For the second straight year, Air Force can clinch bowl eligibility with a win over service academy rival Army.
The Falcons (5-3, 4-1 Mountain West) would qualify for an eighth bowl in nine years under Troy Calhoun with a win.
"It’s definitely something that’s been thrown around there," linebacker Connor Healy said. "It's a goal every year. To be able to get that sixth win would be awesome."
Because it lost to Navy on Oct. 3, the Falcons would need help to retain the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. It would take a win over Army (2-6), plus a Black Knights victory over Navy in December.
But even without the trophy at stake, this is a big game in several ways. First, it’s a rival and no Falcons player wants to see his team swept by the service academies. But also, if Air Force can’t win Saturday, gaining bowl eligibility will become complicated.
Next week the Falcons host Utah State. Then comes a trip to Boise State. The season then wraps with a trip to New Mexico. A win in any of those games is not a given. The Aggies have outscored the Falcons by 50 points over the past two years, Boise State will be looking to avenge last year’s loss at the academy and the Falcons and Lobos have seen their past three contests decided by a touchdown or less, with the home team winning each time.
The Falcons know they would be better off securing their postseason future now.
"We’re aware of it for sure," said backup running back Timothy McVey, who ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns at Hawaii. "But we’re just focusing on the task at hand, and that’s Army."
Next game: vs. Army, 1:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU)
Notable: Air Force’s average margin of victory in its five wins is 34 points. Conversely, the average margin of defeat in the three losses is 17 points. No Air Force game has been decided by fewer than 14 points this season. … The Falcons have six players who have rushed for 100 yards in a game this season, the most in the nation. … Air Force didn’t attempt a pass in the second half of a 58-7 victory over Hawaii and has attempted passes in just one of the past four halves against the Rainbow Warriors. ... Junior Jacobi Owens has rushed for 137 yards in each of the past two games since moving from tailback to fullback.
— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette
Boise State has a bye this week after playing nine straight games, including five on the road. The relentless stretch began to take its toll in recent weeks with the Broncos beating UNLV on Saturday without three defensive starters and their left tackle.
The defense struggled much of the afternoon against UNLV, allowing 20 points and 487 yards. The Rebels threw for 387 yards against a unit that was without cornerback Donte Deayon (knee surgery), safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner (broken ankle), middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo (undisclosed injury) and backup nickel Mercy Maston (undisclosed reasons).
"I didn't think we played too well on the back end," defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said. "They obviously had way too many passing yards. I think this is the first game we felt the effects of having two starters out (in the secondary) ... but they battled."
The Broncos need to get healthy during the bye week because they'll face the Mountain West's two option teams — New Mexico and Air Force — when they return to action. Both games are at home, but the Air Force game is on a Friday, creating a short week for the second game.
Vallejo likely will return for New Mexico. Coach Bryan Harsin said he wasn't sure if Sumner-Gardner would be ready by then and Deayon's original timetable put him on pace for the Air Force game.
New Mexico rushed for 505 yards against Boise State last year (the Broncos won 60-49) and Air Force rushed for 287 (the Falcons won 28-14).
"I'm happy to get on the plane with a win and have a bye week to get ready for the two teams that are our nemesis on defense," Yates said after the UNLV game. "They are two good teams. They will be ready to go. But it will help us out to have a little break here."
On offense, the Broncos still will have to make do without left tackle Rees Odhiambo (broken ankle). They likely will get sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley (broken ankle) back soon. True freshman has played extremely well since Finley, the season-opening starter, was injured, creating an interesting dilemma when Finley is healthy.
"We've got to get some guys healthy," Harsin said. "We've got to work on some things. It's not going to be a week off. We're going to come back and get to work."
Next game: vs. New Mexico, Nov. 14
Notable: Senior safety Darian Thompson grabbed his Mountain West-record 19th career interception against UNLV. That broke a tie with former Utah star Eric Weddle. ... Rypien set Mountain West and school freshman records with 469 passing yards against UNLV. He also caught a TD pass. ... Tailback Jeremy McNichols has rushed for at least 100 yards in four straight appearances but he missed the loss at Utah State because of a concussion. ... WR Thomas Sperbeck has 929 receiving yards this season, putting him on pace to break the school single-season record. He had 163 yards against UNLV.
— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
Mike Bobo is hitting the "reset" button with his Colorado State football team this week.
The coach said Monday that he and his coaching staff need to bring more competition to practice to make sure they’re putting the best players on the field on game days.
Players need to refocus their efforts on doing what they’re being taught to do, not necessarily what they might want to do. And coaches need to make sure the players they’re putting on the field understand their assignments and responsibilities.
"I think we’re going to find out who wants to play and reset a standard and reset a discipline and stick to the process and plan we’ve got in place as coaches and remind them what that standard and that discipline is," Bobo said at his weekly news conference.
Mistakes have played a key role in the Rams’ 3-5 start this season, including a 1-3 mark in Mountain West play. Colorado State's minus-14 turnover ratio ranks No. 125 out of 128 schools in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, and the Rams are tied for 120th in penalties, averaging 8.6 a game.
Blown assignments have allowed opponents to bust big plays and prevented the Rams from breaking loose for long gains of their own. Nine of the 26 touchdowns the Rams have given up have been on plays of more than 40 yards, while only two of CSU’s 28 touchdowns have been on plays of more than 40 yards, and none were scored from 50 or more yards out.
Some mistakes are bound to happen in a football game, Bobo said. But too many of the mistakes the Rams are making are ones they’ve made previously and worked hard to correct.
It’s why the Rams lost 41-17 last Saturday to San Diego State after trailing just 13-10 at halftime.
"We’re making too many mistakes of things that I know are being coached, of things that I know were repped," Bobo said. "And that’s not being a smart football player, and that’s not being a team football player.
"… We’ve got too many instances of not doing the right thing. You try to be patient, but that was Week 9, Game 8. There’s too many mistakes for me.
"So we’re going to have a ‘Come to Jesus meeting,’ so to speak, and figure out who’s ready to play these last four games."
Bobo wouldn’t rule out making significant personnel changes for this Saturday’s game at Wyoming (1-8, 1-4) based on what he sees in practice this week.
"I’ve got faith in the whole team, that’s what I’m going to tell them," Bobo said. "But it’s not going to be blind faith. … I’ve got to see it on the field this week, and that will determine what happens on Saturday."
Next game: at Wyoming, 1 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: Wyatt Bryan has made his past five field-goal attempts to improve to 9-for-13 after missing four of his first seven this season, including three in an overtime loss to Colorado. … WR/KR Deionte Gaines returns this week after sitting out the past two games while serving a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules. … Hayden Hunt is No. 6 in the nation in punting, averaging 45.89 yards a kick. … CSU and Wyoming play each year for the Bronze Boot, an actual bronzed boot worn in combat in Vietnam by former CSU ROTC commander Dan Romero. … The Border War rivalry is the oldest for both schools, dating back to an 1899 game in Laramie that the Cowboys forfeited. The schools have met 105 times since then and annually since 1946. CSU holds a 56-44-5 edge. … Saturday’s game at Wyoming, a 65-mile trip the Rams will make by bus Friday evening, is the only road game in a six-week span for CSU. The Rams’ last road game was Oct. 3 at Utah State and the next is Nov. 21 at New Mexico.
— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
Bob Davie seems totally sincere when he says he believes his New Mexico football team is capable of winning any, even all, of the four games remaining on UNM's schedule.
He seems equally sincere when he says that to do so, the Lobos (4-4, 2-2) will have to play much better in those final four games than they did in their first eight.
Significant improvement must be made, he says, on both sides of the ball.
Regarding UNM's defense, Davie's watch words the past week have been "urgency of technique." The Lobos simply have given up too many big plays.
"We're just making too many mistakes technique-wise," he said Monday night on his radio show. "We're farther along than we've been (in previous years) ... But we give up those big plays, (and) it just breaks your back and it takes the air out of you.
"The players have to take the onus to be able to execute down after down after down."
Yet, Davie said, the offense presents perhaps a more vexing problem than the defense does.
The past three years, New Mexico has been able to stay in most of its games — winning a few — by rushing for 300 yards or more. That's happened only three times this season, against teams (Mississippi Valley State, Wyoming, New Mexico State) with a combined two victories. The Lobos are averaging 248 yards on the ground and have been held under 200 yards three times.
New Mexico's offensive line, Davie said, simply is not as big and powerful as in his previous three seasons at UNM.
The entire coaching staff was out recruiting last weekend, a bye week for the Lobos. Even so, Davie said, a great deal of discussion about the offense took place.
Davie and offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse have decided to play both sophomore Lamar Jordan and junior Austin Apodaca at quarterback, hoping to find situations that suit the talents of one or the other.
"We've got to hone in and get a little bit more direction of exactly what we are, particularly with the two quarterbacks playing," Davie said. "... It's not ideal, but for us, maybe it is."
The stakes are high, given that two victories in the final four games would make UNM bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007. But Davie said the focus must be on improvement and nothing else.
"We have four good teams coming up (Utah State, Boise State, Colorado State, Air Force), and I just know we can be better," Davie said. "... I want to get it right before this year is over, because I don't want to look back and say, 'Man, we had these opportunities and we never could get it right.' "
Next game: vs. Utah State, 1:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: New Mexico offensive lineman Garrett Adcock is one of eight remaining candidates, culled from a field of 93, for the 2015 Wuerffel Trophy — awarded annually to the NCAA FBS player who best combines exemplary community service with academic and athletic performance. ... Redshirt freshman wide receiver Patrick Reed will undergo a medical procedure unrelated to football and will miss the remainder of the season, Davie said. ... Davie hopes to regain the services of defensive ends Garrett Hughes, Kene Okonkwo and Chris Lee, all of whom missed the San Jose State game with lower-leg injuries on Oct. 24. Despite UNM having had a bye week in the interim, Davie said none of the three were fit to play early this week. By Saturday, he said, there's a good chance they'll be ready.
— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
After allowing 606 rushing yards in back-to-back weeks against San Diego State and Wyoming, Utah State travels to New Mexico on Saturday.
The Lobos are the No. 2 rushing team in the Mountain West Conference.
"We know they have an ability to hit a home run," coach Matt Wells said. "… I absolutely know we will get their best shot."
In last week’s 58-27 win over Wyoming, Utah State allowed 270 rushing yards. Cowboys sophomore Brian Hill ran for 201 yards on 26 carries.
Two weeks ago in a 48-14 loss at San Diego State, the Aggies allowed 336 rushing yards. Donnel Pumphrey ran for 181 yards on 23 carries.
"The last couple of weeks is not what we’re used to around here, from a defensive standpoint," Wells said. "It doesn’t meet our standards. Our players know it. Our coaches know it. It’s being addressed."
Said senior linebacker Torrey Green: "Missed tackles, for sure, have been the biggest issue we’ve had. Not wrapping up. Not rallying to the ball. And when you have good backs like San Diego and Wyoming, that’s big."
Help could arrive this week.
Utah State played the last 2 1/2 games without senior nose guard David Moala, who suffered a sprained knee in the Aggies’ 52-26 win over Boise State on Oct. 16. Junior defensive end Ricky Ali’ifua also missed the Wyoming game after injuring his shoulder against San San Diego State.
Wells has a policy of not discussing injured players or their week-to-week availability unless it’s a season-ending situation. But he might have dropped a hint about the possible return of Moala and/or Ali’ifua during his weekly press conference on Monday.
While discussing the Aggies’ lack of defense against the run, he smiled and said, "… It’s being healed. So we will be better in that area, I believe."
Next game: at New Mexico, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Utah State is 7-3 in conference road games under Wells. … The Aggies can become bowl-eligible for their fifth straight season with a win over New Mexico. … Utah State has scored at least 52 points in three of its last four games (58 against Wyoming, 52 against Boise State and 56 against Fresno State. … Sophomore quarterback Kent Myers’ record as the starter is 9-2. … Utah State’s defense has not forced a turnover in the last two games, after getting eight against Boise State.
— Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune
There’s a chance redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman will play in Saturday’s Border War game with Colorado State.
How good a chance remains to be seen.
Coffman injured his right shoulder in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ game at Boise State on Oct. 24. He made the trip but wasn’t in uniform for their 58-27 loss at Utah State last Friday.
"It’s getting better every day," Coffman said. "It has come a long way from when I hurt it until now. Hopefully it will continue to get better."
Coffman wasn’t wearing a sling Monday, nor was he as he watched from the sideline at Utah State.
Second-year coach Craig Bohl planned on having redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Smith take all the snaps with the No. 1 offense during Monday afternoon’s practice.
"(Coffman’s) got range of motion, and I’ve seen guys progress pretty fast from (this injury)," Bohl said. "Right now, you can count on Nick playing. I’m not saying Cam does not have an opportunity (to play), but it will be later in the week when we know a little more. He’s further along than where he was."
Smith was 10 of 18 for 83 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start last week. He also ran 19 times for 53 yards and a touchdown against Utah State. More importantly, he didn’t have any turnovers.
"Some plays I was pleased with, and I’ve seen some progress in my game," Smith said. "There are things I still need to work on.
"If they want to throw more at me in terms of the game plan this week and that will put us in a better situation to win, I’m more than willing and capable to take that on."
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brent Vigen said he’d like to see Coffman practice no later than Thursday to see how he throws the ball and if he’s healthy enough to play.
Next game: vs. Colorado State, 1 p.m. MT (ESPN3)
Notable: Wyoming (1-8, 1-4) and Colorado State will play for the 107th time Saturday in a series that dates back to 1899. … Junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry will miss his third straight game with a shoulder injury. Gentry has caught 37 passes for a team-high 678 yards. … Sophomore running back Brian Hill’s 1,262 rushing yards this season is the second-most in the FBS this season. Hill ran for 201 yards at Utah State. It was his third 200-yard game this season, and fourth in his career – the most in school history. "We have one of the best running backs in America, and I firmly believe that," Bohl said. … The Cowboys allowed a season high in points at Utah State, and the Aggies had 296 yards rushing and 296 yards passing. Bohl said the defense’s coverage skills, tackling, angles and overall assignments must improve this week.
—Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports
Fresno State has not received much good news this season when it comes to injuries, their ranks thinning considerably and mostly on the defensive side of the football through a 2-6 struggle.
But the Bulldogs got some regarding strong safety Charles Washington, who was told as they were in final prep for a game at Air Force that his college career might be over because of an undisclosed internal injury. The fifth-year senior, who had a streak of 34 consecutive starts broken when not on the field for the first defensive snap against the Falcons, has been cleared to return and in practice this week with the Bulldogs preparing for a Mountain West game against Nevada.
"I was kind of upset, but I knew it was my health so I was OK with it, the decision that the doctor had made," Washington said. "But I didn’t find out until like 9 o’clock Friday night. I had practiced through the week with everything going on and I was ready to play, but I wasn’t able to.
"I tried to stay positive and I had a lot of support from my family, my coaches. But a lot of stuff was racing through my mind. There were five guaranteed games left for me and I missed one of the five I had. It was kind of nerve-wracking, but I’m back on track now and I’m ready to get out here and get another ‘W.’ "
Had Washington been ruled out for the season, the Bulldogs’ secondary would have taken a major hit. In the loss at Air Force junior Dalen Jones started at strong safety and senior Shannon Edwards started at free safety, but by the second half Edwards was playing strong safety and junior Allen Wright was at free safety. Edwards had played some strong safety in his career, but had not taken any reps there this season. The Bulldogs, who were without safeties Stratton Brown and DeShawn Potts due to injury, ended the game with four available safeties, including redshirt freshman walk-on Ryan Alvarez.
"It’s huge," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "Not only is he a tremendous football player, but being a senior he’s a leader. Guys look up to him. And he’s a playmaker for us.
"We were worried that we were going to lose him for the rest of the year and to have him back, knock on wood, hopefully for the rest of the year, is going to be big for us because we have to play better on the back end and he gives us a chance to do that."
Next game: vs. Nevada, 8:30 p.m. MT Thursday (ESPN2)
Notable: Fresno State freshman walk-on Christian Pryor was arrested about 45 minutes before practice was to start on Monday in connection with a shooting threat against the university that was made on the social media app Yik Yak. The post read in part (original spelling retained): "the time is here. @3PM I will release my frustrations. Tired of dirty looks, get rejected, nd being talked about bc how I dress. My choice of weapon M4 Carbine …" Pryor, a wide receiver on the scout team who had not played in a game for the Bulldogs, was arrested at 2:28 p.m. in the Duncan Building, which houses the football locker room, meeting rooms and coaches' offices. He was booked into Fresno County Jail on a charge of making a criminal threat, and bail was set at $20,000. … Wide receiver Michael Martens and defensive end Kyle Hendrickson, who started last week in the loss at Air Force, are the 18th and 19th Fresno State players to make their first career starts this season, which ties for the fourth-most by an FBS team. … The Bulldogs also have lost a combined 36 games by players due to injury, 25 on offense and 11 on defense. … Fresno State has not intercepted a pass since cornerback Tyquwan Glass thwarted a red-zone possession with a pick against Utah. The five-game stretch without an interception is the longest for the Bulldogs since 2011 when they went seven consecutive games without one and finished the season with only nine turnovers gained.
— Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
It was just another week in paradise.
Head coach Norm Chow was fired after going 10-36 in four years, former NFL lineman Chris Naeole was promoted to interim head coach, eight players were named team captains and Ikaika Woolsey was selected as the No. 1 quarterback.
"I don’t have the option of worrying about feelings," Naeole said of naming new captains with four regular-season games to go and pulling quarterback Max Wittek, who started eight of nine games.
Woolsey was the starter for all but one game in 2014, but ceded the job to Wittek this past spring. Wittek redshirted last year after transferring from USC in August 2014. Woolsey is a rare fifth-year junior who grayshirted in 2011 and redshirted in 2012.
"It could be game day (and) I could change my mind," Naeole said. "Right now (Woolsey) is our guy, and we’re going to support him."
The Warriors needed to win their final five games to avert a fifth consecutive losing season. That ended with a 58-7 loss to Air Force, the most one-sided conference loss in the program’s history. The Warriors controlled the ball for fewer than 15 minutes, and the offense was held scoreless for the fourth time this season.
On Sunday morning, athletic director David Matlin dismissed Chow during a face-to-face meeting. Chow had a year remaining on a five-year contract worth $550,000 annually. Chow will receive about $337,000 — $137,000 for the 90-day termination notice and $200,000 as a discounted buyout for his fifth year.
Matlin then promoted Naeole, a former first-round draft pick who played 12 NFL seasons.
Next game: at UNLV, 4 p.m. MT (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: The captains are left tackle Ben Clarke, right guard Dejon Allen, nose tackle Kory Rasmussen, right defensive end Kennedy Tulimasealii, buck linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams, middle linebacker Julian Gener, left cornerback Nick Nelson and punter/kicker Rigo Sanchez. … It has been an interesting four months for Rasmussen. He was awarded a football scholarship and became a father during the summer. … Clarke has recovered from a foot injury that prevented him from practicing until last week. Despite the lack of workouts, Clarke has never missed a start in his 46-game NFL career.
— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
A trend is developing that Wolf Pack football coach Brian Polian is not pleased with.
After Nevada wins a game, it usually loses the following week.
The last five times the Wolf Pack has won a game, they've lost the following contest. And during Polian’s three-year tenure at Nevada, the team is 4-10 in games following a win. The last time Nevada won back-to-back games was October 2014 when it won three straight versus BYU, Hawaii and San Diego State.
Coming off a win against Hawaii in its last game, the Wolf Pack will try to follow that up with a win when they play at Fresno State on Thursday. Polian said the losses after wins aren’t a coincidence.
"It’s not random," he said. "I’m not going to make excuses, but it’s not random. I think having a small senior class shows up. I think it’s a maturity thing. It’s my responsibility, too, so I own part of it. If you want to be a really good team you have to play at a high level consistently and we haven’t done that this year. We have to find a way. You can’t go up and down like this. It’s not what we expect. It’s not OK."
Nevada has had three chances this year to follow one win with another, but has faltered each time.
After a win over UC Davis, the Wolf Pack lost to Arizona at home. After a win over Buffalo, the Wolf Pack lost at home to UNLV. And after a win over New Mexico, the Wolf Pack lost to Wyoming on the road.
In two of those games — UNLV and Wyoming — the Pack were a favorite entering the contest. Those two teams have only one non-Nevada win this year, that being UNLV’s victory over FCS team Idaho State.
"Sometimes you just get beat by a better team, but I don’t think we were outclassed talent-wise by a couple of teams this year," said Polian, whose teams are 9-8 when coming off a loss since 2013. "We just didn’t execute and the other teams did. We have to get over that hump. We have to play consistently."
Next game: at Fresno State, 8:30 p.m. MT Thursday (ESPN2)
Notable: Nevada is playing its first national TV game since Sept. 19 when it played at Texas A&M on the SEC Network. … Polian, on Fresno State’s fans, whom he called vociferous and opinionated: "They don’t mind telling you what they think of you, and in some cases your family." Polian added the program has great fans. … Wolf Pack DT Rykeem Yates, a Fresno native, on if he went to many Bulldogs games growing up: "No. Not at all. I don’t like these guys at all. I never did." … Offensive guards Joey Angelmire (knee) and Adam Khouri (concussion) are out against Fresno State. Khouri started the team’s first four games but hasn’t played since and has been ruled out for the year. … Starting NG Salesa Faraimo (calf) and second-string TE Evan Faunce (undisclosed upper-body injury) are both 50-50 bets to play Thursday.
— Chris Murray/Reno Gazette-Journal
SAN DIEGO STATE
With five straight Mountain West wins behind him now and heading into a bye week before the home stretch, Rocky Long can say it.
Following a loss at Penn State that dropped the Aztecs to 1-3 before the start of MW play, "I was wondering if we were going to beat anybody," SDSU’s head coach said on Sunday.
"I figured we’d win a few along the way. But you have to play with confidence, and to get confidence you have to win. It’s a double-edged sword."
In Long’s view, the direction his team would go hung in the balance in the MW opener against Fresno State, a program that had been troublesome to the Aztecs in recent years. It wasn’t much easier this time, with SDSU leading by only seven going into the fourth quarter.
But the Aztecs prevailed 21-7, and the foundation was laid for the team’s defensive identity. SDSU allowed FSU only 89 yards in offense, and it’s been one mostly impressive performance after another since then.
"That was a highly competitive game, and it helped us get momentum going, and things started to happen," Long said.
The defense was shaky at times in the first half against Colorado State on Saturday, but four takeaways for the game, including a fumble recovery at the goal line and a 55-yard interception return for a score by Damontae Kazee, and only seven points allowed in the second half led to a 41-17 win.
Despite playing nine games without a break, the team has only become stronger as it goes.
In league play, the Aztecs, in order, beat Fresno State by 14, won at Hawaii by 14, prevailed by 23 at San Jose State, thumped Utah State by 34 at Qualcomm and handled host CSU by 24. In that span, SDSU hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in any one game while outscoring opponents by 109 points combined
Next game: vs. Wyoming, Nov. 14
Notable: SDSU’s next opponent, Wyoming (1-8, 1-4), was beaten 58-27 by Utah State on Friday and faces CSU on Saturday. … During the bye the Aztecs will lift weights three days and practice two days. They’ll have next weekend off. … At 6-3, the Aztecs need one more win to become bowl eligible. Six wins usually means bowl eligibility, but the season-opening victory over non-scholarship University of San Diego did not count. … The combined records of the three teams remaining on SDSU’s schedule — Wyoming, Nevada, UNLV — are 7-18 overall, 4-9 in conference. … SDSU has been extremely fortunate with injuries. Only two starters have missed significant playing time — safety Trey Lomax, who has returned to the lineup, and linebacker Randy Ricks, who may have one more game to sit before coming back from a broken toe.
— Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN JOSE STATE
It’s crunch time for coach Ron Caragher, in his third year at San Jose State.
The Spartans (4-4, 3-2, Mountain West) enter the final month of the 2015 season needing at least two victories to become bowl-eligible.
They haven’t had much luck in November in Caragher’s tenure, winning just two of 10 games. San Jose State lost all five November games a year ago.
The schedule doesn’t exactly favor a turnaround.
It starts with a late-night encounter against BYU, which is on a four-game win streak. The Cougars (6-2) lost to UCLA by one point and got blown out at Michigan back in September, but also won at Nebraska.
Like San Jose State, BYU is coming off a bye week.
The Spartans then travel to Nevada (4-4, 2-2), where they last won 15 years ago. San Jose State also travels to struggling Hawaii on Nov. 21. Playing on the islands also has been a challenge as San Jose is 2-6 since 2000.
The Spartans hope to reach the six-victory threshold before the season finale at home against Boise State (7-2, 4-1), tied for first with Air Force and Utah State in the Mountain Division.
Caragher is optimistic about finishing with a flourish for the simple reason San Jose State has not been sideswiped by injuries so far.
"I know the formula is to stay healthy," Caragher said of doing well in November. "That is beyond the control of the strategist or beyond a coach. You do your best in practice to back off and be smart."
Next game: vs. BYU, 9:30 p.m. MT Friday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Tyler Winston, a 6-foot-2 junior, is out for the rest of the year after hurting his left knee during the Spartans' 31-21 victory over New Mexico. Winston, who had 36 catches for 368 yards and two touchdowns, detached his meniscus cartilage after catching a foot on the turf . Redshirt freshman Justin Holmes is scheduled to start Friday night for Winston. … Tyler Ervin was named to the Paul Hornung Award weekly honor roll for the second time this season and was added to the Doak Walker Award watch list recognizing college football's top running back. Ervin is ranked third nationally with 1,159 yards rushing. … 6-3 junior Billy Freeman was one of two honorable mention choices for the John Mackey Tight End of the Week Award. … Michael Carrizosa was one of 79 players listed for the annual Ray Guy Award honoring the country’s best punter. Carrizosa is the top-ranked punter in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a 49.0 average.
— Elliott Almond, San Jose Mercury News
Finishing has been a season-long problem for UNLV, the lack of depth regularly catching up to the Rebels.
That happened again in Saturday’s 55-27 loss to Boise State. The Rebels came within a touchdown with 11:12 left and an incomplete pass of closing within seven points again with 7:38 remaining.
UNLV previously gave up second-half leads in losses to Northern Illinois, San Jose State and Fresno State and had to hold on to beat Nevada.
"When you look every game, it's getting old and it's getting frustrating, but our kids don't quit," coach Tony Sanchez said. "They play their guts out. They give themselves chances.
"We've got to find a way to win at the end. There are more wins out there, and none of them are going to be easy. We're improving and we're getting better, but we don't like the results. I'm sure the fans don't like the results."
There is a possible win out there this Saturday when the Rebels (2-6, 1-3 Mountain West) host Hawaii (2-7, 0-5). UNLV is a 9½-point favorite.
The Rebels badly need a victory to validate the improvement they have made. They are playing better, but don’t have the results to show for it other than a series of close losses.
But the lack of depth isn’t going away this season. That is an issue that must be addressed in recruiting and probably in multiple classes.
"When I took the job, we knew we weren't taking over a Rolls-Royce," said Sanchez, who is in his first season. "But that's our mission, to turn it into that."
Next game: vs. Hawaii, 4 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: Senior quarterback Blake Decker moved up to ninth on the school’s career passing chart with 3,985 yards. He passed for 357 yards against Boise State after missing the previous 2½ because of a dislocated shoulder. … UNLV and Florida State are the only teams with just one lost fumble. … The home team has won six games in a row in the UNLV-Hawaii series. Each of the past two games were decided by two points. … UNLV had gone nearly two years without a defensive touchdown, but the Rebels have three this season. They also had a rare touchdown from an offensive lineman against the Broncos when guard Eric Noone recovered a fumble in the end zone. … Senior safety Peni Vea became the fourth Rebel and first UNLV defensive back to reach 300 career tackles. He has 303 stops.
— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal