Bronco Beat

Mountain West Football Report: Fresno State, Hawaii, San Diego State chase West title



Air Force hadn’t even exited the locker room at San Diego State when the talk turned to Colorado State.

The No. 21 Rams visit the Falcons on Friday in the regular-season finale, and Air Force (8-3, 4-3 Mountain West) is tasked with moving past a deflating 30-14 loss to the Aztecs and must now close out the season in what will be an awkward Falcon Stadium without the cadet wing in attendance as all will be away on Thanksgiving break.

But if this Air Force team has shown anything in recent weeks, it’s that it can handle a mental challenge.

“We have to turn the page from this one and learn from the good stuff,” guard Michael Husar said.

An example of the mentality of this team – particularly compared to the 2013 squad – was on display during this past week.

Last year, as soon as Anthony LaCoste emerged as a threat to break 1,000 yards, it dominated the talk of the offensive linemen in the team’s weekly press conferences. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and what else did that team have to occupy its mind as it tumbled toward a 2-10 season?

This year, even after sophomore Jacobi Owens passed 1,000 yards, the offensive line barely took notice.

“Someone told me that he didn’t have that much to go before the last game,” offensive tackle Matt Rochell said last week. “I didn’t even think about it until right now when you said it.

“I don’t know if it’s other things on our mind or just trying to keep the ball rolling more than worrying about stats. I guess compared to last year maybe it was a thing to talk about, now it’s just beat the next team. At the end of the year if there are really good stats maybe we’ll talk about that, but if not then let’s just try to win the next game.”

From a mentality standpoint, Air Force also has working in its favor a yearlong quest to atone for a 59-13 drubbing at the hands of Colorado State last year.

“All that animosity and tension we had coming out of that game went into this season,” safety Christian Spears said. “I don’t want to say CSU has everything to do with the success we’ve had this year – there’s a lot of teams that had something to do with that – but just to be able to end it coming off last year we definitely want to have a different feeling this Friday.”

Air Force has issues to contend with this week, such as a defense that has given up 1,000 yards in the past two weeks and an offense that was shut out in the second half at San Diego State. But when it comes to putting themselves in the correct mindset, the Falcons are a safe bet to be where they need to be on Friday.

Next game: vs. No. 21 Colorado State, 1:30 p.m. MT Friday, CBS Sports Network

Notable: Air Force quarterback Kale Pearson apparently missed the final series on Friday because of an injury (he was made unavailable to the media for that reason) and did not participate in practice on Monday. Cornerback Jordan Mays also missed practice Monday. Air Force’s six-game turnaround, going from two wins in 2013 to eight this year, ties a school record.

— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette


The Broncos get the chance Saturday that they never got last year: to win the regular-season finale and take the Mountain Division.

Last year, the Broncos lost their second-to-last game — at San Diego State — and didn’t control their destiny on the final weekend. Utah State won the division.

This year, the Broncos (9-2 overall, 6-1 MW) need to beat the Aggies (9-3, 6-1) to win the division and host the Mountain West championship game.

If the Broncos lose, Colorado State would win the division if it beats Air Force on Friday or Utah State would win the division.

Boise State still is searching for its first outright title since joining the Mountain West in 2011. It shared the title in 2012.

“It’s basically a championship game before a championship game,” junior tailback Jay Ajayi said.

The Broncos will be without sophomore safety Chanceller James, who was injured on the first series last week at Wyoming. James’ status for future games is uncertain.

He was inserted into the lineup in the second half of the New Mexico game. In the next six quarters, the Broncos allowed 36 points — fewer than in the first half against the Lobos (42).

“Very disappointed,” defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said of James’ injury. “ He’ll be a big loss for us.”

Next game: vs. Utah State, 8:21 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPN2

Notable: DE Mat Boesen will miss his fourth straight game for disciplinary reasons. Punt returner Donte Deayon was named the MW special teams player of the week, the third straight week a Bronco won that award. DE Kamalei Correa, a true sophomore, took over the MW sacks lead with three against Wyoming. He has 8.5 total. Ajayi broke the school record for yards from scrimmage in a season (1,925) last week. He also has scored 23 touchdowns.

— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman


Jim McElwain remembers all too well the first time he took his Colorado State football team to the Air Force Academy to play a game.

It was 2012 in his fifth game as the Rams’ coach, and his team, he said, quit during a 42-21 loss that could have been a lot worse.

“The worst day of my entire, whether playing or coaching, career was down there in that stadium,” McElwain said Monday. “To see the quit and the disrespect for the game of football and Colorado State University that we showed that day.”

The memory has been particularly hard for the coach to shake this week as the No. 21 Rams (10-1, 6-1 Mountain West) prepare for their regular-season finale Friday at Air Force (8-3, 4-3).

Running back Cody Getz ran for 222 yards, and the Falcons gained 459 yards on the ground. An Air Force team that usually wears opponents down with long scoring drives went 75 yards in five plays for one touchdown, 65 yards in four plays for another and 50 yards in three plays for another.

CSU lost quarterback Garrett Grayson to a broken collarbone early and trailed by two or three touchdowns for most of the day.

McElwain said he appreciated the mercy Air Force coach Troy Calhoun showed after his team had taken a 35-14 halftime lead.

“The second half, they were staring at the (play) clock, snapping it at 1,” McElwain said. “I mean it could have been 100 (points). And that was embarrassing.”

CSU turned the tables on the Falcons last year, winning 58-13 at Hughes Stadium. But the bitter taste of that 2012 loss still lingers, and McElwain has made a point of making sure the players that were on the field for CSU that day remember what happened and use it as motivation to prepare for this week’s game.

“It was horrible,” junior safety Trent Matthews said. “He knew it was horrible, and we knew it was horrible.”

Next game: at Air Force, 1:30 p.m. MT Friday, CBS Sports Network

Notable: The Rams have won 16 of their past 19 games. Among FBS programs, only Florida State (19-0), Michigan State (17-2) and Marshall (17-2) have better records in their past 19 games. WR Rashard Higgins regained the national lead in receiving yards with a single-season school record 1,447. Higgins also is the national leader in touchdown catches with 15, one more than Notre Dame’s William Fuller. RB Dee Hart, a transfer from Alabama, ran for 230 yards and matched a school record with six touchdowns last Saturday in a 58-20 win over New Mexico. Kapri Bibbs set the record last year in a 66-42 win at New Mexico. CSU is going for its first sweep of its three rivalry games since 2002. The Rams beat Colorado for the Centennial Cup in the season opener and Wyoming for the Bronze Boot on Oct. 25. CSU and Air Force play for the Ram-Falcon Trophy.

— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan


Saturday against Wyoming, 13 seniors will play their final game for New Mexico. All 13 have contributed, coach Bob Davie said, and all 13 will be missed.

But the seven hardy souls who stayed with the program during the coaching transition from Mike Locksley to Davie in 2012, he said, hold a special place.

“What these guys have gone through here, I appreciate so much," Davie said Monday during his weekly radio segment on KNML-AM. "... These guys deserve for some people to come out and watch them play, but more importantly, they deserve for us to win this game so they can walk out of here feeling good about it."

Six of those players — center LaMar Bratton, offensive guard Jamal Price, outside linebackers Tevin Newman and Javarie Johnson, running back Crusoe Gongbay (injured and lost for the season at UTSA on Oct. 4) and nickel back Devonta Tabannah — are the only seniors that remain from the 41 players signed to scholarships by Locksley in 2010 and 2011. Those classes were reduced from the normal 50 because of NCAA sanctions as a result of violations committed by assistants on the staff of Rocky Long, Locksley's predecessor.One senior entered the program as a walk-on and later was awarded a scholarship by Davie.

One senior entered the program as a walk-on and later was awarded a scholarship by Davie.

The team's remaining six seniors are transfers — five from junior colleges, one from an FBS school — recruited by Davie and his staff.

"I appreciate those guys, I really do," Davie said. "But I love the guys that were here before I got here. ... Those guys, they have a friend for life with me."

Next game: vs. Wyoming, 1 p.m. MT Saturday, Root Sports

Notable: "Unacceptable" was Davie's evaluation of his team's performance in last week's 58-20 thrashing at the hands of 21st-ranked Colorado State. "It hurt," he said. "... Thank God we have another game this week." Davie said he, his staff and his players will prepare for Wyoming as if the game is the Super Bowl, with respect for the seniors and in hopes of ending a disappointing season on a positive note. ... Junior running back Jhurell Pressley — one of only three Locksley recruits who will be on the 2015 roster — rushed for 109 yards on a bum ankle at Colorado State. He needs only 18 yards on Saturday to reach the 1,000 mark.

— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal


Utah State’s future hinges on Friday’s Colorado State-Air Force game, but the Aggies are keeping their minds on their own business.

In order to play for the Mountain West title, the Aggies (9-3, 6-1) need Air Force (8-3, 4-3) to beat CSU (10-1, 6-1) when the teams play Friday at 1:30 p.m., and then the Aggies must beat Boise State (9-2, 6-1) on Saturday.

Having the pivotal CSU-Air Force game earlier makes it interesting, but it could be a huge letdown if the Rams are able to win on the road.

While fans might make a point of tuning into the game, which will be broadcast by CBS Sports Network, the Aggies won’t, USU coach Matt Wells said.

The Aggies will be en route to Boise while the game is being played.

“Every player will know by the time we get off the bus,” said Wells, holding up his cell phone indicating its newsworthiness in such matters. “But it has no bearing on the next day. All we are worried about is Boise State. What are we going to do, throw a pep rally if Air Force wins or a funeral if they don’t? We’ll go about our business and play the best game at 8:15 p.m. Saturday night that we can.”

The Aggies are accustomed to having their fate out of their hands after the 2013 season, when they lost to Boise State earlier in the season and needed help reaching the title game. They got it in the form of San Diego State, which beat Boise State in overtime on Nov. 23, handing the Broncos their second league loss while the Aggies won out to win the Mountain Division.

If the Aggies don’t get a chance to play in the championship it will be disappointing, Wells admitted.

“We’ll spend eight months trying to figure out how to go undefeated,” he said of the conference competition. “That is the name of the game, it’s a competition. It isn’t T-ball in the summer where everybody gets to bat.”

A win against the Broncos would give the Aggies a 10-win season for just the second time in the program’s history, joining the 2011, 11-2 team that set the school record for wins.

USU’s current nine wins are tied with the 1960, 1961 and 2013 teams as the second-most in school history.

“I feel good about this week,” Wells said. “No matter what happens on Friday, at the end of the day, the Boise State game is still a big game for our program.”

Next game: at Boise State, 8:21 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPN2

Notable: Offensive lineman Kevin Whimpey is day-to-day for the Boise State game due to an injury that sidelined him for the second half of the San Jose State game. Wells said the Aggies held him out of the rest of that blowout for precautionary reasons. His backup is sophomore Austin Albrecht, but Wells said the offensive line’s improvement has led to a lot of different options, too. “If he can’t play there will have to be some shuffling going on, but the good thing is we have a lot of versatility,” Wells said. Linebacker Torrey Green hasn’t played since injuring an ankle at Wyoming on Nov. 7. USU trails the Broncos 14-4 in the all-time series and is just 2-7 in Boise. The Aggies are averaging 256.5 yards rushing in their last four games. The last time USU rushed for 200 or more yards in four straight games was in the 2011 season when it did so in six straight games.

— Lya Wodraska, The Salt Lake Tribune


First-year coach Craig Bohl is holding out some hope senior starting quarterback Colby Kirkegaard will play in the Cowboys' season finale at New Mexico on Saturday.

Kirkegaard severely sprained his left ankle late in the second quarter trying to elude a sack in last Saturday's 63-14 home loss to Boise State. Bohl said there wasn't as much swelling in the ankle Sunday as anticipated.

Kirkegaard likely won't practice much, if at all, this week.

Sophomore Tom Thornton and senior Sam Stratton will get most of the reps at quarterback in practice this week. Thornton has been Kirkegaard's backup all season, but prior to the Boise State game played in a limited role in three games and didn't attempt a pass.

Thornton was 4 of 10 for 50 yards and an interception that was returned for a touchdown against the Broncos.

"I feel comfortable and confident that I can lead this offense," Thornton said. "I'm going to take the reps that I do get and make the most of them and capitalize on the opportunities we get."

Stratton has dealt with knee injuries most of his career, and was 2 of 5 for 23 yards against Boise State, and ran for 21 yards. He attempted the first passes of his UW career in that game.

Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen will come up with game plans for Kirkegaard playing, along with one for Thornton and Stratton.

If Kirkegaard can't play, he will be the seventh starter this season (two offense, five defense) to suffer a season-ending injury.

"I cannot recall a year where there has been this many season-ending injuries," said Bohl, who has been a college coach since the mid-1980s.

Next game: at New Mexico, 1 p.m. MT Saturday, Root Sports

Notable: Bohl said freshman starting cornerback Robert Priester (knee) is doubtful and senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi (leg) is questionable this week. Priester was hurt against Boise State. Puletasi has been out since Oct. 18. ... Wyoming will try to win its season finale for the first time since 2011. ... Senior wide receiver Dominic Rufran set a new school record last week with a catch in 48 consecutive games, which is every game of his career. That streak also is the longest in the nation among active players. ... The 63 points allowed was the most Wyoming has allowed at home since 1915.

— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle



It has been a struggle all season for the Fresno State Bulldogs’ defense, which going into the week was allowing 491.1 yards and 35.5 points per game and had allowed a ton of explosive plays of 20 or more yards. But they settled in a bit on lineup changes in the secondary in a victory over San Jose State and coach Tim DeRuyter was optimistic they had the right players on the field and that there was a trust there, a confidence there, even though they had not submitted much evidence to support that theory.

But they got that in a 40-20 victory at Nevada, which has the Bulldogs in line to play for a third consecutive Mountain West Conference championship.

After Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo won a one-on-one matchup and busted a second long rushing touchdown early in the second quarter, the Bulldogs made adjustments to get more defenders to the football. And those adjustments took, which has not always been the case this season.

“By Week 11 you’ve been practicing different things and hopefully you have communication on the sideline of what they’re seeing and what the coaches are seeing up in the box so we can get some good information so we can make some good decisions on what we need to adjust,’’ DeRuyter said.

“I think we’re starting to get that now, where they don’t come over to the sideline with just a glazed look on their faces. They can tell us exactly what happened so that we can make some adjustments.’’

Fajardo, one of only two players in history to have more than 9,000 passing yards and more than 3,000 rushing yards in a career, had rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on just seven plays to that point in the game. He had hit three of his four passes for another 37 yards.

But after that, Fresno State scuttled the Wolf Pack offense and its quarterback. Fajardo rushed for only 41 yards on 15 plays over the final two-plus quarters, his longest run 12 yards. He hit only 8 of 20 passes (40 percent) for 89 yards with 34 of that total coming on one play.

Nevada, which had scored 14.2 points in the fourth quarter of its games against FBS opponents to lead the nation and 19.8 points in the second half to rank in a tie for eighth, didn’t score again.

In the second half, it ran just three plays and missed a field goal on the Fresno State side of the field.

“He’s a guy that with one-on-one situations, if he makes one guy miss he can go the distance and they caught us in a couple of calls where it was exactly that,’’ DeRuyter said.

“They were trying to force different things and he took advantage of it and made a guy miss. He’s explosive. We couldn’t catch him. After that, I think (defensive coordinator Nick Toth) did a nice job of making some adjustments getting our guys to settle down. We played really physically the entire game and I think when you hit quarterbacks a lot, those things can take a toll. That guy is a heck of a competitor and we were always fearful that he’s one play away from breaking a huge one on us, but we started to get more guys to the point of attack and when you do that you have more of a chance.’’

Next game: vs. Hawaii, 5 p.m. MT Saturday, Time Warner Oceanic pay-per-view and MW Digital Network (online)

Notable: Running back Marteze Waller, who left the game in the first quarter after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit, is expected to play in the regular-season finale against Hawaii. Fresno State hired a new athletic director after a three-month search – Jim Bartko, who was the executive senior associate athletics director for development at Oregon. DeRuyter said the hire had home-run potential: “I think he’s exactly what we need at his point. (University President Dr. Joseph Castro) was looking for a visionary, someone who can raise the profile of Fresno State athletics and be part of his vision to see academics and athletics rise and I think they nailed it with this hire.’’ The Bulldogs were on the scoreboard first in their victory at Nevada, the third game in a row they had taken a lead. In their first eight games, they had scored first only once. Fresno State also forced four turnovers in that game, its most since nabbing five takeaways at Idaho last season. Tight end Chad Olsen is the Bulldogs’ first true freshman receiver or tight end to catch four touchdown passes going back through the 2000 season. He is tied with Marcel Jensen (2012), Bear Pascoe (2008 and ‘07) and Alec Greco (2000) for most touchdown receptions by a tight end.

— Robert Kuwada, The Fresno Bee


Strange but true: The Warriors, who were all but fitted for a toe tag earlier this month, won two in a row to remain in title contention entering the regular season's final weekend. If UH, San Jose State and UNLV all win this weekend, the Warriors would clinch the West Division title and participate in the MW’s championship game.

The Warriors moved into position following their 37-35 comeback victory over UNLV this past senior night. The Rebels went ahead 35-31 with 15 seconds remaining. Two unsportsmanlike penalties forced the Rebels to kick off from their 10. The Warriors started their final possession at the 42. Ikaika Woolsey then completed a 22-yard pass to Donnie King Jr. at the 20 with 5 seconds remaining. On the next play, Woolsey's pass to tight end Tui Unga was dropped at the 2. UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck argued the play exceeded five seconds and time should have expired. The Aloha Stadium clock showed 0:01. On the next play, Woolsey threw the decisive scoring pass to a leaping Marcus Kemp in the end zone. The next day, OC Sports, which televised the game, did a frame-by-frame breakdown of the incompletion to Unga. There are 30 frames per second. From snap to the ball touching the Field Turf, it took 131 frames, roughly 4 1/3 seconds — enough time for the Warriors to run one more play.

It was later revealed that Woolsey, a third-year sophomore, rejected the initial play, then convinced the coaches to call "Frisco" — four vertical routes — that resulted in Kemp's touchdown. Woolsey had been under criticism this season for inconsistent play. At one point, he lost his starting job for a game.

Next game: at Fresno State, 5 p.m. MT Saturday, Time Warner Oceanic pay-per-view and Mountain West Digital Network (online)

Notable: This will be the Warriors' sixth road trip, and third in four weekends. The Warriors depart Wednesday afternoon for Los Angeles, where they will stay through Friday. They will practice on Thanksgiving at a Los Angeles high school. On Friday, they will make the 4-hour drive to Fresno. Joey Iosefa's 219 rushing yards was a career-best. Iosefa, who was raised in American Samoa, was a 175-pound quarterback when he signed with UH in 2009. He grayshirted that year, then joined in January 2010. Iosefa now weighs 248 pounds. Against UNLV, Iosefa, as a wildcat, threw a jump-pass to Harold Moleni for a touchdown. Iosefa's career pass efficiency rating is 236.63 (4-of-7 for 71 yards and two touchdowns).

— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser


In the aftermath of Saturday’s loss, one that knocked the Wolf Pack out of the race to win the Mountain West Conference’s West Division, Polian told his lunch audience Monday that he isn’t sure his team is ready to be a conference champion.

“The reality of it is, if you really step back and be honest about it, we’re probably not ready,” Polian said of the 40-20 loss to Fresno State on Saturday, a loss that saw the Wolf Pack make critical mistakes in all three phases of the game. “We have taken ourselves from probably the bottom third of the league, and we have made a step, no doubt, but ... to look you in the eye and say, ‘We’re ready to play for the Mountain West Conference championship,’ not if you do that, not if you do that late in the year.”

Had there been any kind of ranking of just the West Division, the Wolf Pack almost surely would have been the consensus No. 1 throughout the season. But a 45-38 overtime loss at Air Force on Nov. 15, followed by the loss to Fresno State, has the Wolf Pack reeling and now out of any hopes to win the West.

“It’s one thing to compete your tail off and just not be good enough or not make a couple of plays, but we’re not ready yet,” Polian added. “And that’s OK. I mean, trust, me, I’m disappointed. I’m incredibly disappointed, and I look at myself first and the coaches second and then the players.”

Next game: at UNLV, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPNU

Notable: Nevada can do something it hasn’t done since 1978 – wrest possession of the Fremont Cannon from UNLV in Las Vegas and bring it to Reno. UNLV ended an eight-game losing streak in the series with a 27-22 win in Reno last year. Polian said he expects to have guard Adam Khouri (head) back for the UNLV game, but said guard Joey Anglemire (head) is questionable. Senior quarterback Cody Fajardo has accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 17 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and senior right tackle Kyle Roberts has accepted an invitation to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Jan. 18 in Los Angeles. Polian’s weekly radio show, broadcast live from the Lil Waldorf Saloon, will have a special guest this week — Polian’s father, Bill Polian, a former NFL general manager and current ESPN analyst. “We’ll let my dad tell some stories. It’s not that I even like him that much. I’m just tired of talking on the radio,” Polian joked at his Monday luncheon. “Let him take two segments. For all I care he can take callers.”

— Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal


Well, isn’t this a bite in the behind.

A month ago the Fresno State Bulldogs seemed dead in the race for the West Division title in the Mountain West. When they lost a third straight league game to Wyoming on Nov. 1, the defending champs were 2-3.

That same night, San Diego State blew a fourth-quarter lead at Nevada, and the Wolf Pack had the clearest path to the division crown at 3-2.

But Fresno State has recovered with two straight wins, including a 40-20 victory at Nevada on Saturday night, and the Bulldogs can take the division with a home win over Hawaii on Saturday night.

“The whole league is that way; college football is that way,” Long said on Sunday of the surprises the season has produced.

If the Aztecs (6-5 overall, 4-3 in the MW) can defeat San Jose State (3-8, 2-5) at home on Saturday afternoon they will root in the evening for the Rainbow Warriors (4-8, 3-4) to beat Fresno (5-6, 4-3).

“Our chances of winning the division are slim, but that doesn’t change the importance of us winning,” Long said.

After beating Air Force 30-14 on Friday, the Aztecs are trying to reach 7-5, a record that likely would put them in the hometown Poinsettia Bowl against Navy. A loss would make a bowl selection less certain.

If Fresno does prevail, the Aztecs will be left to contemplate questions they cannot answer:

Had senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler —10-4 in Mountain West starts — been healthy and able to play at Fresno in early October, would the losing outcome have been different? And how might that result have changed without nine blown referees’ calls against SDSU that were admitted by the league afterward?

“You could guess that would have made a difference, but you never know,” Long said of missing Kaehler, adding that a blocked punt that was ruled as roughing the kicker and led to a Fresno TD also was critical.

Unable to face the Bulldogs after spraining his throwing shoulder the previous week, Kaehler watched as 18-year-old freshman Nick Bawden struggled badly, fumbling away one possession and throwing two interceptions in the final six minutes in a 24-13 loss.

This has not been the season the Aztecs hoped for with Kaehler. He has thrown 10 fewer TDs and one more interception than last year. Yet Kaehler’s absence was most felt against Fresno – the only full game he missed.

Bawden completed only three of his first 11 passes. He fumbled on a run at FSU’s 33 and threw picks on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter.

The first one, with the Aztecs down by 4 and at the Fresno 34. The second pick gave the Bulldogs the ball at the SDSU 7 and they scored three plays later to ice the game.

The next week, with the Aztecs holding a slim lead over New Mexico at halftime, Kaehler came on in the second half and managed the game well in a victory.

Next game: vs. San Jose State, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS Sports Network

Notable: An Aztecs victory on Saturday would give them five straight seasons with at least seven wins. At 5-0, they are trying to go undefeated at home for the first time since 1996. The Aztecs have held seven straight opponents to fewer than 400 yards of offense. That is the fourth-longest active streak in the country. .. Sixteen seniors will be honored on Senior Day. The Aztecs have won four straight Senior Day games.

— Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune


San Jose State will have to try to find some motivation for Saturday's finale to its disappointing season.

As recently as three weeks ago, the showdown with San Diego State looked like it could be played with a bowl berth on the line. Instead, the Spartans are playing simply for the right to finish 4-8 instead of 3-9.

"All is not lost because we didn't get six wins," coach Ron Caragher said.

SJSU may have a chance to get a spark — or at least an early evaluation — at quarterback as it appears sophomore Mitch Ravizza will make his first start.

Ravizza, also a baseball player for the Spartans who joined the team this year, came on in relief last week after backup Blake Jurich injured a knee on the first play of the game. Jurich was starting in place of Joe Gray, who was out with a shoulder injury.

Both Jurich and Gray were limited participants at practice Tuesday and were not involved in team drills. If neither is available, versatile running back Tyler Ervin would be the backup quarterback.

Ravizza probably won't be in the mix to start next season, but the speedster showed enough against Utah State that he could be an option in certain packages.

"I was encouraged," Caragher said of Ravizza's play. "The guy came in under those conditions — a road game, 30 degrees, the best defense in the conference and you get thrown in on three days of reps. He goes in and he competes admirably. There's a lot of upside."

Next game: at San Diego State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday, CBS Sports Network

Notable: San Jose State could have Billy Freeman available for the first time since Oct. 25 against Navy. He caught his only touchdown pass of the season that game but has missed the past four with various injuries. He was back at practice Tuesday. ... RB Jarrod Lawson's six-game suspension is over and he practiced Tuesday. Caragher said he'll have to audition to earn playing time Saturday. ... DT Travis Raciti, who leads all Mountain West linemen with 65 tackles, accepted an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game. Raciti was a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference pick in 2012 and seems a candidate to earn similar honors in the MW this year.

— Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News


After believing it had a victory taken away at Hawaii, UNLV has to quickly turn its attention from its second-most-important rival to its top one.

The Rebels host Nevada on Saturday, a team that will quickly get their attention.

Coach Bobby Hauck said he was on to the Wolf Pack on Sunday when he watched the video, and his players certainly know what team is next on the schedule.

"We certainly are not lacking focus on this particular contest," Hauck said Monday. "As the year goes on, we talk about it openly right up until the season starts, and then we're focused on (each) week. College football rivalry games are special when you have a good one. When you don't have one, I think the guys in the program are missing out on something that’s a really cool deal, maybe the coolest deal in college football.

"When it's in-state, it's really an awesome deal."

Not that the Rebels have completely moved on from the loss at Hawaii.

UNLV appeared to have won the game when Blake Decker completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to H-back Taylor Barnhill with 15 seconds left to go ahead 35-31. But wide receiver Marcus Sullivan and running back George Naufahu were each penalized for running down the sideline from the bench with their helmets off.

The double penalty forced the Rebels to kick off from their 10-yard line, helping Hawaii to get possession at UNLV's 42.

Hawaii advanced to the 20 with 5 seconds left, and 4 seconds went off the clock on an incomplete pass. With just 1 second remaining, the Rainbow Warriors came through with the winning touchdown pass.

Hauck wasn't pleased with the double penalties or with what he thought was a slow clock, though a replay showed the play went off in less than 5 seconds.

That didn't mean the loss stung any less.

"I've never been that angry after a game, and it still pains me to talk about it," Hauck said.

Next game: vs. Nevada, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPNU

Notable: Devonte Boyd broke the UNLV receiving yards record for a freshman. He has 912 yards, 1 more than Ryan Wolfe in 2006. Boyd also is the nation's leader in receiving yards for freshmen. ... Redshirt freshman quarterback Jared Lebowitz received his first career start at Hawaii. He led the Rebels to touchdowns on his first two drives, but then struggled in finishing 13 of 30 for 212 yards, with an interception. Usual starter Blake Decker came off the bench in the fourth quarter and completed 10 of 13 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns in rallying the Rebels from a 24-14 deficit. Decker didn't start because of a variety of injuries, including to his hip and neck. No decision on how the quarterback situation will play out against Nevada has been announced. ... Lebowitz completed an 81-yard pass to Devante Davis against the Warriors, the longest UNLV completion since 1997 when Jon Denton completed an 82-yarder to Len Ware against Air Force.

— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal