Air Force can kill two giant birds with one stone in its next game, and the schedule would seem to be lending a hand.
With a win at Army on Nov. 1 the Falcons (5-2) would capture the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and earn bowl eligibility. They’ll enter that game rested and fresh from this season’s second and final open date of the season.
“It’s pretty fortunate that it landed like that,” receiver Garrett Brown said.
Brown is one of many Air Force players recovering from an injury. He hurt a hamstring at Utah State on Oct. 11 that knocked him out of a few days of practice. He returned and played Saturday in a victory over New Mexico – catching a 63-yard pass – but knows he’ll benefit from extra time.
“With those kind of nagging injuries that you know aren’t going to go away throughout the season, at least you can get them a little better,” he said.
From the looks of practice on Monday, there are a number of those nagging injuries. The entire starting offensive backfield – quarterback Kale Pearson, fullback Shayne Davern and tailback Jacobi Owens – did not participate in the brief helmets-only session. Offensive tackle Matt Rochell was also out and had a boot on a lower leg, but coach Troy Calhoun would not specify the details of that or any other injury.
“We’ll go with the guys who are out here,” Calhoun said.
The Falcons took Sunday off and will not practice on Tuesday, either. After that, Calhoun said it would be a normal “work week” that will include a practice on Saturday morning. In-season time off hasn’t meant an advantage under Calhoun. Since he took over in 2007 the Falcons are 2-4 when having an extra week to prepare.
Still, the players like it. Earlier this season outside linebacker Spencer Proctor said his legs felt as good as they had in August before the team lined up against Boise State after 13 days off. Proctor and the defense then went out and forced seven turnovers in one of the biggest victories for the program under Calhoun.
The coach remains unswayed.
“I would like it if we could play straight through with no byes,” Calhoun said, before conceding that if byes must exist, this one might be coming at the perfect time. “But it is a good one to have.”
Next game: Nov. 1 at Army
— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette
Boise State junior tailback Jay Ajayi has become so productive at home that his 195 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns Friday night against Fresno State barely got a postgame mention.
It was the fourth straight home game in which Ajayi gained at least 185 yards from scrimmage and the eighth time in nine home games as the starter that he has scored multiple touchdowns.
Ajayi has averaged 167.3 yards per game from scrimmage and scored 23 touchdowns in those nine games. He has eight touchdowns in 11 away games in the same span. “Playing in front of this great crowd, playing for this great university, I just want to do my best,” he said Sunday. “It’s been interesting seeing the stats at home just because of how crazy they are. I would like to also bring that to the away games, too. We have away games also. I want to be able to do great at both. That’s something I’m definitely looking at and something I need to prove to myself.”
He’ll be back on the Blue on Friday night against BYU. The Cougars rank fifth in the nation in rushing defense at 97 yards per game.
Ajayi rushed for 151 yards last year at BYU, including a 61-yarder. But 94 of his yards came after the Broncos trailed 24-3 at halftime of a 37-20 loss.
“That’s a big, physical front,” Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said. “They make it hard on you. You’ve got to earn everything.”
Ajayi has learned this month to fight through that type of game.
Two weeks ago in Reno, he had 21 carries for 61 yards through three quarters. He added six carries for 91 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Friday against Fresno State, he generated 74 yards on 20 carries in the first three quarters. He broke a 54-yard run in the fourth quarter and finished with 158 yards on 30 carries in the game.
Combined, that’s 175 yards on 16 carries in the past two fourth quarters.
“We knew going into the (Fresno State) game we were going to have to grind it out on the ground, take what we can get,” Ajayi said. “Hopefully they’ll break later on in the game, and they did.
“It’s been really interesting these past couple of games. We haven’t really been breaking a lot of big runs early in the game. It’s teaching me a lot about patience and being persistent.”
Next game: vs. BYU, 7 p.m. MT Friday, ESPN
Notable: Senior QB Grant Hedrick has replaced injured WR Matt Miller as the offensive captain. Senior CB Mercy Maston has become the third senior defender who will redshirt because of an injury. He missed the first six games and now is practicing with the scout team. He started four games last year. Boise State is 22-0 in regular-season, non-Saturday home games. The Broncos are about as healthy as they’ve been since the season opener. S Jeremy Ioane (out three games) and LT Rees Odhiambo (out four games) returned last week.
— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
Sellout crowds, votes in the Top 25 polls, a five-game winning streak and a 6-1 record for the first time in 14 years.
There hasn’t been this kind of excitement about CSU’s football program in more than a decade.
So how will the Rams keep it all from going to their heads?
“Just stick to what we do every week,” senior tackle Ty Sambrailo said Monday. “We know how we got here, and that’s hard work and doing what’s right, on and off the field. So we’re going to stick to that method of winning, and I think that’s the easiest way to not get caught up in everything.
“ It’s cool to have the attention we’re having and the success we’re having, but I think we’re pretty well grounded in how we got here.”
It should help, third-year coach Jim McElwain said, that there’s a rivalry game coming up next, the Border War with Wyoming (3-4, 1-2 Mountain West) on Saturday in front of what should be another sellout crowd of 32,500-plus at Hughes Stadium.
He wants his Rams (6-1, 2-1) to feel good about what they’ve has accomplished so far, but he also wants everyone involved with the football program to understand that this is the expectation now, not the exception. There are five more regular-season games to play this season, and even though his team will be favored to win each of them, there are no guarantees that the Rams actually will win any of them.
Especially if they don’t remember what they’ve done to get to where they are or how far they still have to go to get to where they want to be, the coach said.
“You never arrive,” McElwain said. “The day you think you have, you’re done.”
The key for the Rams this week, McElwain said, is to “remove the clutter” from their minds, so they can focus on what they have to do in practice each day to beat Wyoming on Saturday. Players can’t worry about what might happen if they win out to get to 11-1 or which teams they have to beat to get into the Top 25 or what bowl game they’ll go to.
They can’t afford to get too far ahead of themselves, senior linebacker Aaron Davis said.
“It’s exciting where we’re at right now, and I think that’s motivating a lot of guys as a team, as a whole unit,” Davis said. “Coach is definitely telling us to not get complacent but just live in the moment and enjoy this experience where we’re at right now.
“We determine our own destiny, and each week we’re going to come out and play our hardest, especially this week.”
Next game: vs. Wyoming, 5 p.m. MT Saturday, Root Sports
Notable: Hughes Stadium, which hadn’t been sold out for a CSU game since 2004, had a sellout crowd of 32,546 last weekend vs. Utah State and is expected to sell out for this Saturday’s game against Wyoming by the end of the day Tuesday. WR Charles Lovett (concussion) and G Mason Myers (knee) both suffered injuries against Utah State that will keep them from playing against Wyoming, McElwain said. FS Kevin Pierre-Louis is questionable after being held out of the Utah State game because of severe headaches the previous week. QB Garrett Grayson became CSU’s all-time passing leader with 7,250 yards by throwing for 243 vs. Utah State. He’s three passing touchdowns shy of the all-time mark of 51. WR Rashard Higgins has had 175 or more receiving yards in three consecutive games and 140 or more in five of the past six games. CSU’s five-game winning streak is its longest since 2002, and the Rams are 6-1 for the first time since 2000.
— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
Coach Bob Davie said New Mexico’s two-quarterback offense likely won’t change in that regard the rest of the season.
Junior Cole Gautsche and redshirt freshman Lamar Jordan both can expect to play. Gautsche, who has been the starter when healthy, can expect to be taken out in favor of Jordan at some point when the Lobos, idle this weekend, resume play Nov. 1 at UNLV — and beyond.
“I don’t think, obviously, even with the open date, that there’s going to be dramatic change in who we are, what we are, who we play with. I think both quarterbacks, obviously, deserve to play,” Davie said.
Jordan’s play this season, first in Gautsche’s absence due to a hamstring injury and later in relief of a healthy Gautsche, has had fans clamoring for Davie to go exclusively with the redshirt freshman.
But the situation flipped last week when Davie pulled Gautsche in favor of Jordan in the fourth quarter of UNM’s 35-31 loss at Air Force. Gautsche had played well to that point, and Jordan produced only one first down in two series of work.
The Root Sports broadcast team of Ari Wolfe and Sed Bonner was highly critical of the move, as were Lobo fans on the message boards.
None of the criticism matters, Gautsche said after Tuesday’s practice, nor is his confidence shaken.
“I’ve always been a real positive person,” he said. “I just try to go in there and do the best I can. Whoever’s in there doesn’t matter. I just try to do the best I can for the team, whatever my role is.
“I’m totally behind what coaches are saying, and their game plan. It doesn’t bother me at all.
Next game: Nov. 1 vs. UNLV
Notable: Davie announced Tuesday he has dismissed defensive end Paytron Hightower and linebacker Tre’Von Roy because of “an accumulation and a pattern of attitude that keeps us from winning.” The players were not in academic or legal trouble, he said. ... Two weeks won’t be long enough, Davie said, to get some of his injured players back on the field. Linebacker Kimmie Carson (knee), nose guard Cole Juarez (ankle) and tight end Nick Lehman (ankle) likely won’t be ready for UNLV. Linebacker Dakota Cox left the Air Force game with a fractured thumb in the second quarter but returned to the game and will play at UNLV, Davie said. He’s hoping for the return of cornerbacks SaQwan Edwards (concussion symptoms) and Isaiah Brown (hamstring), whose injuries occurred earlier in the season. UNM announced Monday it will play at Wisconsin in 2018 for a guarantee of $1.2 million. New Mexico now has guarantee games scheduled against Rutgers (2016, $950,000), Texas A&M (2017, $1 million) and USC (2020, $1 million).
— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
The Utah State Aggies received the news they were hoping to avoid on Tuesday, with further medical tests showing sophomore quarterback Darell Garretson must have surgery to repair his injured right wrist.
It isn’t known if Garretson will return at any point this season. Senior Craig Harrison has been tabbed as the Aggies’ starter against UNLV on Saturday with freshman Kent Myers as his backup.
Garretson broke his wrist as he was tackled during the Aggies’ opening drive of the third quarter in Saturday’s 16-13 loss to CSU. Harrison played in nine games last year and started against Boise State before Garretson took over. The Grantsville native finished Saturday’s game against the Rams 5-of-12 passing for 28 yards.
Garretson, who took over for Chuckie Keeton for the second year in a row after Keeton was sidelined with a knee injury, has played in five games and is 91-of-135 passing for 1,140 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions.
Harrison and offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven are both off-limits to media members this week, school officials said.
Utah State coach Matt Wells said during his press conference on Monday the Aggies remain in high spirits despite the number of season-ending injuries they have had this year. The Aggies have lost three linebackers, a receiver and quarterback for the season, and could possibly add Garretson to that list.
“We’re going to get off the mat and fight,” he said. “We know how to do it. We’ve don it before and we can do it again. I like the mindset of these guys and we’ll give our very best for Aggie Nation. We’re going to go out and find different ways to win.”
Next game: vs. UNLV, 2 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPNews
Notable: Asked how long it will take Harrison to feel comfortable leading the Aggies, Wells said it needed to be only a few reps. “He has to win now for us,” he said. “We need him to play efficient within himself and distribute the ball to receivers. He needs to do his part and we have to play well around him.” The Aggies expect to run the ball more in the future with Garretson out. Both linebacker Nick Vigil and freshman LaJuan Hunt will get more carries in the future, Wells said. USU is 19-24 all-time against teams from Nevada, including a 14-7 mark against UNLV. USU offensive line coach Mark Weber was UNLV’s assistant head coach from 1994 to 1996. USU is 8-6-0 all-time in games played on Oct. 25.
— Lya Wodraska, The Salt Lake Tribune
The Cowboys (3-4 overall, 1-2 Mountain West) have lost three consecutive games, and two straight in the conference, after their 27-20 overtime loss to San Jose State last Saturday during homecoming.
They also face the league's hottest team in Colorado State (6-1, 2-1) on Saturday in the 106th Border War game in Fort Collins, Colo. Wyoming could be without as many as three defensive starters for the game, but first-year coach Craig Bohl is maintaining a positive outlook heading into this week — and the rest of the season.
"Concern would not maybe be the best description, but as a head football coach it’s important for us to improve on what we didn’t do well last week, but also capitalize on the things we’ve done well to keep our program moving forward," he said. "Attitude will come into play, and how we coach these guys and lift them up. We need to show them what they can do better, don’t beat them down, but don’t have rose-colored glasses on.
"A lot of that comes in the relationship of trust where those players really know you. To say that we’re in a real mature portion of our program would be inaccurate. When you lose close games (the last two by a combined 17 points), that’s more of a challenge to deal with. You have to recognize these guys are still in college so they’ll have some emotional roller coasters and that’s our charge as coaches. That’s why we have 'coach' on our shirts. Coaching means to move guys forward to what they can become."
That could be more difficult this week as senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha (knee) and senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi (leg) are doubtful and questionable, respectively, after injuries suffered against San Jose State. Wyoming lost senior free safety and co-captain Darrenn White in its 38-28 loss at Hawaii on Oct. 11 to a season-ending knee injury.
Nzeocha leads the team with 59 tackles and has been the Cowboys' best and most consistent defensive player this season.
"I was proud of some of the guys that got in there (against San Jose State)," said defensive coordinator Steve Stanard, who was an assistant at Colorado State from 2003 to 2007. "This week, it's going to be about leaning on certain guys to make more plays because we're probably going to be without some guys who have made a lot of plays for us."
Next game: at Colorado State, 5 p.m. MT Saturday, Root Sports
Notable: If Nzeocha can't play, Wyoming will likely turn to sophomore Lucas Wacha or junior Jeff Lark. ... Junior Siaosi Hala'api'api and senior Riley Lange will get more time at defensive end. Those two, along with junior starter Eddie Yarbrough, are the only other defensive ends that have played this season. ... Bohl and six of his assistants took a North Dakota State team to Colorado State and won 22-7 in September 2012, the second game for then first-year CSU coach Jim McElwain. ... If senior receiver Dominic Rufran catches a pass Saturday, he will have the nation's longest active streak in consecutive games with at least one catch at 45.
— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Fresno State has defended the run fairly well over the past two-plus seasons, ranking fourth in the Mountain West in 2013 and third in ‘12, allowing 147.3 and 171.3 yards per game. But the Bulldogs knew they were in for a challenge playing at Boise State and against Jay Ajayi, who went into the game ranked second in the conference averaging 118.2 yards per game.
“The running back at Boise, that guy is a baller, man,’’ outside linebacker Donavon Lewis said. “He runs the ball hard. He’s a hard runner. As long as I’ve been here he’s been playing there. He’s a redshirt junior, so we’re in the same class, but as long as he’s been there he’s been a good running back.
“Any time we’re going against a good running back, when you hit him you have to really hit him. It kind of gets us in a more aggressive attitude toward it. It makes us want to hit him, because that’s the only way to get him down. If you don’t hit him hard enough, he’s not going to go down.’’
And, the Broncos’ back got them. He rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns on 30 plays, including a 54-yard run in the fourth quarter that set up a field goal that made it a two-score game with 1:41 to go.
In doing so, Ajayi in all likelihood will become only the fifth 1,000-yard back that has gained more than 100 yards against the Bulldogs and they have faced 12 of them the past two seasons.
Last season, Ajayi rushed for 1,425 yards, but had only 54 in 20 plays against Fresno State. UNLV running back Tim Cornett finished with 1,284 yards, but had only 49 on 10 plays against the Bulldogs. Utah State back Joey DeMartino rushed for 1,221 yards, but gained only 54 on 18 plays when the Bulldogs took the first Mountain West championship game.
San Diego State’s Adam Muema was the only 1,000-yard rusher last season to gain more than 100 yards against Fresno State, going for 111 on 27 plays.
Fresno State faced eight backs that finished with 1,000 or more rushing yards in 2012 and only three gained more than 100 yards – Kenjon Barner (Oregon) had 201, Kasey Carrier (New Mexico) had 136 and D.J. Harper (Boise State) had 122.
Next game: Nov. 1 vs. Wyoming
Notable: Junior running back Marteze Waller had a 76-yard touchdown run in the Bulldogs’ loss at Boise State, the longest by a Fresno State back since Robbie Rouse went 94 yards for a score against Colorado in 2012. Waller had only one touch in the fourth quarter of that game, which led to a bit of second-guessing. He had 162 yards and two touchdowns on 17 plays entering the fourth quarter with the score tied. It didn’t help that backup Juice Quezada has not been as productive, averaging only 2.3 yards per carry against FBS competition. Fresno State had minus-1 yard on nine plays in the final quarter, going three-and-out twice and throwing an interception to end their final drive. Senior Josh Harper caught a 32-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, giving him 26 for his career. He is in second place on the all-time Fresno State list behind Davante Adams, who had 38 in just two seasons with the Bulldogs. Harper also has surpassed the 2,000-yard mark in career receiving yards this season, the 10th player in school history to hit that milestone. Fresno State is tied with LSU, Central Florida and Wyoming for eighth place in the FBS with 10 players with 2,000 or more receiving yards. Boise State, Hawaii and Nevada are tied for the lead with 14. Fresno State has a bye this week and comes back on Nov. 1 against Wyoming. The Bulldogs are 4-0 off a bye week under coach Tim DeRuyter. Junior Charles Washington, who has bounced around the secondary starting games at cornerback, nickel and strong safety, his favorite of the three, is back to a full-time safety. “It feels good just to be able to focus on nickel back and safety, but week in and week out wherever they need me whether it’s a game-time decision or a practice decision, if they need me at corner I’ll play corner,’’ Washington said. “But I am excited that I haven’t had to focus on any cornerback stuff. Jamal (Ellis) stepped up and Curtis (Riley) has been playing well there, so thanks to those guys I can kind of lock in at strong safety and nickel back.’’
— Robert Kuwada, The Fresno Bee
Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey is expected to make his seventh start this season when the Warriors play Nevada on Saturday at Aloha Stadium. Woolsey practiced sparingly last week after suffering a bruised tailbone against Wyoming, the only game he has not started this season. But Woolsey took all the first-team reps during Friday's walk-through and opened in this past Saturday's game against San Diego State.
Beau Reilly, a 22-year-old freshman, took most of the No. 1 reps last week. He has not appeared in a game this season. But head coach Norm Chow said there are no plans to redshirt Reilly this season. Reilly signed with UH in April after serving a two-year church mission.
The Warriors were again short-handed at inside linebacker, with Simon Poti and Benny Fonua playing every defensive down for the second consecutive week. Tevita Lataimua, who now has missed four games in a row because of an injury, is expected to be cleared for the Nevada game.
Gaetano DeMattei continues to play well this season. DeMattei joined the Warriors in April after excelling at a walk-on tryout in February. He is now the No. 1 nickelback.
Next game: vs. Nevada, 10 p.m. MT, Oceanic PPV/Mountain West Network (online)
Notable: The Warriors have lost a school-record 16 consecutive road games. Their last road victory was against Idaho on Oct. 29, 2011. The Warriors have home games the next two weekends. After that, three of the final four regular-season games will be on the road. Chow remained in California after the San Diego State game to be with his wife, who continues to recover from a brain aneurysm at the UCLA Medical Center. Chow returned to Honolulu on Monday night. The Warriors only have conditioning drills, meetings and video reviews on Mondays. Scott Harding's rugby-style punts average an additional 15 yards on rolls. But he struggled to get his usual bounce against San Diego State. It was the first time the Warriors played on a natural grass field this season.
— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
The second half of Saturday’s 42-35 victory over BYU in Provo, Utah, provided its share of defensive stars for the Wolf Pack, which had four sacks (six in the game) and forced and recovered three fumbles after allowing 338 total yards and 28 points in the first half.
Among them was true freshman defensive end Patrick Choudja, whose very presence on the field has been questioned by some fans on social media who believe it might have been better to redshirt him.
Through six games, it was a fair argument. Choudja had played in each of the Wolf Pack’s first six games and had two tackles to show for it in limited time. Nevada had solid depth at defensive end, with starters Brock Hekking and Ian Seau as well as productive second-teamers Lenny Jones and Dupree Roberts-Jordan.
But coach Brian Polian pulled the trigger, and on Saturday he was rewarded.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Choudja, the final piece to Polian’s 2014 recruiting class (Choudja’s faxed letter of intent arrived during Polian’s recruiting-class news conference), saw 20 snaps against BYU. Had he not been in there on his 20th, the Wolf Pack and Cougars might still be playing.
Choudja on Monday was named the Big Hit Player of the Week by the coaching staff for his hustle, tackle and forced fumble of BYU quarterback Christian Stewart at the Nevada 34-yard line with 39 seconds to play. Linebacker Jonathan McNeal recovered it, allowing the Pack to run out the clock.
During Polian’s review of game tape, he showed Choudja, lined up at right defensive line, get pushed to the outside by BYU left tackle Ryker Mathews. Stewart sensed pressure and took off to his right, away from Choudja. Choudja, who also had two other tackles and was held while sacking Stewart on one play, never stopped his pursuit. He wrapped around behind Stewart, who never saw him, tackled him and stripped the ball.
Polian had high praise for Choudja’s progress and called that particular play a “great effort” play.
Next game: at Hawaii, 10 p.m. MT Saturday, Mountain West Network (online)
Notable: Polian said QB Cody Fajardo played “superbly” against BYU. Fajardo was named the team’s offensive player of the week. DE Ian Seau had two sacks and a forced fumble and was named the team’s defensive player of the week. Polian had high praise, too, for the offensive line, saying it played its best game this season, and the kicking game (P Alex Boy and PK Brent Zuzo were named the co-special teams players of the week). WR Jerico Richardson sprained his ankle on the Wolf Pack’s third offensive play and did not return. He is questionable this week. TE Patrick Clifford (head) and CB Evan Favors (head) each missed the BYU game. Clifford remains questionable. Favors is expected to return.
— Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal
SAN DIEGO STATE
San Diego State had just beaten Hawaii 20-10 to move to the top of the Mountain West’s West Division at 3-1. Though head coach Rocky Long was pleased, he wasn’t overly excited by what he believed was an average effort in beating the undermanned Rainbow Warriors heading into a bye week.
“The number one objective is to win. And we won tonight,” Long said. “I don't think we can play like we did tonight and win the championship. And so obviously we've got to get better. We're not where we need to be. We've got to get better.”
The Aztecs got another big game from D.J. Pumphrey, who ran for 182 yards and scored his 12th rushing touchdown of the season. And they got another strong effort from their defense, which forced three turnovers and gave up only 96 yards rushing to a team that was averaging 162 yards per game.
But SDSU still is having some trouble in its passing game with dropped balls and some inaccuracy by senior QB Quinn Kaehler, who started against Hawaii after missing two starts with a sprained shoulder. The Aztecs passed for only 174 yards against the Warriors, and in the past two games have only 247 yards through the air.
Asked in which areas his team needs to improve, Long said, “We have to cover kickoffs better, punt better, catch the ball better, throw it better. We have to rush the passer better when we only rush four guys. We can't give up Hail Mary passes. Want me to keep going?”
The Aztecs gave up a late desperation touchdown pass to Hawaii at the end of the first half that closed SDSU’s lead to 10-7.
Next game: Nov. 1 at Nevada
Notable: For their showdown at Nevada after the bye, the Aztecs might have two key figures back: senior receiver Ezell Ruffin, who has missed all but the first game with a broken collarbone, and junior linebacker Jake Fely, who has been out all year while recovering from a fractured vertebrae in his neck. At sophomore D.J. Pumphrey’s current rushing pace, by the regular season’s end he would become the ninth all-time rusher at SDSU. He is currently 16th. Pumphrey has eclipsed 100 yards in five of seven games this season, and the Aztecs are 7-1 in two seasons when he breaks the 100-yard barrier. Pumphrey is only 10 yards shy of reaching 1,000 for this season. Pumphrey, 19, said he was inspired on Saturday by the presence at Qualcomm Stadium of his 2-year-old daughter, Maliya, who lives in Las Vegas with her mother. He has eclipsed 100 yards in five of seven games this season, and the Aztecs are 7-1 in two seasons when he breaks the 100-yard barrier. Kicker Donny Hageman has made 10 of his 12 field-goal attempts. The Aztecs were successful on only eight field goals all last season.
— Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN JOSE STATE
The most improved unit in America leads San Jose State as it returns to the site of one of its all-time great performances.
The Spartans take on Navy and its vaunted triple-option offense on Saturday in Annapolis, Md., the site of their 2012 shutout victory. San Jose State held Navy to just 144 yards of offense and just 70 rushing yards — the lowest rushing total of Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo’s tenure.
Last year’s game was dramatically different than that 12-0 victory that featured no touchdowns scored on either side. Navy won the 2013 game 58-52 in triple overtime. The Mids rushed for 432 yards, with quarterback Keenan Reynolds going for 240 yards and an FBS record for a quarterback seven touchdowns.
San Jose State hopes Saturday’s game more closely resembles the 2012 game and has some hope thanks to its defense. The unit is ranked No. 12 in the nation, allowing 313 yards per game.
The Spartans have jumped up 91 spots in the national rankings from last year’s group that ranked No. 103. No unit in the country — offense or defense — can claim that high of a jump. In terms of yards allowed, they’ve improved by 146.9 yards per game, also the nation’s best.
Safe to say coach Ron Caragher is thrilled he was able to hire defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.
“It’s been a great addition to San Jose State and really just what we needed,” Caragher said. “I think we had a nucleus of players that are talented and now it’s a matter of molding the clay. It’s been a really good addition and I’m looking forward to finishing strong.”
Facing the triple option will be tough and different than anything the Spartans have seen this year, but the Spartans feel prepared for it in large part thanks to their improved tackling ability.
“I think that’s one thing that I feel confident we’re doing this year is open-field tackling, taking proper angles to the ball carriers,” Caragher said.
That will definitely be a key on Saturday.
Next game: at Navy, 11 a.m. MT Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Notable: Starting freshman left guard Jeremiah Kolone is out indefinitely with a left knee injury that likely involved his ACL and MCL. Results of his MRI taken on Monday were not yet available. Backup guard Keith Bendixen is also out indefinitely with an undisclosed condition. Redshirt freshman A.J. Samataua will start in Kolone’s place. Running back Jarrod Lawson, the team’s leading rusher in 2013, was suspended for six games last week for a second violation of team rules unrelated to the one that led to his two-game suspension to start the season. He’ll be eligible to return for the season finale against San Diego State if he avoids further trouble.
— Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
With Utah State down to its third-team quarterback, UNLV is preparing for the unknown this week.
Senior Craig Harrison will make just his second career start when the teams meet Saturday in Logan, Utah.
He replaces backup Darell Garretson, who injured a wrist in Saturday's 16-13 loss at Colorado State. Garretson had been the replacement for the second season in a row for Chuckie Keeton, who again is out with a knee injury.
Harrison completed 5 of 12 passes for 28 yards in his appearance at Colorado State.
"We got a look at him the second half of the Colorado State game, and they didn't change a whole bunch," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. "They've got some other things they do offensively that we'll have to be ready for. We can't predict their play call, but they've got a guy that's played some."
If Harrison falters or gets injured, the Aggies could turn to freshman Kent Myers, who is redshirting. It obviously would be a last resort.
Either way, the Rebels expect Utah State to take a conservative approach and try to win with its running game and defense.
But Hauck said his team had to be aware the Aggies might take chances, too.
"We'll try to get ourselves ready for" the run game, Hauck said. "Early in the game, they'll probably try to throw a few down the field to try to back us off, I suppose, so we've got to be ready."
Next game: at Utah State, 2 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPNews
Notable: UNLV is the only school nationally that has not lost a fumble. ... The Rebels won two of their past four games at Utah State, though the Aggies lead the series 14-7 overall. ... Eleven of the 21 games in this series have been decided by a touchdown or less. ... Quarterback Blake Decker has three 300-yard passing games, tying Colorado State's Garrett Grayson and Nevada's Cody Fajardo for tops in the Mountain West. ... Wide receiver Devante Davis is expected to miss his fourth game in a row because of an injured wrist.
— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal