The Mountain West is off to a horrible start to the 2015 football season.
The conference has lost 21 consecutive non-conference games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams, a streak that started after Boise State beat Washington on Sept. 4. Hawaii also beat Colorado on Sept. 3.
The past two weekends have been dreadful — 0-10 and 0-10. The only wins on those two weekends were a pair against FCS teams and Air Force’s conference win against San Jose State.
Some opportunities to break the hex are on the schedule this week, but all three are on the road: Boise State at Virginia, Nevada at Buffalo and Colorado State at UTSA.
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The Mountain West was 17-24 in FBS non-conference games during the regular season last year. The league is 2-21 this year.
Here’s the losing streak:
Northern Illinois 38, UNLV 30
Utah 24, Utah State 14
Minnesota 23, Colorado State 20 (OT)
Eastern Michigan 48, Wyoming 29
California 35, San Diego State 7
Ole Miss 73, Fresno State 21
Ohio State 38, Hawaii 0
Arizona 44, Nevada 20
Tulsa 40, New Mexico 21
UCLA 37, UNLV 3
BYU 35, Boise State 24
Arizona State 34, New Mexico 10
Texas A&M 44, Nevada 27
Michigan State 35, Air Force 21
Michigan 28, UNLV 7
Washington 31, Utah State 17
Colorado 27, Colorado State 24 (OT)
South Alabama 34, San Diego State 27 (OT)
Oregon State 35, San Jose State 21
Washington State 31, Wyoming 14
Utah 45, Fresno State 24
Below is this week’s Mountain West Football Report, written by beat writers from around the league:
Next game: Oct. 3 at Navy
Boise State plans to employ a two-quarterback system Friday at Virginia to replace injured starter Ryan Finley.
Finley sustained a broken bone in his right ankle last week against Idaho State. He'll be out for about eight weeks.
Sophomore Tommy Stuart and true freshman Brett Rypien replaced Finley against Idaho State, leading the team to 45 of its 52 points. Stuart entered first, as previously planned, until coaches were convinced Finley's injury was significant enough to justify playing Rypien.
Neither had played in a major college football game before. Stuart was 9-for-13 for 69 yards and a touchdown with three sacks and 46 rushing yards. Rypien was 8-for-9 for 126 yards while leading four scoring drives in four tries.
Both will play against Virginia, coach Bryan Harsin said.
"I did like the combination of Tommy and Ryp," Harsin said. "What type of packages we put together this week and how much each one is going to have an opportunity to go in there and run it, that’s still a work in progress. ... I feel good about the quarterback position."
Offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz will use the quarterbacks in slightly different roles to capitalize on their strengths. Stuart is a speedy runner; Rypien is a prototypical pocket passer.
"The advantages are I know exactly what we’re going to do for each guy and can get those guys those reps and play to their strengths and I don’t know that anybody else does," Drinkwitz said. "I don’t think the outside world does. We’ll have a little bit of new things for them."
Next game: at Virginia, 6 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN)
Notable: DE Gabe Perez, a key backup, will redshirt and have shoulder surgery. He hadn't played yet this season. ... DE Rondell McNair will miss about four weeks with a knee injury. ... RB Jeremy McNichols has scored eight touchdowns, putting him on pace to shatter the single-season school record. ... The Broncos have allowed 137 rushing yards this season at 1.7 yards per carry.
— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
Running backs, receivers and quarterbacks spend time at the start of every practice focusing on ball security. Defensive backs and linebackers work on intercepting passes and every defensive player is drilled over and over again on ways to strip the ball and force fumbles.
Yet, through three games this season, Colorado State’s football team has turned the ball over 11 times and taken it away just four. The Rams’ minus-7 turnover margin is tied for next-to-last among the nation’s 128 Football Bowl Subdivision programs, just one turnover ahead of Cincinnati.
Colorado used a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown Saturday to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter and went on to beat CSU 27-24 in overtime. A week earlier, running back Dalyn Dawkins fumbled after catching a short pass on the first play of overtime, allowing Minnesota to play conservatively on its OT possession and beat the Rams with a field goal, 23-20.
The Rams had two takeaways in their season opener, recovering a fumbled snap in the end zone for an early touchdown and an interception, and two fumble recoveries against Minnesota. Colorado didn’t turn the ball over once.
The Rams have first-year starters at quarterback, running back and at three positions along the offensive line, not to mention a new offensive system under first-year coach Mike Bobo. So some turnovers, the coach said Monday, are inevitable.
But the Rams have made far too many, turning it over five times (three fumbles and two interceptions) against Savannah State, four times (two fumbles and two interceptions) against Minnesota and twice (two interceptions) against Colorado.
"It comes down to your fundamentals of holding the football," Bobo said. "… We’ll continue our ball security (drills), we’ll continue talking about the little things as far as your progressions and your feet as a quarterback.
"But we’re not going to take a knee every down and say, ‘if we just don’t turn it over.’ We’ve got to play football. We’ve just got to do a better job protecting the ball."
Bobo said the Rams will start switching units whenever turnovers occur during full-team drills in practice as a reward for the defense, allowing them to get off the field for a minute or two and rest, and punishment for the offense, which won’t be able to complete its drives.
"You get a turnover, ‘Hey, celebrate. Great job.’ Kind of just reward it a little more, make sure they’re more aware of it, because sometimes you get a turnover in team, and you’re lining up and playing the next play and not realizing that, ‘Hey I just got a turnover. How big is that?’ That you get to get off the field, that you get to set up the offense."
Next game: at UTSA, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: All-American Rashard Higgins returned against Colorado after missing the previous game with a foot sprain and led the Rams receivers with eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. … Two starting defenders, cornerback DeAndre Elliott and linebacker Kiel Robinson, missed the Colorado game with concussion-like symptoms but could return this week, Bobo said. … CSU’s live sheep mascot, CAM the Ram, died of old age the morning of the Colorado game. His successor, CAM No. 25, was on the CSU sideline during the game in Denver. … Although CSU has two players on the preseason watch list for the Mackey Award as the nation’s outstanding tight end, the Rams tight ends have just two catches in the past two games and six for the season.
— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
Friday, the New Mexico Lobos lost 34-10 at Arizona State — a loss no worse, perhaps a little better, than expected.
It's UNM's 40-21 loss to Tulsa the week before that has an echo.
That week, UNM coach Bob Davie talked at length about the importance of the Tulsa outcome to the 2015 season at large. "Pivotal" was a word he used.
Clearly, the folks who make bowl projections online saw it that way.
Several preseason projections had New Mexico playing in the postseason for the first time since 2007.
SB Nation projected the Lobos (1-2) to be playing at home against UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl. The Associated Press' college football site had UNM staying in town as well, but against Louisiana Tech. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com had New Mexico facing Maryland (and former Lobos head coach Mike Locksley, now the Terrapins' offensive coordinator) in the Armed Forces Bowl.
And after the loss to Tulsa? The projectionists dropped the Lobos like a crazily bouncing football. In last week's projections, and this week's, UNM is nowhere to be found.
Clearly, a win over Tulsa was viewed as a must if New Mexico was to get the six victories necessary for bowl eligibility.
Davie, saying he saw some improvement in the loss to ASU, isn't buying it.
"There's not much margin for error, but at least we're there and we're competitive and we've got a chance to win every week," he said Monday morning in an interview on Albuquerque radio station KNML-AM. "I look for some good things coming up here."
Next game: at Wyoming, 1 p.m. MT Saturday (Root Sports)
Notable: Sophomore Lamar Jordan and junior Austin Apodaca both played at quarterback at Arizona State. It was the third straight game in which both have played. Davie, saying he hasn't been satisfied with either, said both probably will play at Wyoming. ... The Lobos' 184 yards rushing against Arizona State was their lowest total since they managed only 152 against San Diego State last Oct. 10. Davie said he felt the offensive line actually improved against ASU, but said UNM needs to "tweak things" to get the ball to its running backs in more advantageous situations. ... There were no significant injuries at ASU. The question is whether offensive lineman Garrett Adcock (knee) and cornerback Isaiah Brown (ankle), who were held out against the Sun Devils, are healthy enough to go at Wyoming.
— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
Utah State senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton will miss 4-6 weeks because of a sprained knee, coach Matt Wells said Tuesday.
Sophomore Kent Myers will replace Keeton as Utah State's starter against Colorado State on Oct. 3. The Aggies have a bye this week.
Keeton has played only 12 games since the 2012 season because of injuries. He started all three of the Aggie games this year, including a 12-9 win over Southern Utah and losses to Utah (24-14) and Washington (31-17).
Asked if this week's bye comes at a good time, Utah State coach Matt Wells smiled and said, "It’s great timing … (But) I don’t know any coach who ever says it’s not a great time for a bye."
For the Aggies, the healing won’t be physical. It will be mental and emotional. Against Utah, they were tied at halftime, 14-14. Against Washington, they trailed 17-10 early in the third quarter, with Utah State in possession near midfield.
The bye week, Wells said, "… will come with reflection, starting with me as the head coach. Am I giving our staff and am I giving our players a good enough chance to be successful? … What it’s going to do is cause a lot of internal reflection on who we are."
Despite losing to the Utes and Huskies, Utah State’s top priority remains intact.
"The No. 1 goal for our program," Wells said, "is to compete for a Mountain West championship and our kids know that. … That has not been our focus so far. But it will become our focus. We’ll be energized when we get back to work — the kids will — and we’ll learn from this. To me, it’s about how we move forward in the Mountain West."
Utah State’s players sound ready for the challenge.
"I know we have it in us," said running back LaJuan Hunt. "We’ve just got to keep playing hard. We’ve got to keep up the juice for all four quarters — all 60 minutes — like coach says. Once we do that, we’ll be a complete team and it’ll turn out different than it did" against Utah and Washington.
Said free safety Devin Centers: "We’ve got Mountain West play to look forward to and our team’s going to be ready. That’s where we’re at right now."
Next game: vs. Colorado State, Oct. 3
Notable: Centers intercepted a pass from freshman quarterback Jake Browning on the first play of the second half against Washington. It was the first takeaway by Utah State’s defense this season. … The Aggies struggled on offense. They rushed for only 83 yards. They drove for one touchdown, but a 23-yard field goal was set up by Hunter Sharp’s 60-yard kickoff return. Their other touchdown came after a 97-yard fumble return by redshirt freshman safety Jontrell Rocquemore. It was the second-longest fumble return in school history. … With 193 total yards against Washington, Keeton moved into second place on the school’s career list with 8,233. … Sharp returned from a two-game suspension for violating team rules. In addition to his kickoff return, he caught six passes for 74 yards. "I think he came out and played well," Wells said. "We have to continue to get the ball to him in different ways. He's a good receiver. He's a strong runner after the catch. He's a guy who has to make plays for us when we get into Mountain West play."
— Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune
There was some improvement for the Cowboys in their 31-14 loss at Washington State last week.
Sophomore running back Brian Hill ran for 139 yards, and the return of redshirt senior starting quarterback Cameron Coffman from a knee injury saw him go 25 of 36 for 296 yards with two touchdowns. Wyoming's defense generated its first turnover of the season with an interception by redshirt freshman walk-on strong safety Marcus Epps. It also had three quarterback sacks after only one in the first two games combined.
However, the offense squandered chances to tie or possibly take the lead in the second half when it had the ball in Washington State territory, and the defense gave up two scoring plays of 35 and 36 yards.
Wyoming (0-3) hopes to snap a five-game home losing streak dating back to last season when it hosts New Mexico (1-2) Saturday in its Mountain West opener.
Coach Craig Bohl was asked if the conference opener serves as a new start for his team, and said this game must serve as chance for continued improvement across the board for a squad that has played 24 true or redshirt freshmen.
"As a team we've taken each week as a new slate," he said. "While there's great optimism because we're in conference play, our main goal is to take another step forward to improve as a football team."
Next game: vs. New Mexico, 1 p.m. MT Saturday (Root Sports)
Notable: Sophomore starting cornerback Robert Priester must sit out the first half this week after being ejected in the second half at Washington State for targeting. True freshman Antonio Hull and redshirt freshman C.J. Jennings will compete this week in practice to see who starts. ... True freshman Kevin Prosser was moved from linebacker to defensive end last week and recorded a sack at Washington State. Prosser is 6-foot-2, 197 pounds and is the backup this week to senior Siaosi Hala'api'api. ... Wyoming started two true freshmen on the right side of the offensive line last week in guard Kaden Jackson and tackle Zach Wallace. Both received solid grades from the coaching staff, and both likely will start again this week. ... Despite being 0-for-3 on field goals, including having one blocked at Washington State, Bohl said he is sticking with true freshman walk-on kicker Tristan Bailey. Bohl said Bailey has developed a "mental block" kicking field goals, but is convinced the coaches can work with him to break it.
— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports
Fresno State had a quarterback competition, now it has a quandary after third-year sophomore Zack Greenlee was arrested early Sunday morning for public drunkenness and freshman Chason Virgil was ruled out for the season on Monday with a broken clavicle.
Greenlee, who came off the bench and threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes in the Bulldogs’ 45-21 loss to Utah, will practice this week but his status for the Bulldogs’ Mountain West Conference opener at San Jose State at this point is unclear.
"We’re aware of the incident. We’re gathering details and we’ll withhold further comment until the investigative process plays out," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "Discipline will be handled internally. He will practice this week and Saturday we’ll make another announcement on it."
If Greenlee is suspended for a half or the game, the Bulldogs would have two scholarship quarterbacks available to start or play in junior transfer Ford Childress and redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson.
Childress, who started his career at West Virginia, has played in one game with the Bulldogs, getting reps at the end of a blowout loss at Ole Miss. He threw two passes; one was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Anderson, who fell out of a four-way competition for the starting job after the first scrimmage in fall camp, has not yet played a down for the Bulldogs.
Greenlee, Childress and Anderson all got reps with the No. 1 offense on Monday when the Bulldogs held a brief practice to introduce the game plan for their conference opener at San Jose State.
Virgil, who earned the start against Utah, was injured at the end of a 9-yard run in the fourth quarter in the Utes’ red zone. He was replaced by Greenlee, who finished that drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Josiah Blandin, and later in the quarter threw an 82-yard touchdown pass to Jamire Jordan and a 32-yard touchdown strike to Da’Mari Scott.
The injury to the freshman quarterback was not believed to be serious immediately after the game, but an X-ray revealed the fracture. Fresno State, DeRuyter said, would seek a medical redshirt for Virgil, who had graduated early from West Mesquite High outside of Dallas so that he could enroll in school in time to participate in spring practices.
"Obviously, he’s disappointed," DeRuyter said. "He felt that he was making gains – we all did. But I think this is a tremendous opportunity for him. We’re obviously going to petition the NCAA to get this year back for him. It’ll be another chance for him to learn. He’ll get to see this season out. He won’t compete, obviously. But he’ll get another spring, another fall.
"Having this experience and having next fall be his redshirt freshman year I think is really an advantage for him. Academically he’ll have a chance to hopefully get an advanced degree by the time he’s done here and obviously with the experience he won’t be a true redshirt freshman he’ll be a redshirt freshman that has played in a few games."
Next game: at San Jose State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Fresno State hired Jimmy Morimoto away from UNLV for a newly created director of player personnel position. "Recruiting is such a vital part of a Division I football program and to have a guy whose sole purpose is to everyday think about recruiting, not have to worry necessarily about Xs and Os, is going to be huge," DeRuyter said. "He has a network of contacts on the entire West Coast, in Hawaii and in Samoa, that I think is going to enhance our recruiting profile and expand our footprint. Having those contacts gives you access to some players that maybe we didn’t have that access to before." Morimoto has been the Rebels’ director of player personnel for the past six years. … If Childress starts as quarterback in the MW opener at San Jose State, the Bulldogs won’t have to cut back the play sheet to a point where it can be printed on a 3 x 5 index card. "No, I don’t run as much, but it shouldn’t shrink at all,’’ he said. "I’m feeling very comfortable about it. Every rep I take, every practice I get better. It’s all about studying the film, getting in my playbook, just make it second nature.’’ … With two fumbles recoveries and one interception in a loss to No. 21 Utah, the Bulldogs moved up to a tie for 10th in the nation in turnovers gained with eight. That’s the good news. The bad news is they are tied for 76th in turnover margin at minus-0.33, having turned over the ball nine times. … Wideout Delvon Hardaway, who has been rehabbing a knee injury suffered in the spring, has been cleared for contact and could play some this week at San Jose State.
— Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
As one of two FBS teams to play 13 regular-season games without a bye, the Rainbow Warriors figured good health would be a concern. Running back Diocemy Saint Juste has missed the first three games, and wideouts Quinton Pedroza and Vasquez Haynes were not available in Saturday’s 47-27 victory over UC Davis.
Two late-summer additions — Paul Harris and Melvin Davis — combined for three touchdowns. Harris scored on a 95-yard run, the longest in school history. Davis, now 233 pounds after losing 18 pounds in five weeks, powered his way on TD runs of 1 and 5 yards.
Wideout Devan Stubblefield and inside linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams completed comebacks from identical ACL/meniscus injuries that sidelined them in 2014. Against UC Davis, Stubblefield had six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. Stubblefield, who is a Saint Louis School alumnus (Marcus Mariota’s alma mater), hopes to resume his baseball career during the spring semester. Garcia-Williams, who moved from outside linebacker to the inside during training camp, had a career-high 15 tackles, including 12 solo stops. With Pedroza expected back for this week’s game against Wisconsin, Stubblefield likely will rotate between left and right wideout.
Next game: at Wisconsin, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (Big Ten Network)
Notable: This will be the Warriors’ second trip to the Midwest in two weeks. They earned $1.2 million for the Ohio State game. The Wisconsin check will be $1.1 million. The Warriors depart Wednesday on a non-stop, commercial flight to Chicago, where they will spend about seven hours in an O’Hare-area hotel. After dining on deep-dish pizza, they will make the 3-hour drive to Madison. … Strong safety Trayvon Henderson (torn ACL) and long snapper Brian Hittner (spinal bruise) will miss the rest of the season. Henderson has five career interceptions for a defense that has produced one interception this season. Hittner was a specialty specialist, snapping only on punts. Noah Borden, who returned from a two-year church mission in May, is now the long-snapper. Brodie Nakama, whose father is San Jose State’s head baseball coach, is the snapper for field goals and PATs.
— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Nevada will learn more about itself in its game Saturday at Buffalo than it first three games combined.
The Wolf Pack opened the season against FCS foe UC Davis before playing two top-20 teams, Arizona and Texas A&M. Each of the games were decided by at least two touchdowns. When Nevada lines up against Buffalo, the rosters will look similar as the 2-point betting line in favor of the Bulls indicates.
Coach Brian Polian said it’d be "difficult to gauge" his team this far, but that will be solved shortly.
"The litmus test will start here over the next four or five weeks," Polian said.
The Wolf Pack is one of just three teams in the nation to play two top-25 team in the Sagarin ratings, joining Texas-San Antonio and Virginia on that list. However, the schedule softens greatly over the rest of the season. Nevada’s final nine opponents have an average Sagarin rating of 115, with the most-difficult remaining opponent, per Sagarin, being Utah State, which has a rating of 74th nationally.
Polian said his team took a step forward from week two to week three. Nevada lost to Arizona at home by 24 points on Sept. 12 before dropping a 17-point decision at Texas A&M last Saturday. Nevada was a 34-point underdog against the Aggies and while it didn’t claim a moral victory, it did say confidence could be gained from the outing. It hopes to carry some momentum from that game into Buffalo.
"The Mountain West doesn’t look like the Pac-12 and doesn’t look like the SEC," Polian said. "We’re going to move forward on the schedule and we will look like the people that we’re playing."
Next game: at Buffalo, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: Nevada’s trip to Buffalo checks in at 2,125 miles, which is the sixth-longest trip any FBS team will make this season within the continental United States. … Starting MLB Jordan Dobrich (muscle sprain) is questionable. TE Matt Moen (undisciplined non-orthopedic injury) is expected to miss his third straight game. DT Korey Rush (ankle), who missed last week’s game, is probable. … Wolf Pack associate head coach Jim Hofher, who coaches the team’s wide receivers, was Buffalo’s head coach from 2001 to 2005. He went 8-49 overall and 5-35 in the MAC in five seasons with the Bulls. Polian’s first full-time job as an assistant coach was at Buffalo, a program where he had two stints (1998 and 2001-03).
— Chris Murray/Reno Gazette-Journal
SAN DIEGO STATE
At 1-2, San Diego State’s football record after three games this season is the same as it was at this juncture last year. Similar, too, are many of the statistics.
The Aztecs have scored 71 points; they scored 72 last year. They’ve allowed 72 points this year; they gave up 66 a year ago. They had 59 first downs last year; they have 60 this year.
They’ve allowed fewer passing yards this season (700 to 726) while yielding more on the ground (484 to 352).
The difference is that there are higher expectations for this current group – and the quality of South Alabama might have come as a surprise to casual observers – and that’s making Aztecs fans more restless than ever during head coach Rocky Long’s time here. They took to the message boards after Saturday’s 34-27 overtime loss to South Alabama to vent their frustration.
Another difficult test looms on Saturday when SDSU travels to Penn State before Mountain West play opens in two weeks at home against Fresno State.
"I thought we’d be better at this time than we are," Long said. "So we don’t have much more time left before the conference schedule starts. I anticipate that we’re going to make big-time improvements in the next week or two and play better in conference games than we have to this point."
What’s his feeling based on?
"I see more signs of us doing things the right way than we did two weeks ago. The offense had two really nice drives. We had one in the first two weeks. … We’re not a very good football team right now, but I see glimmers of hope."
The Aztecs have thus far been burned by the big play. Of the eight touchdowns they’ve allowed in regulation, four have gone for 46 yards or longer.
Long said they have missed the experience of safety Trey Lomax (dislocated knee cap) the last two weeks, missed linebacker Jake Fely (concussion-like symptoms following car accident) on run defense against South Alabama, and have yet to get consistent play at the "Mike" linebacker spot vacated by the graduated Cody Galea.
Quarterback Maxwell Smith continues to get mixed reviews from Long.
"He had some moments where he looked pretty good, and he had some moments where he looked like he didn’t belong out there," Long said after the game.
Long was asked if he was considering any change at the position.
"He’s our starting quarterback. It is what it is," Long said. "You can’t trade for another one."
With 165 total passing yards, the Aztecs raised their season average by only three yards to 159. They entered the game ranked 111th in the country in the category.
Next game: at Penn State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (Big Ten Network)
Notable: After having only 23 catches in 13 games last year, Pumphrey is the leading receiver through Week 3 with nine catches for 92 yards. His 33 touches (25 rushing, eight receiving) against the Jaguars eclipsed his previous career high of 27 last year against Boise State. … Aztecs LB Jake Fely missed the 30th game of his career with concussion-like symptoms following a car accident. …Long said the defense has missed the steady play of safety Trey Lomax, who has been out the two losses with a dislocated knee cap.
— Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN JOSE STATE
Even after coach Ron Caragher settled on his permanent starting quarterback going forward, that important position remains a question mark.
Kenny Potter was named the team's starter entering last week's game against Oregon State and he was on his way to backing up his coach's decision when he suffered an ankle sprain on the first play of the second quarter and was sidelined the rest of the night.
That loss should have been mitigated considering how close the competition had been between Potter and senior Joe Gray. But Gray struggled in probably his toughest outing as a Spartan and SJSU finished the game with No. 3 Malik Watson behind center.
Potter's status for this week's crucial matchup with rival Fresno State is uncertain. Both he and his coach have expressed optimism that he can suit up against the Bulldogs. But one of Potter's key attributes is his ability to scramble and make things happen with his legs.
A high ankle sprain — as the injury was believed to be pending the results of an MRI on Monday — could certainly take some of Potter's mobility away and turn him into a pocket passer, taking away his biggest strength.
If Potter can't go, it doesn't seem to be an automatic that Caragher will go right back to Gray. Caragher has consistently emphasized the need for Gray to cut down on the critical mistakes that stalled the team often in 2014 and benched him against Oregon State after he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown to put the Spartans down by two scores.
With a matchup at Auburn to follow this Fresno State home contest, SJSU has to show some desperation to get a win to avoid a 1-4 start.
With other future games against BYU and Boise State down the road, a loss to the rival Bulldogs would take away any margin for error. If the Spartans want to sniff the postseason, they would have to pull a major upset against Auburn, BYU or Boise State if they can't otherwise run the table against a schedule that includes challenging trips to Nevada, where they haven't won since 2000, and an improved Hawaii.
Next game: vs. Fresno State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: This is the 79th meeting between Fresno State and San Jose State, which accounts for almost 8 percent of the Spartans' all-time games. The Bulldogs lead the series 35-40-3. The teams have split the last four meetings. Since 2013, the winner of this game has been awarded the Valley Trophy. San Jose State took the hardware in the inaugural game when it upset then-No. 16 Fresno State 62-52. The Bulldogs got their hands on the trophy last year with a 38-24 home win.
— Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
Now UNLV gets to show whether hope truly exists for this season after opening with a bruising three-game stretch.
The Rebels (0-3) lost at Northern Illinois, to UCLA and at Michigan, and though they showed some promising signs in those games, they still haven’t proven what they could accomplish against comparable competition.
With Idaho State (1-2), a Football Championship Subdivision team, visiting Sam Boyd Stadium this Saturday, the Rebels have an excellent chance to get in the victory column. UNLV will need to find a way to win to have any chance to make something of this season.
Coach Tony Sanchez is trying to establish a higher standard for a program that has struggled for many years, and he nor his players were happy after Saturday’s 28-7 loss at Michigan despite a fairly promising effort
"We didn't come here for moral victories," he said. "We didn't come here to look good. I'm proud of the idea that we fought, and we forced people into the fourth quarter and that people had to keep playing against us. I'm disappointed in the result, but I know if everybody stays the course and continues to improve, we're going to win football games."
Next game: vs. Idaho State, 7 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: Quarterback Blake Decker started at Michigan after suffering an injury near his groin a week earlier against UCLA. Sanchez said the determination was made Thursday to play Decker. "I talked to the training staff," Decker said. "It's kind of a weird spot to injure it. It's not a very common injury in football, just the way that I tweaked it. So after testing it out in practice, I felt good coming out here." Decker completed 8 of 16 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions. … Decker’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Devonte Boyd with 9:17 left ended a seven-quarter touchdown dry spell for UNLV. … The Rebels will try to avoid starting 0-4 for the first time since 2004. … UNLV is on a nine-game losing streak, which is the second longest nationally. New Mexico State has lost 13 in a row. This also is UNLV’s longest skid since losing 10 in a row in 2006.
— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal