Oct. 4 and then lost 31-24 to Colorado State on Saturday. “I would much rather be 4-2, 5-1 or 6-0, clearly, but when you look at it compared to where we were last year, we are outscoring our opponents in the second half, and we are outscoring our opponents in the fourth quarter by some 30 points. That is a dramatic difference from where we were a year ago.”
And he’s right. Last year, in a 4-8 season, the Wolf Pack led Boise State 17-7 at halftime at Boise and were outscored 27-0 in the second half in a 34-17 loss. Three weeks later, at Colorado State, Nevada led 7-6 at the half and was outscored 32-10 in the second half en route to a 38-17 loss.
So far this season, Nevada has outscored its opponents 106-78 after halftime and 76-44 in the fourth quarter. Last season, Nevada was outscored 252-157 after halftime. That’s little comfort for fans and players after two tough losses.
“The struggle that we are having right now is that when a guy like (sophomore receiver) Jerico Richardson ... comes to me and is crying after the ballgame and says, ‘Coach, why does this keep happening to us? We are 100 percent bought in. We are doing everything that you ask us to do. Why does this keep happening to us?’ ” Polian said. “And it’s a fair question, and honestly it’s a question that, late at night, in my house, occasionally I ask myself.
“The answer is simply this: ... (The players) believe that we should see the results immediately. And we are seeing results, we’re just not seeing them in the win-loss column the way we want to. ... And it’s hard. It’s hard to tell a kid who’s crying on your shoulder, it’s hard to tell them, ‘Hey, just have faith. We’ll get where we want to be.’ But that’s where we are right now. ... There is progress being made, I promise you. I see it every day.”
Next game: at BYU, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPN2
Notable: LB Bryan Lane sprained an ankle Saturday and is listed as day-to-day. CB Evan Favors suffered a head injury Saturday, but Polian was hopeful it was not a concussion and he could play vs. BYU. Polian also said C Matt Galas, who has been battling arthritis in one knee for more than a year, played on a ruptured bursa sac in the other knee Saturday. “The doctors tell us that he is OK physically. He can’t do any more damage,” Polian said. “It’s really just a matter of him managing his pain. And he goes out there and guts it out. Without him, we’d be lost. Matt Galas is a special guy. ... He’s as tough as I’ve ever been with.”
— Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal
SAN DIEGO STATE
Senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler is the likely starter for San Diego State on Saturday against Hawaii, though Aztecs coach Rocky Long said he would have to monitor the progress of Kaehler’s injured shoulder after practices on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Kaehler, who suffered a sprained throwing shoulder on Sept. 27 in a win over UNLV, was a surprise entrant in the Aztecs’ 24-14 win over New Mexico on Friday. He had been expected to sit at least another week, but came on at the start of the second half after true freshman quarterback Nick Bawden struggled for his second straight game.
SDSU clung to a 10-7 lead at halftime, and though Kaehler would complete only one “pass” in three attempts – a quick shovel under pressure – Long said he made an impact with his ability to recognize Lobos defensive sets and check down to different plays.
“It made a difference for him getting us into the right running play at times,” Long said.
The result: After running for an impressive 160 yards in the first half, SDSU took it to another level in the second, the line opening huge holes as the Aztecs ran for 267 more yards in the eventual 24-14 win.
With a total of 397 yards on the ground, the Aztecs hadn’t run for that many yards since getting 400 against Wyoming in 2012.
“I thought the offensive line played outstanding,” Long said.
SDSU’s two tailbacks charted career highs, with D.J. Pumphrey, the MW Offensive Player of the Week, running for 246 yards and two TDs on a whopping 12.3 yards-per-carry average, and Chase Price getting 141 yards and a TD. The scoring runs came on plays of 49, 27 and 93 yards.
Pumphrey’s scoring runs alone accounted for more than the 111 yards SDSU had through the air.
The effort on the ground saved Kaehler from having to do too much with a right shoulder that was wrapped with ice after the game.
“There’s not much (pain) when you get out there,” Kaehler said. “The adrenaline takes over. There’s just a little bit of soreness now.”
Kaehler said he expected to be ready for Saturday’s home against Hawaii.
Of subbing Kaehler for Bawden, Long said: “I thought Nick at the start of the game played well. I thought he threw a couple of nice passes that were dropped by receivers. Then I thought he got a little hesitant. He had some wide-open receivers through his progressions and he couldn’t find them.”
Next game: vs. Hawaii, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Notable: SDSU’s defense held New Mexico’s triple option to 152 yards on the ground – 170 below its average. Senior linebacker Josh Gavert, a key player in the absence of injured Jake Fely, had his best game, making 11 total tackles and snagging an interception. The Aztecs were awaiting word on the most recent MRI performed on Fely, who has been unable to participate in contact drills since cracking a vertebrae in his neck during spring workouts Fely and senior receiver Ezell Ruffin (broken collarbone) could return by the Nevada game on Nov. 1 after SDSU has a bye next week.
— Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN JOSE STATE
San Jose State will rack up plenty of frequent flier miles the next couples of months — and the next two weeks in particular — as its schedule hits its tougher portion of the season.
The Spartans, fresh off their second bye among the season’s first seven weeks, will now play seven games in seven weeks. Only two will be in the cozy confines of Spartan Stadium.
The tough stretch begins Saturday at Wyoming, a game in which SJSU is favored but has to deal with the elevation of more than 7,000 feet in Laramie, Wyo. A week later, the Spartans will travel cross-country to Annapolis, Md., to face Navy.
“The best we can do — and we know it’s going to be a challenge — is stay in the moment,” SJSU coach Ron Caragher said. “We just know to take care of business one game at a time and see what happens at the end of it all.”
The conference is a crapshoot right now, especially in the West Division. The Spartans lost their MW opener to Nevada, but the Wolf Pack have lost two straight to give SJSU control of its own destiny again.
“The team’s been reminded of that,” Caragher said. “It is good to know. We opened up conference play with a loss, but then some things have happened, and now we’re in a position where we do have a chance. I think you could say that about 90 percent of the Mountain West teams.”
Technically, it’s only 50 percent. In the West Division, just Hawaii, Fresno State and San Jose State can make the claim and only Utah State, Boise State and Wyoming can do so in the Mountain. But with upsets happening nearly every week, that’s a fluid situation.
Next game: at Wyoming, 2 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPN3
Notable: Tight end Billy Freeman will travel with the team to Wyoming with the team hopeful its second-leading receiver will be able to play. Freeman practiced Tuesday in a limited capacity and Caragher hopes he’ll continue to progress after injuring his ankle late in the loss to Nevada on Sept. 27.
— Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
The chances of UNLV going back to a bowl are nearly nil, but the Rebels at least have life in their season. They upset Fresno State 30-27 in overtime on Friday, ending a four-game losing streak and a 10-game series skid to the Bulldogs.
Now UNLV (2-5, 1-2 Mountain West) has a week off before playing at Utah State on Oct. 25.
The Rebels used all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — to record the victory.
UNLV's offense vaulted the team out to a 17-0 lead, and then quarterback Blake Decker delivered some key passes late after Fresno State rallied. Decker finished 29 of 40 for 332 yards and a touchdown.
The Rebels' defense not only shut out the Bulldogs in the first half, but made key plays to force overtime. And the defense came up with a big stop in the extra session.
Kicker Nicolai Bornand made a 46-yard field goal with 3:37 left to tie the game and a 33-yarder to win it in OT. He was named the conference special teams player of the week. In making one key play after another, the Rebels didn't play as a team that was struggling, but one that knew it could get the job done.
"More than anything, we were confident," Decker said. "It wasn't a shot of confidence, it was more of we knew we were going to go out there and win that game."
Next game: at Utah State, Oct. 25
Notable: UNLV's last victory over Fresno State occurred in 1984. ... The Rebels won their first overtime game since 2008 against Iowa State. They are 4-8 in OT games. ... UNLV is 7-2-1 in games played on Fridays. ... The Rebels have scored on their first drive the past six games.
— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal