The first practice for Air Force following a loss at Navy saw four defensive starters missing for the Falcons.
All four – outside linebacker D.J. Dunn (undisclosed), nose guard David Harris (knee), linebacker Connor Healy (knee) and cornerback Roland Ladipo (concussion) – left during the 33-11 loss at Annapolis, Md., and didn’t return.
The Falcons, who have grown increasingly tight-lipped when it comes to injuries, released a depth chart for this week’s game against Wyoming that did not include Healy or Harris, and coach Troy Calhoun confirmed Monday that neither will play this week. However, the status of the others is uncertain.
This makes seven starters the Falcons (2-2) are without, as the new injuries are added to the loss of tight end Garrett Griffin, quarterback Nate Romine and center Alex Norton.
"We have no choice (but to move forward)," outside linebacker Dexter Walker said. "We have players who can play. It’s their time. It’s like I was just telling some guys, ‘It’s your opportunity, and opportunities only come every once in a while and you’ve got to take advantage of it.’ We can’t look at these guys if they don’t make a play and say, ‘It’s OK, they weren’t starters.’ Now they’re in that starting role and that’s their job now."
The sudden inexperience has been reflected in losses at No. 4 Michigan State and Navy. In those games the Falcons moved the ball effectively on offense, averaging 5.5 yards per play, but turned the ball over seven times. Defensively, Air Force gave up 44 percent of its total yardage against Michigan State on six big plays, while Navy’s top six plays accounted for 61 percent of its total yards.
So, on a down-for-down basis, Air Force is more than holding its own. But those mistakes keep creeping in on both sides of the ball, and that’s common for a team that lacks experience.
The key for the Falcons, it seems, will be cleaning up those mistakes before frustration sends this season into a tailspin.
"It’s definitely frustrating because we want to win," tailback Jacobi Owens said. "That’s the end goal. If we didn’t get frustrated I would question the team. Effort’s not a problem."
Next game: vs. Wyoming, 8:15 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2)
Notable: Air Force has dropped two games in a row against Wyoming. … The Falcons have lost consecutive games, both on the road to undefeated opponents. Air Force hasn’t lost three in a row since the final three games of the 2013 season, and the team has won eight in a row at home. ... Air Force has not trailed in either of its two home games this season.
— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette
The success of Boise State true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien in two and a half games has led to speculation that the Broncos' coaches made the wrong decision in August.
Rypien is 51-for-69 for 718 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions since starter Ryan Finley was injured. Rypien’s rating is 190.02, which would rank third in the nation if he qualified; he needs to play three more games to meet the NCAA standard.
Finley, who is out with a broken bone in his right ankle, was 46-for-70 for 485 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions in two-plus games as the starter. His rating: 117.20, which would be outside the top 100 nationally if he qualified.
"I know where you guys are going," coach Bryan Harsin said Monday after several Rypien questions. "Let me be clear on this: Ryan Finley was the clear starter coming out of fall camp. We felt like Brett could play but we made our decision and the hard thing right now is to speculate. Ryan’s not playing. Brett is. ... Right now, (Rypien) is playing well. He’s doing a nice job."
Rypien, Harsin said, has improved his passing significantly since the competition ended in fall camp.
"Just more throws, more opportunities to hear the same coaching points, more reps," Harsin said. "... He’s throwing the ball really well. Physically, he has just gotten better. That’s what you’re seeing out there, the ball coming out of his hand — he’s more consistent with his mechanics. That’s showing up."
Next game: at Colorado State, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: RB Jeremy McNichols leads the nation with 12 touchdowns. ... The Broncos hold a 10-0 edge in turnovers over the past three games and their defense has scored more points (16) than it has allowed (14) in that span. ... WR Thomas Sperbeck has 17 catches for 307 yards and three touchdowns in the past three games. ... The Broncos lead the nation with 11 interceptions. Safety Darian Thompson and cornerback Donte Deayon have 17 each in their careers, one behind the Mountain West record.
— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
Mistakes are part of college football.
But at Colorado State, they’re piling up at an alarming rate under first-year coach Mike Bobo.
The Rams (2-3, 0-1 Mountain West) are among the most turnover-prone and most-penalized teams in the nation.
Only one team has a worse turnover margin than CSU’s minus-9 — Cincinnati at minus-11. The Rams have lost eight fumbles and thrown six interceptions.
They’ve also been penalized 45 times for 394 yards. Their average of 9.0 penalties a game ranks No. 115 among the nation’s 127 Football Bowl Subdivision programs, and their 78.8 penalty yards a game ranks No. 111.
In last Saturday’s 33-18 loss at Utah State, the Rams gave the Aggies a second chance to make a field goal that they missed on the first try because of an offside penalty on an early scoring drive that also included a pass-interference penalty against CSU. They gave up four first downs on penalties and repeatedly thwarted their own drives with penalties, including back-to-back false starts and a 10-yard holding call on a potential game-tying drive in the fourth quarter that turned what would have been a fourth-and-1 play into a third-and-21 situation that forced them to punt.
Utah State opponents are averaging three to four false-start penalties a game, Bobo said, noting the confusion the Aggies’ defensive shifts can create on the offensive line. There’s really no excuse for the other penalties the Rams are committing, though. Same goes for the turnovers, including a fumble by running back Dalyn Dawkins at the Utah State 13-yard line late in the third quarter and an interception in the end zone thrown by Nick Stevens in the final minute.
Good football teams, Bobo said, find a way to overcome mistakes like that. The Rams aren’t there yet, and he blames himself and his coaching staff as much as the players for the errors.
"We’ve got to do a better job of making sure when we go into the week that we understand what we’re doing 100 percent through and through, so we can execute," he said Monday. "Because a lot of times penalties and mistakes come when you’re not sure, so we need to be sure, so we can play fast."
Bobo said the Rams will add more competition to practices this week, lining up their No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense against each other to better simulate game intensity and game speed. The Rams had backed off some on that in recent weeks while focusing on better understanding the concepts of their new offensive and defensive schemes against each week’s opponent.
"This team has so much potential," senior tackle Sam Carlson said. "But we have to learn how to focus in and be extremely disciplined, because that’s the difference between winning and losing. … We’re going to find out a lot about our team this week."
Next game: vs. No. 25 Boise State, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: QB Nick Stevens leads the MW and is No. 15 nationally in passing yards (1,129) this season. His 10 touchdown passes also are a MW best. … Jasen Oden and Dalyn Dawkins are sharing the load at running back. Oden has been the leading rusher in three of the first five games, while Dawkins, who missed one game with an injury, has led the way in the other two. … WR Rashard Higgins has had more than 100 receiving yards in the past three games after sitting out with an injury in the second week of the season. … Hayden Hunt leads the MW and is No. 6 nationally in punting, averaging 46.8 yards a kick. Nine of his 21 punts have left opponents starting drives inside their own 20-yard line.
— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
Bob Davie is 42 games into his tenure as head football coach at the University of New Mexico. Yet, when pressed, he doesn't hesitate to play what we'll call the Locksley Card.
After Monday's practice, an Albuquerque television reporter pointed out that none of UNM's 14 victories during the Davie era came at the expense of a team that went on to have a winning record.
Does Davie not think, he was asked, that it's about time for a "signature win?"
That all depends, Davie responded, on what one's definition of a signature win is.
"I think we've had a couple (of those)," he said. "I think, certainly, beating New Mexico State (qualifies)."
The Lobos (3-2 overall, 1-0 in Mountain West play) beat their downstate rival 38-29 last Saturday, making it four in a row over NMSU during Davie's tenure. Under his predecessor, Mike Locksley (and interim coach George Barlow), UNM was 0-3 against the Aggies.
"I think beating New Mexico State four straight years is probably pretty much of a signature, particularly when you lost three straight times before you came in here," Davie said. "But I'll let you guys (the media) all evaluate what signature wins are. I know we have 14 of them (as opposed to 28 losses) over a period. Before we came here it was about three or four."
Locksley and Barlow went 3-33 from 2009 to 2011. New Mexico was 1-5 in its final six games under Rocky Long in 2008, making UNM's record 4-38 over 42 games.
"I guess it's how you define signature and what you compare your signature to," Davie said. "I think it's going pretty good right now, and I think most people on the inside — in fact, all the people on the inside — realize that.
"I think in time, the people on the outside will see that."
Next game: at Nevada, 5 p.m.. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network/Campus Insiders)
Notable: Senior Zack Rogers will kick field goals for UNM at Nevada, Davie said, replacing sophomore Jason Sanders. Sanders was 3-for-7 through five games and missed attempts of 29 and 41 yards against New Mexico State. Rogers, the Lobos' punter, also was the kicker last year. He was 5-for-8 on field goals. ... Sophomore defensive end Kene Okonkwo will be out for an extended period with an ankle injury suffered against New Mexico State, Davie said. The Lobos already were hurting in the defensive line. Starting nose guard William Udeh (knee) played sparingly against NMSU; starting left end Nik D'Avanzo (hamstring) was pressed into service after Okonkwo's injury; sophomore end Sam Mabany sat out the game with an ankle injury. ... New Mexico rushed for 401 yards against New Mexico State, moving the Lobos into ninth place nationally in rushing (290 per game). They've finished no lower than fifth nationally the past three years.
— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
Kent Myers’ presence jump-started Utah State’s offense in the Aggies’ 33-18 victory over Colorado State.
In a game that was delayed 32 minutes at the start of the second half because of lightning, Myers rushed for 191 yards and one touchdown. He averaged 11.9 yards per carry. He had runs of 18, 26, 27, 30 and 34 yards. He broke the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
Utah State had averaged 292.3 yards and scored only three offensive touchdowns in its first three games.
A sophomore from Rowlett, Texas, Myers went 5-1 last season after injuries sidelined Utah State’s top three quarterbacks — Chuckie Keeton, Craig Harrison Darell Garretson.
With Keeton back for his senior season and Oregon transfer Damion Hobbs available as his backup, Myers was scheduled to redshirt this year. He did not play in the Aggies’ first three games.
With Keeton sidelined another 2-4 weeks because of a knee sprain, however, Myers was pressed into duty. He ended up being named the Mountain West Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week.
"Overall, I thought we played well, putting 33 points on the board," Myers said. "I’m excited to see what else we can do, this being my first game of the year. Once we have a complete game where everything is good, I’m excited to see what’s next."
According to senior linebacker Kyler Fackrell. the bye week before opening the league season against CSU helped the Aggies. They had lost two of their first three games to Utah (24-14) and Washington (31-17) while struggling to beat Southern Utah (12-9)
"We came (out) rejuvenated and with a new sense of purpose," Fackrell said. "Ultimately, 1-2 was not what we wanted. (But) all the goals we had set before the season were still ahead of us. … Tonight was a huge test and I think the focus and energy were high."
By beating the Rams, Utah State improved to 4-0 after a bye under coach Matt Wells.
Next game: at Fresno State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Fresno State has lost four straight games, but Wells said: "We will get their very best shot schematically, as well as emotionally and physically. They will be ready to play." … Colorado State All-American Rashard Higgins had 10 receptions for 114 yards and one touchdown against Utah State. Said Aggie cornerback Jalen Davis, "He’s definitely the top receiver I have ever faced. He’s real quick off the line and quick at making decisions. He’s a good athlete." … Kickers Brock Warren and Jake Thompson are 6-for-6 on field goals. Thompson missed from 53 yards against CSU, but the Rams were offside. He got another chance and kicked a 48-yarder. … Utah State has forced six turnovers in its last two games. "We have our swag back," Davis said.
— Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune
While a young and inexperienced defense has garnered its share of attention in the Cowboys' 0-5 start, the offense's inability to finish drives has been equally frustrating.
Wyoming was 2 of 6 in the red zone in its 31-13 loss at Appalachian State last Saturday. One of those failed attempts came on the first offensive series when redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman was picked off and returned 91 yards for a touchdown that put the Cowboys down 14-0 with 10:55 left in the first quarter.
The defense allowed a 59-yard touchdown run on Appalachian State's first offensive play of the game.
Wyoming is last among all 127 FBS teams in red-zone scoring, having converted on 10 of 19 attempts.
Coach Craig Bohl said penalties and miscues are the biggest problems. Coffman said: "We all need to lock into our assignments and get the job done. We're not doing that, and we need to keep working on it."
The Cowboys have the leading receiver in the MW in junior Tanner Gentry (516 yards), Coffman is the second-leading passer (1,099 yards) and sophomore Brian Hill is the second-leading rusher (669 yards). However, they average only 19.4 points per game and have lost all five of their games by double-digit margins.
Next game: at Air Force, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN2)
Notable: Wyoming is hopeful that senior running back Shaun Wick (concussion) will be back this week. He suffered the concussion Sept. 26 against New Mexico and didn't make the Appalachian State trip. ... Hill recorded his second 200-yard game of the season and third of his career with 208 yards last week. Hill has seven 100-yard games in his Wyoming career, but the team is 1-6 in those games. ... Despite a 10.2 average, Gentry is being replaced as the team's punt returner by junior linebacker D.J. May, a former running back. Gentry injured some ribs in the Sept. 26 game with New Mexico, and with all the snaps he takes at receiver, Bohl doesn't want him to take more hits returning punts. May had a 49-yard kickoff return at Appalachian State. ... True freshman walk-on wide receiver Tayton Montgomery — a local product from Cheyenne — caught one pass for four yards last week. He is the 26th freshman to play for Wyoming this season, which is second only behind Clemson in the country. The Cowboys also have played 16 true freshmen, the fourth-most in the nation.
—Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports
Fresno State removed all doubt that it is in trouble in a 21-7 loss at San Diego State, turning in one of the worst offensive performances in Mountain West Conference history when generating only 89 yards of total offense including only 22 yards on 20 plays in the second half.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out nine times in 13 so-called drives, and are having trouble sustaining anything when in possession of the football. The execution, from the quarterback position to the line, backs and receivers, has been very poor. The young skill players, starting with quarterback Zack Greenlee, have to grow up and it is time they do, Coach Tim DeRuyter said.
"We’re almost at the halfway point of the season,’’ he said. "Guys have got to execute better, start playing with a swagger because you know what to do. You should understand the speed of the game at this point. You shouldn’t act like it’s the first game you’re out there, and we have to do a better job as coaches to make these guys comfortable with what we’re asking them to do. I know we’re getting effort from our guys, but we’re just not as mature as we need to be right now."
Fresno State (1-4, 0-2 in the MW) is averaging just 4.38 yards per play, last of 12 in the Mountain West and tied for 125th of 128 in the nation with Kent State. The only teams averaging fewer yards per play than the Bulldogs at this point are Charlotte (4.29) and Central Florida (3.96).
The Bulldogs have converted only 17 of 55 third-down plays into first downs against FBS opponents (30.9 percent), ranking 10th in the conference.
They are averaging only 2.9 yards on 132 rushing plays against FBS teams.
In the red zone, the Bulldogs are averaging just 2.3 yards on 25 rushing plays and have completed only 34.8 percent of their passes (8 of 23).
They are averaging only 13 first downs in their games against FBS opponents, again, ahead of only two teams in the nation, Louisiana-Monroe at 12.7 and Hawaii at 12.3. Last season, which obviously was not a big one for the Bulldogs’ offense, they averaged 20.5 first downs in those games.
And against the Aztecs, the offense was dreadful.
In the Mountain West, going back to 2000, San Diego State had only 85 yards at TCU in 2008, New Mexico had 85 yards at TCU in 2011 and the Aztecs had 87 yards at TCU in 2006.
The going gets no easier over the next three weeks with the Bulldogs playing Utah State, UNLV and Air Force. The Aggies and Falcons rank third and second in the MW in total defense.
"We have to learn as much as we can,’’ said Greenlee, who missed his last six passes and nine of his last 12. "Film is film. We have to go and see what mistakes we made and what opportunities we missed because we left a lot out there and I feel like we didn’t capitalize."
Next game: vs. Utah State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Fresno State is playing Utah State on Saturday in its homecoming game with some ominous undertones. The Bulldogs haven’t lost a homecoming game since 2006 when beaten by Hawaii — that was their fifth consecutive loss and it left them 1-5 on the season. Fresno State has lost four games in a row and is 1-4 on the season. … Charles Washington, who had started the first four games at left cornerback, was moved back to strong safety. He had started there in 2013 and part of 2014 before being moved to nickel, then right corner, then back to strong safety then to left corner. "It felt good being back there at safety,’’ he said. "Everything came back naturally, it came back quick as if I had played there last week.’’ … Fresno State dismissed sophomore inside linebacker Michael Lazarus for violations of team rules and athletic department policy. Lazarus had not played much this season, but his departure depletes an already thin position group. The Bulldogs have five inside linebackers on scholarship and one is practicing with the scout team, coming back from a knee injury. … Senior running back Marteze Waller is 97 yards shy of entering the top five on the Bulldogs’ all-time rushing list. He has 2,587 career rushing yards on 486 plays. Dewayne Wright, who played from 2003 to ’06, is in fifth place with 2,683 yards on 501 plays. … Fresno State allowed the Aztecs to convert 8 of 18 third-down plays into first downs and it still trails the conference in third-down defense. The Bulldogs are allowing opponents to convert 53.9 percent of their third-down plays into first downs (42 of 78), including 60.7 percent against FBS opponents (37 of 61). …
— Robert Kuwada/Fresno Bee
Another Tuesday, another practice without quarterback Max Wittek.
For the third consecutive Tuesday, Wittek was restricted to mental reps and student coaching. But head coach Norm Chow said he expects Wittek, who has a sore left knee, to start in Saturday’s homecoming game against San Diego State.
Wittek has started all five games this season. He was pulled with a play left before the intermission in the past Saturday’s 55-0 loss to Boise State. Ikaika Woolsey, who started 12 of 13 games in 2014, is the immediate backup. Beau Reilly, who redshirted last season after completing a two-year church mission, took reps as the No. 2 quarterback on Tuesday.
Reilly said he has regained the arm strength that had atrophied during his mission, in which he was able to throw only three times in two years. The Warriors had extended reps against the scout defense after suffering their third shutout in as many road games this season. They were blanked at Ohio State, Wisconsin and Boise State.
With four receivers wearing knee braces during practice, the Warriors are expected to give extended work to one of the fully healthy receivers, Isaiah Bernard. Bernard joined the Warriors two weeks before the start of the season after earning his associate degree from Gardenia College.
Next game: vs. San Diego State, 10 p.m. MT Saturday (Oceanic)
Notable: Because of the 11:55 p.m. ending to Saturday’s game, the Warriors took a charter flight to Los Angeles, where they napped and ate breakfast in a hotel ballroom before taking a commercial flight to Honolulu. … Middle linebacker Julian Gener, who did not travel to Boise last week, has recovered from concussion-like symptoms and will start against the Aztecs. … Reilly, who was raised in San Diego, will be reunited with several friends who now play for the Aztecs. Reilly and his wife are parents to 3-week-old Jax, who was named after the lead character in "Sons of Anarchy."
— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
After losing at Air Force in overtime last season, the Wolf Pack’s season fell apart.
Nevada never recovered from that loss, a 45-38 defeat in which WR Hasaan Henderson was stretchered off the field. The Pack lost to Fresno State at home the following week in the de facto MW West Division title game before ending with a bowl game dud, a 16-3 loss to Louisiana in the New Orleans Bowl.
"We let Air Force beat us twice," Wolf Pack coach Brian Polian said. "There’s no doubt in my mind. When we got ready to play Fresno, we physically and emotionally could not bounce back from that overtime loss up at Air Force and watching your teammate lying there prone on the field having to be stretchered off. We couldn’t bounce back from it. We have to be damn sure that doesn’t happen again."
Nevada is coming off another demoralizing loss, this time a 23-17 defeat to rival UNLV, and Polian’s plea to his team as it prepares for New Mexico is to bury the past and focus on the future, something it struggled to do late in the season last year. Polian doesn’t want a repeat of the Air Force hangover.
"We really can’t let one game or one loss define our season, especially this early in the season," said linebacker Jordan Dobrich, a team captain for the third straight season. "This is more than an average conference game. We looked at it like that. We definitely understand the gravity of the loss. This one will hurt a little more than a standard loss but it won’t define our season."
Defensive end Lenny Jones said the only way to put the UNLV loss behind the team is to taste victory again. Jones said if Nevada allows the UNLV loss to control the rest of the season it will end up "a 2-10 football team." The quicker the Wolf Pack bounce back, the better.
"We can’t let one loss ruin the season," Jones said. "This one hurts a little bit more but a loss is a loss. If you let this one turn into another one and turn into another one you’re not winning a conference championship or getting to a bowl game. If we let this one take us down for two more games, we’re not the team we thought we were."
Next game: vs. New Mexico, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: Wolf Pack OG Jeremy Macauley, who dislocated his knee, tore his meniscus and tore his MCL last season, injured the same knee in the loss to UNLV. He’s out indefinitely. "He’s out for a while," Polian said. "I don’t know how long. It will be a while before we know the extent." … Wolf Pack WR Hasaan Henderson (shoulder) and OLB Bryan Lane Jr. (ankle), two of the better players on the team, are questionable for New Mexico. … The Wolf Pack’s kickoff at Wyoming on Oct. 17 has been set for 2 p.m. and will be telecast on ESPN3, the network’s online stream. Since the game will not be on ESPN or ESPN2, the Pack will not get the $500,000 bonus under the MW’s national TV bonus payout system.
— Chris Murray, Reno Gazette-Journal
SAN DIEGO STATE
Encumbered with a plastic boot on his left foot, D.J. Pumphrey lightly jogged to the edge of the stands on Saturday night to give his young daughter, Maliya, a kiss and hug after the Aztecs’ 21-7 home win over Fresno State.
It could be the last running the Aztecs’ lead tailback does for some time.
Pumphrey suffered a high ankle sprain in the third quarter. Surprisingly, he was back on the practice field on Monday, lightly jogging, but it would still seem doubtful that he could return for Saturday’s game at Hawaii.
It would seem to be a heavy blow, considering Pumphrey has been one of the most productive backs in SDSU history and the team workhorse this season, and head coach Rocky Long acknowledged as much, saying, "You don’t replace a guy like him; losing him hurts our chances for winning."
But as Long also pointed out, the Aztecs are deeper at running back than any other position.
"I think we’ve got three guys who are capable enough that we can win without him," Long said.
Stepping into the lead role will be Chase Price, the 5-foot-8, 200-pound senior who averaged 4.78 yards per carry last season and scored five touchdowns while getting 141 carries to Pumphrey’s 276.
This season, Price has averaged 5.9 yards per carry – 2 yards better than Pumphrey with 55 fewer carries. Pumphrey has had less space in which to maneuver with a greener offensive line. Price is more of a power runner who has seemingly hit the holes quicker.
In the "ground and pound" win over Fresno, with SDSU accumulating 305 yards rushing, Pumphrey carried 23 times for 124 yards and had 60 yards in runs called back by holding penalties. Price did the bulk of the work in the second half, finishing with 27 runs for 151 yards.
Behind Price, Long figures that true sophomore Rashaad Penny and redshirt sophomore Marcus Stamps will pick up for Pumphrey in different ways. Penny (8-112 running this season; 5-90 receiving) has been effective in the slot and on sweeps, and Stamps, who contributes on all special teams, could see some calls running between the tackles.
Long has been enthusiastic about Stamps, who rushed for 32 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards at Los Angeles Jefferson High. But Stamps has had nagging injuries that have limited his ability to prove his true value. It appears he might finally get that chance.
Up next: at Hawaii, 10 p.m. MT Saturday (Time Warner Sports Network)
Notable: Long noted the strong play by both the defensive and offensive lines in the dominating win over Fresno State. The Aztecs outgained the Bulldogs by 293 yards on the ground – the program’s third-largest margin in its Division I history (1969). The Bulldogs were 0-for-12 on third-down conversions. … Fresno State had 89 yards of total offense – the first time SDSU limited an opponent to fewer than 100 yards since 1970. … QB Maxwell Smith played a third straight game without throwing an interception, though a couple of errant passes were dropped by defenders. … Lloyd Mills was replaced by Price as punt returner after a muff and turnover for a second straight week led to an opponent TD.
— Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN JOSE STATE
The Spartans can't afford to dwell on their missed opportunity to score a signature win.
That certainly was the case over the weekend when San Jose State outgained the opponent and showed impressive control of the line of scrimmage on offense but turned the ball over four times in a 35-21 loss at Auburn.
While the Tigers aren't the same SEC and national contender they've been the past two seasons, there was a lot of good to take away from performing admirably against a team of that caliber.
If the Spartans can bring that physical play into Mountain West action, their chances of contending are quite high. It starts again this week with a matchup that has a lot more appeal than it did at the start of the season.
San Jose State's trip to play UNLV could showcase which team is a primary contender, along with San Diego State, to win the West Division. These teams finished at the bottom of the West standings last year, but are showing signs of making a leap after the Spartans demolished defending division champion Fresno State and UNLV went on the road to beat Nevada.
Considering the Spartans face the Aztecs at home in two weeks, this upcoming stretch might be SJSU's most important one of the season.
Led by the early front-runner for Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year Tyler Ervin, the Spartans possess the league's third-rated offense in yards per game and the most versatile. San Jose State is the Mountain West's only team to average more than 200 yards both passing and rushing.
Next game: at UNLV, 7 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: San Jose State's last chance at picking up television bonus money came up empty when its Oct. 17 homecoming game against San Diego State was selected to air on ESPNU. The rest of the Spartans' games are already slated for digital broadcasts or non-bonus networks. SJSU has earned $900,000 in bonus money during its three seasons in the MW. The Spartans had two bonus games in 2013 and one last season. ... QB Kenny Potter is still recovering from his high ankle sprain and it's unknown when he'll return, although Joe Gray has played well in his absence and that could play a role in the decision of when to bring back Potter. RB Thomas Tucker, who missed two games but returned two weeks ago against Fresno State, was back out against Auburn and is expected to miss some more time. SJSU took the redshirt off true freshman Malik Roberson on Saturday and he carried two times for seven yards against Auburn.
— Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
Sophomore Kurt Palandech will start at quarterback for UNLV when the Rebels host San Jose State this Saturday.
He replaces senior Blake Decker, who separated his non-throwing shoulder in Saturday’s 23-17 victory at Nevada. Decker will be available in an emergency.
"If (Decker) was healthy, it would be a different story, but he's probably going to be about 80 percent," coach Tony Sanchez said.
Palandech has been used in spots throughout the season, and twice he was put in for extended action when Decker got hurt. He struggled both times, but played better during the most recent performance at Nevada in completing 6 of 8 passes for 48 yards and rushing for a 12-yard touchdown.
But the Rebels' offense bogged down during the second half, totaling 55 yards as the Wolf Pack rallied to nearly take the victory. Nevada shut down UNLV's run game when it became clear the Rebels weren't going to beat the Wolf Pack through the air.
The Rebels, though, found a way to win, and they celebrated by taking the Fremont Cannon through campus to the Student Union. The team painted the cannon, which goes to the annual winner of the series, from blue to red.
About 1,500 students and officials turned out for the painting ceremony.
"This is for Vegas," Decker told the crowd. "This is for UNLV. Don’t get used to seeing the cannon blue because it’s going to be red for a long time."
Next game: vs. San Jose State, 7 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: UNLV ended a nine-game road losing streak with the victory at Nevada. The Rebels have won their past two trips to Reno, but that victory was just their second in the series in the past 11 games. … UNLV has intercepted nine passes, which is tied for seventh nationally. … The Rebels have allowed four touchdowns in the past 10 quarters. They also are the last team to score against Michigan, which since has posted eight consecutive shutout quarters. … UNLV has returned interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back games. Until then, it had been almost five years since the Rebels took one all the way back.
— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal