Air Force players found the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy positioned in the middle of the locker room last week, a not-so-subtle reminder from the coaches of what was coming next.
Not that anybody around this program needed the hint.
There’s no greater goal for Falcons football players than to capture — or in this case, retain — that trophy. And for the past 18 years the trophy for the three-game round robin between Air Force, Army and Navy has gone to the winner of the Air Force-Navy tilt, which takes place Saturday in Annapolis, Md.
“Just the hype around this game in general, knowing our opponent and how good they are this year, it’s extremely exciting,” cornerback Roland Ladipo said.
Air Force (2-1) had an extra week to prepare for this game, as it had an opening in the schedule following a 35-21 loss at No. 2 Michigan State on Sept. 19.
Navy (3-0) defeated UConn 28-18 on Saturday.
At 5-1, this is the best combined winning percentage for Air Force and Navy at the time of their meeting since the game was moved to the first Saturday of October in 2000.
Air Force leads the overall series against Navy 28-19.
The team that wins or retains the trophy is invited to the White House to meet the president, as the Air Force seniors did this past May.
“This is a game we have to win,” senior outside linebacker Dexter Walker said. “It would be very disappointing for all of us, especially us seniors, to know we have the opportunity and if we go away with a loss it would be very frustrating and heartbreaking.”
Next game: at Navy, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Air Force cornerback Gavin McHenry will be eligible to play starting this week, as he completed a probation period for an undisclosed violation. McHenry had not been a cadet in good standing since March, meaning he could practice – as he had through fall camp – but not represent Air Force in an official competition. McHenry, a senior, started all 12 games as a sophomore in 2013 and appeared in 13 games last year, starting six. … Air Force’s home game against Wyoming on Oct. 10 was picked up by ESPN2 in the 8:15 p.m. time slot. Because it will be on one of ESPN’s top two networks, the Falcons will receive a $500,000 bonus.
— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette
Boise State true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien passed for 321 yards and three touchdowns in his first start last week at Virginia. He was 24-for-35 with a rating of 173.90.
The Broncos won 56-14 — just the second true road win against a Power Five team in program history.
Rypien replaced injured starter Ryan Finley and helped the Broncos produce their best offensive performance of the season with a pass-first game plan.
“It was expected,” sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols said. “We didn’t lose a beat with him getting in.”
Coaches attempted to tamp down the quickly forming hype about Rypien, who fans have considered the next great Broncos quarterback since the day he committed. As well as he played, coaches said, he made a bunch of obvious mistakes, too.
They also don’t seem worried about his mindset.
“He was the Washington state player of the year,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said after the game. “He’s been surrounded by that (hype) his whole life. I don’t think it will bother him. He’s a very humble kid. Believe me, when we watch the tape on Monday, he won’t be walking out of there thinking he’s a superstar.”
The Broncos have taken the approach of treating Rypien like any other starter. They didn’t simplify the game plan, they came out throwing against Virginia and they were hard on him while reviewing the game.
“We’re not easing into this with a freshman quarterback,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s a quarterback and he’s going to be expected to play like a quarterback in this system is expected to play. He was by no means perfect. There’s some things he’s got to get a lot better at for this offense to be as dynamic as it needs to be.”
Next game: vs. Hawaii, 8:15 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2)
Notable: Starting safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner is out indefinitely with a broken ankle bone. He is expected to return this season. ... Finley, the starter until he broke an ankle bone, has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges stemming from his April arrest. He received a withheld judgment, three months probation and 40 hours of community service. ... Safety Darian Thompson and cornerback Donte Deayon are tied for the lead among active FBS players with 16 career interceptions. ... The Broncos lead the nation in rush defense at 44.2 yards per game.
— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
Will Friend is moving upstairs on game days from now on, Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said Monday.
Friend, the Rams’ offensive coordinator and line coach, moved from the sideline to the press box for the second half Saturday night in a 33-31 win at UTSA, and the new perspective provided a big boost to the running game.
Although little changed in the statistical production of CSU’s ground game, with the Rams gaining 82 yards on 23 carries in the first half and 89 yards on 23 more carries in the second, the minor adjustments Friend suggested played a key role in the victory.
It was his input, Bobo said, that convinced the coach to call a quick toss to Jasen Oden out of a different formation and with a different motion than the Rams had ever tried in practice on a third-and-3 play from their own 27-yard line late in the game. Oden broke free for a 28-yard gain and first down that allowed CSU to keep alive a drive that ran off the final 5 minutes, 28 seconds of the clock to turn its two-point lead into a victory.
“It was something that Will saw that broke out for us, which was a huge play in the game,” Bobo said Monday at his weekly news conference.
The Rams used their ground game to hold the ball for 19:45 of the second half’s 30 minutes, running 41 offensive plays to UTSA’s 24.
Bobo, a first-year head coach, has no plans to abandon the play-calling duties. He’s seeing pass coverages just fine from the sidelines. He’s seeing what defenses are doing in the running game, too, but believes the perspective Friend can provide from the press box is more valuable to the Rams right now than having an offensive line coach on the sidelines to make important adjustments in blocking schemes, assignments and techniques.
“The eyes in the sky for the run game I think is very, very important,” Bobo said.
With Bobo in the press box calling plays and Friend on the sidelines as the offensive line coach and run-game coordinator last season on Mark Richt’s staff at Georgia, the Bulldogs offense ranked among the nation’s best in several statistical areas, including points per game (41.7, No. 8 nationally), rushing offense (255.0 a game, No. 12 nationally) and passing efficiency (157.86, No. 9 nationally) while scoring a school-record 537 points.
CSU is averaging 462.5 yards a game, second in the Mountain West and No. 36 nationally.
The other offensive assistants are doing a good job, too, Bobo said. But they don’t always use the same terminology as Bobo and Friend, and there’s no time for interpretation when you’re running an up-tempo offense and trying to get plays called and the ball snapped as quickly as possible.
“Where we’re at language-wise, everybody probably on the staff is not there yet,” Bobo said. “You know you’ve worked together for four years and known each other for 15 years and been talking the same terminology. And sometimes when we say stuff, it’s not quite communicated exactly, so I think it was a good thing getting him up there as far as being able to help with the run game.”
Next game: at Utah State, 5 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: With sophomore RB Dalyn Dawkins sidelined by a hamstring injury and senior Treyous Jarrells choosing to leave the program earlier in the week, Oden ran for a career-best 143 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries Saturday night. Dawkins, who ran for 118 yards a week earlier against Colorado, should be available this week, Bobo said. … CSU’s past three games have been decided by margins of three or fewer points. The last time that happened was in 2001, when the Rams lost 25-22 in overtime at Fresno State before beating UNLV 26-24 and Utah 19-17. … CSU’s next three games are against the teams it expects to battle for the MW Mountain Division title – at Utah State on Saturday, with home games the next two weeks against Boise State and Air Force. … WR Rashard Higgins had his second consecutive 100-yard receiving game at UTSA with five catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Higgins, a junior, had 10 100-yard receiving games in 2014 and two in 2013. … Zach Golditch, a sophomore offensive lineman who was shot in the neck during the Aurora Theater Shooting in 2012, is questionable for this week after spraining an ankle at UTSA. He started the first two games of the season at left tackle and the past two at left guard.
— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
New Mexico players and coaches were jubilant after last week’s 38-28 victory at Wyoming, for reasons completely valid despite the Cowboys’ winless record.
The win in Laramie gives UNM a 2-2 record entering October; a 1-3 record might have been a hole the Lobos couldn’t have climbed out of en route to their stated goal of at least six wins and bowl eligibility.
Winning a conference opener, something UNM hadn’t done since 2005, certainly was a milestone worth celebrating.
The way New Mexico won at Wyoming was significant as well. Its signature triple-option ground game, relatively ineffective in losses to Tulsa and Arizona State, was back in business against the Cowboys.
“We were kind of identity-less (the previous two weeks),” coach Bob Davie said. “... I thought (Wyoming) was a key game for us, a key, key game for us.”
The defense, meanwhile, effectively shut down Wyoming star running back Brian Hill: 49 yards on 17 carries.
As much as anything, though, the Wyoming victory creates momentum the Lobos can take into Saturday’s intrastate showdown against New Mexico State — a game against another winless (0-3) team that UNM can’t afford to lose.
“Make no mistake,” Davie said. “This is the biggest game of the year when all the dust settles.”
Next game: vs. New Mexico State, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (Root Sports)
Notable: Sophomore Lamar Jordan is free and clear as UNM’s full-time starting quarterback after his performance at Wyoming, Davie said on Monday. Jordan has started all four games but shared playing time with junior Austin Apodaca against Mississippi Valley State, Tulsa and Arizona State. Jordan rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown and passed for 107 and another TD in Laramie. ... Senior wide receiver Carlos Wiggins caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Jordan against Wyoming but has yet to break a big play this season in the return game. He has returned four kickoffs for touchdowns during his career, including one against New Mexico State in 2013. “It’s coming his week,” he said.
— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
Kent Myers is now driving the bus.
With senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton sidelined 4-6 weeks because of a sprained knee, Myers will start Utah State’s Mountain West Conference opener against Colorado State on Saturday.
Myers, a sophomore from Rowlett, Texas, is familiar with the spotlight.
After injuries knocked out the three quarterbacks in front of him last season — Keeton, Craig Harrison and Darell Garretson — Myers stepped in and performed well. He guided the Aggies to a 5-1 record in his six starts, including a 21-6 win over UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl.
According to coach Matt Wells, his players have put the emotionally jarring news of Keeton’s latest injury behind them.
“Those kids are all on the same page,” he said. “They understand the unfortunate part — [injuries] are part of the game. We wrap our arms around Chuckie. Everybody is sensitive to that injury and, at the same time, we all have to move on. And here we go.”
If Keeton misses six weeks, he could be available for Utah State’s final two regular-season games against Nevada (Nov. 21) and BYU (Nov. 28).
“He’s doing fine,” Wells said. “He’s going to get rehabbing and see where it goes.”
Senior receiver Devonte Robinson joked the biggest difference between Keeton and Myers is their size.
Keeton stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 210 pounds. Myers is listed as a 6-footer who weighs 196 pounds.
“I’m going to say there isn’t a big difference,” Robinson said. “Height-wise, yeah. A little. But I wouldn’t say there’s much of a difference. Chuckie has more experience than Kent … (but) they are both mobile and they can both throw. So not a big difference.”
Myers has not been made available to the media and won’t be until after the Colorado State game.
Next game: vs. Colorado State, 5 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPN3
Notable: Utah State and Colorado State have played 71 times. It is the third-longest series in Aggies history, trailing only Utah (112) and BYU (84). … All-time, Utah State is 37-37-2 against the Rams. … The Aggies rank last in the country in total offense (292.3), 119th in passing (179 yards) and 121st in rushing (113.3). … Utah State has scored five touchdowns in its first three games. But only three were scored by the offense. The other two came on an 88-yard punt return against Southern Utah and a 97-yard fumble return against Washington. … Colorado State receiver Rashard Higgins caught 10 passes for 187 yards in the Rams’ 16-13 win over Utah State last season. Said Wells: “He’s a tremendous talent. He makes the key catch. He makes the acrobatic catch. He makes the impossible catch. A year ago, I thought we had guys draped all over him and he’s (still) making catches. He’s got our respect. He’s got our players’ respect. He’s a very good player.”
— Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune
The 0-4 Cowboys continue to make changes with their defensive lineup in search of consistency and trying to prevent big plays.
The latest involves the linebackers. Junior Lucas Wacha moves from the weak side to the middle. Sophomore Tim Kamana replaces Wacha as the starter on the weak side. Kamana played the first four games on the strong side. Junior D.J. May, who played running back last season, remains the starter at the strong side.
Wacha leads UW with 36 tackles and 19 solo stops, and had a game-high 13 tackles in Wyoming’s 38-28 home loss to New Mexico last Saturday. He replaces junior Eric Nzeocha at middle linebacker.
Nzeocha, a tight end last season, started the first four games and is third on the team with 23 tackles. Nzeocha will back up Wacha this week, followed by junior Devin McKenna.
“We saw Lucas probably play one of his better games (against New Mexico), and we want to integrate him into the defense to make more plays,” coach Craig Bohl said. “We need more plays out of our (middle) linebacker.”
Wacha has played all three linebacker positions in UW’s 4-3 scheme.
“I think Lucas can give us a little more consistency at that position,” UW defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Steve Stanard said. “Our hopes are Lucas is going to enable us to start a little faster in the first half, and settle into the speed of the game.”
The Cowboys have allowed 101 points in the first half, and 40 in the second half.
Kamana started the first two games at strong-side linebacker. Stanard said moving to the weak side will put him in a more confined space, but added Kamana has “demonstrated to have linebacker eyes and is very capable of making this move.”
At cornerback, true freshman Antonio Hull makes his second straight start. Hull started against New Mexico at boundary cornerback for sophomore Robert Priester, who had to sit out the first half because he was ejected for a targeting penalty in the second half in the game at Washington State on Sept. 19.
This week, Priester will start at boundary cornerback. Hull starts at field cornerback.
One thing that has been consistent in the secondary has been lineup changes. If this week’s depth chart holds true, Wyoming will have its fifth different starting lineup in as many games.
Wyoming has allowed 12 plays of 30 yards or more, nine of which have gone for touchdowns. New Mexico scored on run plays of 56 and 43 yards, and on a 64-yard pass.
Next game: at Appalachian State, 1:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: Senior running back Shaun Wick, the team’s second-leading rusher with 97 yards, is out this week with concussion-like symptoms. Wick also missed about a week of fall camp with a concussion. ... Junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry leads the Mountain West in catches (26) and receiving yards (439). He left the New Mexico game late with bruised ribs. Bohl said he is probable against Appalachian State, but likely will be held out of practice early in the week. ... Redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman leads the MW in passing yards per game (314.7) and total offense (293.3 yards per game) and is second in pass efficiency (151) and touchdown passes (eight). ... Wyoming makes its longest road trip of the season — 1,573 miles — this week to Appalachian State, located in Boone, N.C., and a member of the Sun Belt Conference. This well be the Mountaineers’ first home nonconference game since they joined the FBS ranks last season.
— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports
While many FBS football programs count five quarterbacks among their 85 scholarship players, Fresno State keeps four with one walk on, which most years never becomes an issue. It might this season, though, after the Bulldogs lost another quarterback when junior transfer Ford Childress had to undergo surgery to repair what the athletic department described as an internal injury following a loss at San Jose State.
Childress is expected to miss the rest of the season and is the second quarterback in as many weeks to go down and out for the year, with freshman Chason Virgil suffering a broken clavicle in a loss to Utah.
“Sometimes when it rains it pours,” Coach Tim DeRuyter said. “But you know what, no one is going to feel sorry for the ‘Dogs so we better not feel sorry for ourselves, either.’’
Fresno State goes into a Mountain West road game at San Diego State on Saturday with Zack Greenlee set to return to the starting lineup – the third-year sophomore started the first two games, but lost the job to Virgil against Utah and then last week at San Jose State did not play after he was arrested for suspicion of public drunkenness and drinking in public a few hours after throwing three fourth-quarter touchdown passes in that loss to the Utes.
Redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson, who fell out of what was a four-way competition for the starting job after the first scrimmage in fall camp, is now the No. 2.
Freshman walk-on Jesse Hanckel is the No. 3, for emergency use only. Hanckel has been running the Bulldogs’ scout offense, and will continue to do so while trying to sneak in some reps with the Bulldogs’ play sheet each week when they are in 7-on-7 periods.
Childress completed 19 of 32 passes (59.4%) against the Spartans for 159 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and appeared fine when meeting with the media after the game. The Bulldogs’ quarterback told DeRuyter while being treated by medical personnel that he did not remember taking a hit during the game to cause the injury, but when the team returned from San Jose about 3 a.m. after a three-plus hour drive, he was not feeling well and unable to get off the bus.
“Kilton was back there with him and I’m up front and he comes and says, ‘Coach, we need a trainer’ so we called (head football athletic trainer Tony Hill) and he can’t get up, his stomach is hurting,” DeRuyter said. “We had the (team) doctors there, so they get the ambulance and they took him to Community Medical Center.”
Fresno State this season already has started three quarterbacks in its first four games – school game by game records are available only through 1979, but this is the first time since then that they have had more than two starters in one season.
Next game: at San Diego State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: The Bulldogs generated only 247 yards of total offense at San Jose State, their lowest output since DeRuyter and offensive coordinator Dave Schramm installed the up-tempo spread. Fresno State has been held to less than 300 yards three times since the switch – the Bulldogs had 254 yards in a loss to USC in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl and 255 yards in a loss to Rice in the 2014 Hawaii Bowl. … With the Spartans converting 7 of 10 third-down plays into first downs, Fresno State has now allowed its three FBS opponents to extend drives on 67.4% of their third-down plays (29 of 43). That is the worst mark in the Mountain West by 18.7 percentage points (Wyoming is 11th at 48.7%) and in the nation by 4.6 percentage points (North Texas is ranked 127th at 62.8%). Since 2007, there has been only one FBS team to allow subdivision opponents to convert at least 60% of their third-down plays into first downs over a season –Air Force in 2013, 60.1%. … San Jose State racked up 291 rushing yards against the Bulldogs with Tyler Ervin setting a school-record with 300 yards on 42 plays. The Spartans threw a lot of two-back sets at the Bulldogs, which they had defended fairly well that past two seasons even as the unit overall struggled. Evaluation time, DeRuyter said. “We have different schemes that we think fit our guys and the question all the time is, ‘Are we asking our guys to do something that they’re not capable of doing?’ “ he said. “If not, then you have to look at either changing the guy or changing the scheme. I thought that at times we executed well but at times we didn’t. We got hit in a blitz or two that was something we thought should be effective, but we didn’t execute it well.’’
— Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
After returning from their second road trip to the Midwest (Ohio State and Wisconsin) in three games, the Warriors were set to enjoy being at home for … four days. The Warriors are scheduled to depart for the mainland Thursday ahead of the Mountain West Conference opener against Boise State. This will be the Warriors’ third road trip this season, and second in a stint of four road games in five weeks.
Despite the heavy travel schedule, head coach Norm Chow has implemented a no-gripe policy. “Our guys like to play football,” Chow said. “We don’t care where we play, who we play, what time we play. We’re going to play the best we can.”
The past two games, the Warriors have received key contributions from players who didn’t join until this summer. Running backs Paul Harris and Mel Davis are junior-college transfers. Davis, who joined 16 days before the season opener, has lost 21 pounds and now weighs 230. But Davis has maintained his strength, averaging 3.13 yards after contact. Rigoberto Sanchez, another JC transfer, is the No. 1 kicker, out-dueling Mauro Bondi, who transferred in August after earning a bachelor’s degree at Nebraska.
The Warriors have shown restraint by not using freshman quarterback Aaron Zwahlen or linebacker Solomon Matautia this season. Both are redshirt candidates. Zwahlen was on ESPN’s top-300 list as a senior before serving a two-year church mission. Matautia was a two-time all-state safety.
Next game: at Boise State, 8:15 MT Saturday (ESPN2)
Notable: Defensive coordinator Tom Mason served as Boise State’s interim head coach in 1996. … After being held out of the UC Davis game the previous week because of knee issues, wideout Quinton Pedroza caught 10 passes for 134 yards against Wisconsin. … Wideout Makoa Camanse-Stevens parlayed a lateral into a 51-yard option throw to Paul Harris. Camanse-Stevens is a former high school quarterback who played the position until the middle of his sophomore year at Arizona Western College. He then switched to wideout. Camanse-Stevens was set to “retire” from football until UH responded to his query.
— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
The Nevada football team doesn’t sell out many games, but this week should be an exception.
For its rivalry game against UNLV on Saturday, the Wolf Pack had sold all but 4,000 of its tickets for 30,000-capacity Mackay Stadium by Monday afternoon and was out of general admission tickets by Tuesday. Since 2000, Nevada has sold out seven games (four against Boise State, two against UNLV and one against Cal), but this week’s game, with a 4 p.m. kickoff, is trending in that direction.
“I expect a full house,” Wolf Pack coach Brian Polian said. “I’ll be upset if it’s not.”
More than 2,000 students lined up for tickets on campus before the sun rose Monday and student tickets were gone before the day ended. For a program like Nevada that struggles to draw, seeing tickets in high demand was a good feeling for Polian, who greeted the students Monday at 5:30 a.m.
“I saw the coolest thing I’ve seen since I moved here,” Polian said. “This morning, they distributed the tickets by hand to the students. They started camping out (the) night (before) and the line wrapped all the way around the (Lombardi) Rec Center down to the front of the Joe (Crowley Student Union).”
The Wolf Pack’s last sellout was last season when Nevada hosted Boise State. The Pack also sold out the last home game against UNLV, a 27-22 loss in 2013. Polian is hopeful for an amped crowd Saturday.
“I’m hopeful that place will be rocking and rolling,” Polian said.
Next game: vs. UNLV, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: Wolf Pack defensive tackle Rykeem Yates was suspended for the UNLV game. He was suspended one half for targeting versus Buffalo and one half because it was his second violation. … Sophomore TE Matt Moen is out for the season with an undisclosed non-football injury. Moen played as a true freshman last season, so he will use his redshirt this season and have three years of eligibility. … True freshman safety Dameon Baber was named the MW defensive player of the week after posting 10 tackles and two interceptions in his college debut against Buffalo. … Nevada has won nine of the last 10 games against its rival UNLV.
— Chris Murray/Reno Gazette-Journal
SAN DIEGO STATE
It is a coincidence that has become a trend.
Now, what to do about it?
San Diego State has made turnovers within the final two minutes of the first half in three straight games, costing the Aztecs momentum, if not, in fact, victories.
First it was an interception at Cal. Then it was a lost fumble against South Alabama. And now a muffed punt and lost fumble against Penn State that turned a one-point lead into a 13-point halftime deficit in a 37-21 loss to the Nittany Lions.
“Two weeks in a row is coincidence, but three weeks in a row you have no idea why,” San Diego State head coach Rocky Long said. “If it was always the same player, you replace the player. But it’s not. Every week it’s somebody different, and they’re good guys. They’re not trying to do it.”
Long said it is something to be discussed but not dwelled on as the Aztecs (1-3) prepare to host Fresno State (1-3) in Saturday’s Mountain West opener.
“We obviously talk about it,” Long said. “When you try to run out the clock you talk about it before you send them out there and all those sort of things.
“We’ll talk about it again. But it doesn’t do any good to dwell on it. Hopefully, that’s behind us. Usually it balances out. Maybe near the end of the season we’ll have two games where those things happen for us.”
Meantime, Maxwell Smith’s status as starting quarterback remains certain.
“He’s still the starter,” Long said. “We’re trying to let Maxwell settle in and get us to a conference championship.”
Smith completed 10-of-29 passes for 141 yards and one touchdown against Penn State. He also had a fourth-quarter fumble that was returned 71 yards for a touchdown.
Long believes Smith’s performance was a product of his protection.
“He wasn’t protected very well when he was trying to throw the ball,” Long said. “We’ve got to protect him better.”
It should get easier. Penn State’s front four included three players who, in Long’s estimation, have NFL futures.
“That’s probably as good of a front four as we’ve played against in a long time, and I don’t know if we’ll play against one as good as that anytime soon,” Long said. “You’ve got to give them some credit once in a while.”
Next game: vs. Fresno State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey continued his slow start. He had a season-low 56 yards rushing against Penn State and has run for more than 100 yards in one of four games this season. He had only three sub-100 games all last season. … The Aztecs head into the conference schedule having not experienced major injuries to key players. The one concern is at offensive line, which has struggled at times with three new starters. Senior starting left guard Nico Siragusa is being hampered by an ankle injury. He came out early against Penn State. … Sophomore running back Rashaad Penny’s 100-yard kickoff return against Penn State was his second of the season, making him only the second Aztec to have kickoff returns for TDs in the same season.
— Kirk Kenney and Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN JOSE STATE
The Spartans — and maybe specifically Tyler Ervin — announced their presence as West Division contenders with their sound and impressive 49-23 win over Fresno State.
It was their most lopsided win over their rivals since 1990, when they crushed the Bulldogs 42-7 in the regular season finale to capture the Big West Conference title.
Ervin set a school record with his 300 yards rushing and was one shy of the record with his 42 carries. Along with an efficient game from quarterback Joe Gray (20 of 23, 252 yards, three touchdowns), San Jose State displayed the type of offense that might make it the new early favorite in a wide-open West Division.
The trick will be taking this act on the road. The Spartans have dominated in both of their home games, which also includes an opening 43-13 win over FCS foe New Hampshire. But they’ve fallen apart in the second half both times they’ve gone on the road.
That’s crucial because the next two games are away from home, starting Saturday at Auburn. That meeting is mostly about the $1.6 million paycheck, but after the Tigers needed overtime to beat Jacksonville State of the FCS and have looked decidedly mediocre this year, there’s suddenly a feeling the Spartans could keep that game competitive.
More important, however, will be staying healthy and making sure SJSU is in good shape two weeks from now when it goes to UNLV.
The Spartans have the offensive firepower to be the West’s best team and have played solid defense when they stay fresh and the offense keeps them off the field. But if they want to win a division title, they’ll likely have to run the conference table in October and will need to show they can play on the road.
Next game: at Auburn, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (SEC Network)
Notable: This week’s trip to Auburn completes a two-year, $3.1 million contract. San Jose State doesn’t, as of now, have any big money nonconference games scheduled in the future, although athletic director Gene Bleymaier has said the goal is to play one each season to help balance the budget. ... QB Kenny Potter is still nursing his high ankle sprain and it would seem unlikely that SJSU would throw him out there against Auburn at less than full strength, especially considering how well Gray played against Fresno State.
— Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
UNLV spent the first three games of the season playing competitive football against top competition, but coming away with a frustrating loss each time.
The Rebels let out all their frustration Saturday, routing Idaho State 80-8.
“Really, at the end of the day, I wish we wouldn’t have gotten there (to 80 points),” coach Tony Sanchez said. “We played well. The biggest thing is we won the game. I don’t care if we won by one. I don’t care if we won by 50. For as long as I’m here, and I hope to God that’s a long, long time, we want to win by one single point, and I don’t care who we’re playing.”
UNLV led 35-0 after the first quarter, 52-8 at halftime and 73-8 after the third quarter.
The Rebels set school records for points in a game, half and quarter and for largest margin of victory. UNLV broke the Mountain West mark for most points, besting the total of 72 put up by Air Force against Nicholls State in 2009 and by New Mexico against Texas State in 2003.
Also, UNLV rushed for 517 yards and six touchdowns, each category the second-highest total in school history. Freshman running backs Xzaviar Campbell (139 yards, two touchdowns) and Lexington Thomas (106 yards, one TD) each rushed for at least 100 yards for the first time.
“I think anybody that’s going to turn on the film these next couple of weeks and watch tonight’s game is going to be a little scared to come up against us,” quarterback Blake Decker said.
Including Saturday’s opponent, Nevada?
“I would think so, yeah,” he said.
Next game: at Nevada, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: UNLV ended a nine-game losing streak. and now the Rebels will try to halt a nine-game road skid. … The Rebels have lost nine of their past 10 meetings with Nevada, but won in their most recent trip to Reno, 27-22 in 2013. … UNLV intercepted four passes against Idaho State, its most since 1993 against Louisiana Tech. The Rebels have eight interceptions for the season, one more than they had all of last year. … Cornerback Tim Hough intercepted two Bengals passes and brought back a blocked field goal 54 yards.
— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal