Bronco Beat

Mountain West Football Report: Powerful opponents on tap in Week 2

MOUNTAIN DIVISION

AIR FORCE

Air Force did not emerge from its opener unscathed.

Tight end Garrett Griffin watched practice Monday with his left knee wrapped and in a brace. Though the team would not comment of his status, there was the sense that everyone was moving forward with sophomore Ryan Reffitt at the position.

“I thought Ryan Reffitt did a good job,” coach Troy Calhoun said. “He went in and played pretty good football. I thought he blocked well at the point of attack, had some good perimeter blocks, so we’ll see. And we have some things personnel-wise where we’ll make some adjustments, too.”

Griffin’s injury occurred during pregame on Saturday, as a teammate rolled into him. He did not play in the 63-7 blowout of Morgan State, but his absence wasn’t noticed as Air Force started with three receivers and threw the ball only seven times – never to the tight end.

The senior from Louisburg, Kan., has 29 catches for 470 yards and five touchdowns in his career and was entering his third season as a starter.

Now the Falcons will shift to Reffitt, a 6-5, 230-pound sophomore who was converted from wide receiver to tight end just this past offseason.

Reffitt, as a sophomore, was not available to media this week.

Quarterback Nate Romine – no stranger to being thrust into action ahead of schedule, as he took over at quarterback midway through his freshman season – feels Reffitt will fit in seamlessly.

“He’ll be thrown into the fire, but that’s the best way to grow is to get thrown out there and learn as you go,” Romine said. “He’ll be really good.”

Next game: vs. San Jose State, 8:15 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU

Notable: Air Force has lost four consecutive conference openers. … San Jose State ranked No. 1 in the nation in defensive passing yards last year but 116th against the run, a stat that obviously plays to the strength of the run-first Falcons. … Nine different players scored Air Force’s nine touchdowns last week.

— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette

BOISE STATE

Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said after the Broncos’ season-opening defeat last year to Ole Miss that his group didn’t believe it could win on its own.

The Broncos had faded in the fourth quarter of a 35-13 loss. They trailed 7-6 after three quarters.

In a similar situation Friday — with the offense sputtering and special teams making repeated mistakes — the defense saved the team. Boise State beat Washington 16-13 in a game it led 16-0 at halftime.

“When we were struggling on offense and we were struggling on special teams — a lot of times the third unit, if that happens, they start to struggle, too,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “It gets frustrating for them. And that didn’t happen. That defense ran out there with great energy and they got it done. ... They were able to step up and rise to the occasion in that moment and they did a very nice job.”

The Broncos’ defense continued the momentum it built late last season by holding Washington to 12 first downs, 29 rushing yards and 179 total yards. The 13 points came off a bad punt (4-yard drive for a field goal), a punt return for a touchdown and a blocked punt (17-yard drive for a field goal).

“I always compare it to a year ago when we played against Ole Miss,” Yates said. “I don’t think that defense thought they could win the Ole Miss game on defense. I think this team this year felt like they actually could. Same players, but just a year later, just a different mentality within the group.”

The dominant performance came as no surprise to the Broncos’ offense, which faced that defense nearly every day for a month.

“It’s annoying for us to go against them in practice,” senior left tackle Rees Odhiambo said. “It’s nice to see them doing really well out there against somebody else.”

Next game: at BYU, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPN2

Notable: QB Ryan Finley was 16-for-26 for 129 yards with an interception and two sacks in his first start. His rating was below 100 but coaches say he managed the game well and only made two bad decisions. ... RB Jeremy McNichols, also making his first start, gained 113 yards from scrimmage on 27 touches. He scored two touchdowns. ... DE Gabe Perez, DT Tutulupeatau Mataele, WR D.J. Dean and WR Rick Smith didn’t play against Washington because of injuries. They are expected to return this week. ... TE Chase Blakley, a redshirt freshman expected to contribute, tore an Achilles tendon in practice and will miss the entire season.

— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman

COLORADO STATE

Nick Stevens’ debut as Colorado State’s starting quarterback couldn’t have gone much better.

The sophomore already had a 7-0 lead when he took the field for the first time Saturday, thanks to a fumble recovery in the end zone by the defense on the game’s second play.

He went on to throw for 289 yards and five touchdowns while playing just 2 ½ quarters to lead the Rams to a 65-13 win over Savannah State.

“I was really pleased with how he threw it,” coach Mike Bobo said Monday. “He was decisive. … When he threw the ball, there was zip on the ball, and it was in places where the guys could run with it and do something after the catch.”

Stevens played in five games in 2014 for the Rams while backing up Garrett Grayson and beat out redshirt freshman Coleman Key in a two-man race for the starting job this season that wasn’t decided until after the first scrimmage of fall camp.

The qualities that won Stevens the job were evident in the opening game, watching it live and on video, Bobo said. Two of his incomplete passes were balls that were intentionally thrown away because the receivers were covered, the coach said. And he went to the check-down receivers while making the proper reads on some other plays, including a pass he completed to running back Jasen Oden for a 12-yard gain on the first play of the second half to start a 75-yard touchdown drive.

It was a solid debut, Bobo said, for a quarterback who had struggled a bit in practices last week. The five touchdown passes were one shy of the school record for a single game, set by Mark Driscoll in a 1974 game against Nevada.

“It was good to see, because you never know how a guy’s going to perform when the lights are on,” Bobo said. “But he seemed confident, he seemed sure of himself, he seemed like he knew where his guys were going to be and trusted them, and they trusted him.,

“So I’m really, really, really pleased with how he played in the game, and hopefully we can continue to improve week to week at that position.”

Next game: vs. Minnesota, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Tight end Kivon Cartwright caught a pass for a 9-yard touchdown on CSU’s first offensive series and finished with three catches for 56 yards before leaving the game in the second quarter with an undisclosed injury. Bobo said Monday that the injury to the senior, who was granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in last year’s season opener, doesn’t appear to be serious. His status for this week’s game will be determined later in the week, the coach said. … Kicker Wyatt Bryan missed a 42-yard field-goal try and a point-after touchdown kick after making a 31-yard field goal. The Rams, who are still trying to find a kickoff specialist, had three players give it a try in the opener and wound up kicking the ball out of bounds three times while getting only two touchbacks. Bobo said Bryan, a redshirt freshman, and true freshmen Braxton Davis and Kyle Jacobs would continue competing for the job in practices this week. … Junior Rashard Higgins, a consensus All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist last year, was the leading receiver in the opener, catching seven passes for 84 yards and one touchdown.

— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan

NEW MEXICO

Bob Davie has said he would be in favor of college football teams playing a preseason game, as the pros do, or a preseason scrimmage against another school, as the high schools do.

Last Saturday, the fourth-year New Mexico coach kind of got his wish. In his Lobos’ 66-0 demolition of FCS foil Mississippi Valley State, 71 of his players saw the field. Of his 85 scholarship players, almost all of the 22 who didn’t play against the Delta Devils were either nursing injuries or ticketed for a redshirt year.

On the night, 29 New Mexico players made at least one tackle; 11 Lobos carried the ball at least once.

And, better still, the victory actually counts. The Lobos are 1-0 for the first time since 2012 — the last time they opened the season against an FCS opponent (Southern).

Afterward, Davie said he was completely aware of how little the Mississippi Valley State game means going forward. In his postgame interview, he spent almost as much time talking about Saturday’s home game against Tulsa as about the one his team had just played.

The Lobos haven’t started a season 2-0 since 2005.

“I think this (Tulsa) game has a chance to be one of the biggest games around here in a long time,” he said.

But, of course, he’ll take the Mississippi Valley State game and try to build on it.

“It went about as well as it could go,” he said.

Next game: vs. Tulsa, 6 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPN3

Notable: Davie said the gap between starting quarterback Lamar Jordan and backup Austin Apodaca has not widened in his mind as a result of the players’ performances against Mississippi Valley State. But with a far stronger opponent coming to Albuquerque this week, the chances of Apodaca seeing action are greatly reduced. Jordan was 7-of-7 passing for 103 yards against MVSU and rushed five times for 62 yards and a touchdown. Apodaca was 4-of-11 passing for 48 yards. ... Sophomore Daryl Chestnut, a junior college transfer, had one of the most auspicious debuts a running back could have. He scored from 64 yards out on his first carry as a Lobo, then took it in from 37 out on his second. ... Tulsa had its way with New Mexico the last two times the teams met, winning 56-14 in 2008 and 44-10 the following year. Tulsa leads the series, 4-2.

— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal

UTAH STATE

Utah State plays Utah for the 112th time on Friday night.

It might be the last game between the two old rivals for a long time.

Utah’s membership in the Pac-12 has limited the Utes to playing three non-conference games. Currently, the Aggies are not on Utah’s future schedules through at least 2020, which makes this game more special.

“It’s absolutely going to be a battle and it will be a huge test for us,” linebacker Kyler Fackrell said. “But we’re looking forward to it.”

The Aggies opened the season with a 12-9 win over Southern Utah. While the defense played well, the offense struggled. Utah State managed only 250 total yards and went 1-for-15 on third down — mostly because the Aggies were rarely in short-yardage situations.

“I saw a decent amount of good and some bad on almost every single play,” coach Matt Wells said. “When you’re not playing as one heartbeat on offense, it doesn’t look very good.

“Not all is lost and the sky is not falling by any means, but there’s improvement to be made in every position meeting room on offense. It’s been addressed and it will continue to be addressed.”

Senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, playing in his 10th game since 2012 because of injuries, completed 16 of 33 passes for 110 yards. He threw one interception.

“He’s graded upon what he’s asked to do,” Wells said. “But Chuckie, from a physical and mental standpoint, was very good. There were some things he probably wishes he had back — we all do — and some things I wish we would’ve done better around him.”

Utah State missed its two most experienced receivers, senior Hunter Sharp and junior Brandon Swindall. Sharp served the first of a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Swindall continues to come back from an Achilles injury he suffered in the second game of 2014 against Idaho State.

Sharp will not play against Utah. In keeping with his policy of not discussing injuries unless they are season-ending, Wells did not comment on Swindall’s availability.

“I haven’t used that as an excuse, but that’s a fact,” Wells said. “Our two most experienced receivers didn’t play. That’s the fact of the matter. I haven’t used that as an excuse and I won’t. But those are the facts. Players make plays and we have to have other players make plays.”

Next game: at Utah, 7 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN2)

Notable: Redshirt junior Andrew Rodriguez, a transfer from Houston, was named the Mountain West’s special teams Player of the Week. His 88-yard punt return with 4:54 left gave the Aggies their first lead against Southern Utah. It was the third-longest punt return in school history. Rodriguez was the third player to return punts in the game. But going forward, he’s won the job. Said Wells, “He won’t be [third] now.” … Sophomore LaJuan Hunt rushed 23 times for 80 yards against Southern Utah. Junior college transfer Devante Mays gained 51 yards on four carries, including a team-long 39-yarder. “We just didn’t gel as a unit,” Hunt said. “We weren’t playing as one and that’s probably the main reason why we didn’t have as many offensive explosive plays. But once we do that, we’ll have a lot of explosives.” Asked about eventually forming a 1-2 punch with Mays, Hunt laughed and said: “Lightning and thunder. He’s thunder and I’m lightning.” … Utah State has won 36 of its last 48 games. … Keeton needs three touchdown passes to break Jose Fuentes’ school record (60). Fuentes played from 1998 to 2002.

— Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune

WYOMING

Coach Craig Bohl didn’t like what he saw after the game, and he confirmed that Monday after watching the film of the Cowboys’ 24-13 season-opening loss at home to FCS foe North Dakota.

“We all own that as coaches and players, and we’re in the process of doing all the things we can do to get the direction of this football team changed,” Bohl said.

“I think there needs to be a measured approach. You don’t have complete urban renewal where you change offenses and defenses, and have drastic changes on your depth chart. I was as surprised as anybody with our performance. I believe we can be a good football team this year. But that performance was not reflective of that.”

Bohl said he wouldn’t talk with rose-colored glasses about the Cowboys’ shortcomings, and he didn’t, especially about the offense.

“That’s probably one of the poorer performances that we’ve had since I’ve been a head coach,” said Bohl, who is in his 13th year as a head coach

The offense was on the field for only 22 minutes, 46 seconds. It ran for only 29 yards, punted seven times and was 3 of 13 on third-down conversions. Wyoming didn’t score until the fourth quarter and had only 330 yards of total offense.

Defensively, the Cowboys allowed 9 of 17 third-down conversions. Bohl said many of those were third-and-long situations. Bohl also said the defensive line needed to cancel out gaps better. Two of the three North Dakota touchdowns came on big plays — runs of 52 and 44 yards.

UW’s eight penalties for 96 yards didn’t help, nor did the fact it played with 17 true or redshirt freshmen. That figure is tied for the seventh-most among Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the nation.

“I overestimated our ability to handle situations with our youth. I will own that one,” Bohl said. “I thought we would be further along with some of our players who are young.”

Redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman was 19 of 37 for 282 yards and two touchdowns in his Wyoming debut, but he suffered what Bohl describes as a “minor meniscus strain” to his right knee late in the game. Coffman had a noticeable limp and a wrap around the knee Monday. Even though Wyoming lists him as the starter this week, Bohl said Coffman is day-to-day.

Coffman reiterated that.

“It’s doing all right. It’s a little sore,” he said. “We’re going to take it day by day and try to get as much treatment as we can between now and Saturday. Hopefully I’ll be ready to go.”

When asked if he thinks he will play, Coffman added: “We’ll see.”

Next game: vs. Eastern Michigan, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (Root)

Notable: Wyoming gets redshirt freshman walk-on free safety Adam Pilapil back this week after he served a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Pilapil was the starter coming out of spring and during fall camp prior to the suspension. ... Coffman hit junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry for a 92-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter last week, which was the second-longest scoring pass play in school history. The longest was 93 yards in 2012. ... Gentry recorded career highs with nine catches for 176 yards. ... Wyoming and Eastern Michigan will play for the first time in football Saturday. ... The Cowboys are 11-2 against FCS foes since 2000, but have split their last four.

— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports

WEST DIVISION

FRESNO STATE

Fresno State obviously is not the only team in the Mountain West working its way through some questions at the quarterback position, but the Bulldogs exited their opener with a pass efficiency rating of 109.83, which is lower than it was a year ago when they were ranked ninth of 12 in the conference and 104th of 128 in the nation at 113.71.

Oh, and they played and beat an FCS program in Abilene Christian 34-13 in the opener.

Third-year sophomore Zack Greenlee and freshman Chason Virgil did play well enough through spots to make an impression, though, and they will continue through a game on Saturday at Ole Miss and one the following week against Utah competing to take the snaps when the Bulldogs get to conference play.

Greenlee will start and Virgil will play, likely at the start of the second quarter as he did in the victory over Abilene Christian.

Greenlee played the first three series against Abilene Christian and the first five in the second half, leading Fresno State to three touchdowns and one field goal. He completed 14 of 32 passes (43.8%) for 156 yards with the three touchdowns and one interception and his passer rating is 109.39, seventh of 10 qualifiers (15.0 attempts per game) in the conference.

Virgil in his four series produced one touchdown and one field goal. He hit 8 of 13 passes (61.5%) for 61 yards with the touchdown and one interception and his passer rating is 110.95, which would rank sixth if he had enough passing attempts to be ranked.

“It was a good start,” offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said. “Inconsistent. We have a lot of things to clean up. It could have been better, could have been worse. There was a lot of teaching stuff, so we’ll find out. We have to make a huge jump from last game to this game. We have to take care of the football, that’s the No. 1 thing. But just everything has to be better — decision-making, accuracy, footwork, all those things. It is what it is.

“But that’s how they’re going to get better, by playing and seeing it on film. I think everyone learns best from game reps – all of those guys. From the young O-linemen to the young receivers, it’s a very young but very talented group of guys. We would like to accelerate their learning as fast as they can, but they only let us play one a week instead of three a week. Those game reps are invaluable. We could stand out here and yell and scream and jump up and down all we want to, but that’s not what makes them better. Playing the game at a full-speed tempo makes them better.”

Ford Childress, the junior transfer who was the third quarterback in a three-way competition in fall camp, will continue to get practice reps when he can.

“You can only get two truly ready,” Coach Tim DeRuyter said. “He’ll be our emergency guy and we’ll have a package of plays for him to run if we had to get to him and then we’ll just see.

“He’s unfortunately behind from a knowledge standpoint not having been here in the spring and then missing the first few days of camp. But he’s a guy we see some potential in, so we’re going to try to sneak him reps where we can.”

Next game: at Ole Miss, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN2)

Notable: There were some encouraging signs for a defense that has struggled the past two seasons, the Bulldogs holding Abilene Christian to 247 yards of total offense and 13 points, their final touchdown coming on the last play of the game. The Wildcats last season averaged 438.0 yards per game with 275.3 of that coming through the air. In two games against FBS competition they racked up 715 passing yards at 9.7 yards per play, albeit against a Georgia State team that finished 1-11 and a Troy team that finished 3-9. Fresno State also allowed just one explosive play of 20 or more yards and 34 rushing yards, the fewest allowed by the Bulldogs since yielding 13 in a Nov. 27, 2010, victory over Idaho. … On the trip into SEC country, the Bulldogs will be trying to snap a 19-game losing streak against ranked teams. Their last victory came in the 2004 MPC Computers Bowl when they beat No. 18 Virginia 37-34 in overtime. … Redshirt freshman Jamire Jordan and junior college transfer Josiah Blandin both scored touchdowns on their first career receptions, Jordan on a 25-yard pass from Greenlee and Blandin on a 32-yard pass from Greenlee. … Tight end Chad Olsen had two touchdown receptions and now has six in 15 career receptions.

— Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee

HAWAII

The Rainbow Warriors’ unique summer was epitomized with Monday’s morning. It started with heavy downpour, then vog (a fog created from Kilauea volcano’s emissions) and then a lightning watch. But not even El Nino’s miserable conditions could dampen the Warriors’ spirits. They still were giddy following the season-opening 28-20 victory over Colorado in a nationally televised game that ended at 5 a.m. on the East Coast. At 1-0, the Warriors have an above-.500 record for the first time in Norm Chow’s 38 games as head coach.

The Warriors received a boost from several players who started their college careers on other campuses. Max Wittek, who redshirted in 2014 after transferring from USC, threw three scoring passes. Quinton Pedroza, who transferred from Utah two years ago, caught an 11-yard scoring pass on the Warriors’ first drive, then grabbed the two-point toss. Luke Shawley, a former Navy SEAL who transferred from Mesa College two years ago, amassed 14 tackles, including his first NCAA sack. And Rigoberto Sanchez, who transferred from a junior college this summer, kicked two field goals and averaged 46.3 yards per punt. During the locker-room celebration, with teammates singing the “Ole Ole Ole” song, Sanchez was presented the game ball. It was a remarkable week for Sanchez, who joined the Warriors as a walk-on and out-dueled Nebraska transfer Mauro Bondi for the placekicker’s job. Sanchez is now on scholarship.

Next game: at Ohio State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (Big Ten Network)

Notable: The Warriors will receive a school-record $1.2 million appearance fee from Ohio State. … Running back/kickoff returner Paul Harris was raised in Columbus. … In addition to game balls, the Warriors award a championship belt to the top offensive lineman. Ben Clarke, the left tackle, is this week’s winner after earning a grade of 91. Clarke is used to high marks. He is a biology major who aspires to a career in medicine.

— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser

NEVADA

The Wolf Pack enters this week looking for its first win over a ranked opponent since 2010.

The last time Nevada beat a ranked team came in 2010 when it knocked off No. 3 Boise State, 34-31, in overtime in what is considered the best game in Wolf Pack history. Since then, Nevada is 0-6 versus ranked opponents, last playing a Top 25 team on Nov. 2, 2013, when it lost to Fresno State.

That changes Saturday when Nevada hosts No. 22 Arizona. The Wolf Pack haven’t hosted the Wildcats since 1924, when they scored a 23-14 victory. However, these two teams are plenty familiar with each other. This will be the teams’ third game against one another in the last four seasons.

“We’re expecting a hell of a game, a really high-quality opponent, and we’re going to have to play our best football,” coach Brian Polian said.

Nevada lost to Arizona 49-48 in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl, a game the Wolf Pack were leading by 13 with less than a minute to go (it also was Chris Ault’s last game at Nevada). In 2014, the Wolf Pack lost at Arizona, 35-28. Those two close calls have given the Wolf Pack some confidence heading into the game.

“We certainly respect them but to be able to put the film on from last year and say, ‘Hey, look. We’re making big plays against this opponent on the road,’ I think that will help their confidence,” Polian said.

Next game: vs. Arizona, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Junior WR Brayden Sanchez, a starter, is out for the season after tearing his ACL in the season opener. Sanchez had two catches before the injury. He had a strong fall camp to win the starting job. … Junior K Brent Zuzo is seventh nationally among active FBS players in career field-goal percentage (.806), with a minimum of 30 attempts. … Junior WR Hasaan Henderson is 35 yards away from 1,000 career receiving yards. He has 79 catches for 965 yards and five touchdowns in his career.

— Chris Murray, Reno Gazette-Journal

SAN DIEGO STATE

Quarterback Maxwell Smith did not enjoy the sharpest of debuts for San Diego State on Saturday night in a 37-3 win over the University of San Diego, but he’s not going to be the fall guy. There were too many other people not doing their job to pin it on one player.

Aztecs coach Rocky Long said he is sticking with Smith as his quarterback after the graduate transfer completed only nine of 21 passes for 100 yards, with one interception and no touchdowns, against the FCS Toreros.

“The offense was very inconsistent in a lot of spots,” Long said after viewing the game on film. “We were very inconsistent in the offensive line, very inconsistent at receiver and very inconsistent at quarterback.

“We did some good things, but we did some bad things that prevented us from keeping drives alive.”

Against a USD defense that ranked 62nd in the FCS in points allowed last season, the Aztecs offense managed only a first-quarter, 5-yard touchdown by D.J. Pumphrey and three field goals by Donny Hageman.

The defense scored twice on Calvin Munson interception returns and a 97-yard kickoff return by Rashaad Penny.

Most surprising was how poorly SDSU ran the ball overall. Chase Price was a bright spot, getting 63 yards on nine carries for a 7-yard average, but Pumphrey was held to only 65 yards on 20 carries – his lowest output with at least 10 carries since getting only 24 yards against Boise State in November of 2013.

“I thought their coaches did a nice job with the scheme to make it hard to run against them,” Long said. “Now you have to execute better on offense. It wasn’t for lack of effort. Some of our aiming points on blocking a guy were wrong, or the footwork was wrong. Those are all things that can be fixed, and I hope it can be real quick.”

The Aztecs travel this week for a Saturday game at Cal, which scored the second-most points in school history in beating Grambling State 73-14 on Saturday.

“USD is as good as Grambling State,” Long said.

Next game: at Cal, 3 p.m. MT Saturday, Pac-12 Network

Notable: Sophomore safety Trey Lomax suffered a dislocated kneecap in Saturday’s game and, though he won’t require surgery, will be out 4-6 weeks. Lomax, who started all but two games last year as a true freshman, is backed up by two players who saw limited time in 2014, junior Kendrick Mathis and sophomore Kameron Kelly. Mathis is playing with a wrapped club on his broken left hand. … Munson won both the Walter Camp National and Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week awards. He led SDSU in tackles with 11 and recovered a fumble in addition to the two pick sixes. No SDSU player had won the Camp weekly award before. Munson has returned three of his six career interceptions for TDs. … SDSU is 3-3 all-time against Cal.

— Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN JOSE STATE

The Spartans were presented with a good problem after their season-opening demolishing of FCS power New Hampshire.

Which of their efficient and effective quarterbacks should they play?

Senior Joe Gray started in the 43-13 win over New Hampshire and completed 16 of 20 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown. Junior Kenny Potter played in the second and fourth quarters and was 13 of 14 for 167 yards in his major college debut. He had two touchdown passes called back because of penalties.

It was a complete performance against a team that, albeit from the FCS level, was ranked No. 1 last season. The Spartans piled up 34 first downs against the Wildcats’ 10 and saw their two-headed running back duo run wild.

Tyler Ervin had 20 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns and Thomas Tucker racked up 19 carries for 74 yards and two scores.

Tight end Billy Freeman looked healthy and beefed up and caught four passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. If he’s at full strength, he should easily contend for All-Mountain West status. Returning second-team All-MW selection Tyler Winston caught seven passes for 76 yards as well.

But the true test comes Saturday against Air Force. SJSU has been pulverized the past two years facing Navy’s triple option, an attack the Falcons also utilize.

The offense will need to showcase similar efficiency and the defense will have to prove it’s solved some of its triple-option woes to open conference play with a win.

Next game: at Air Force, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU)

Notable: While several of the question marks on the depth chart were solved in game one, there remains an “or” listed between Gray and Potter. It’s likely that Gray will start and Potter will relieve as coach Ron Caragher still tries to whittle down the competition until someone emerges or falters. … One change that will come this week is true freshman Bryce Crawford is taking over kicking duties from senior Austin Lopez. Lopez missed one PAT, had another one blocked and also missed a 27-yard field goal. After two splendid seasons to start his career, including a record-tying 23 straight successful field goals, Lopez has slumped since the start of last year and Crawford will handle kicks for now.

— Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News

UNLV

UNLV coach Tony Sanchez is familiar with the hotshot quarterback visiting on Saturday.

His Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High team played Josh Rosen last season when he quarterbacked St. John Bosco from Bellflower, Calif. Gorman defeated Bosco 34-31 en route to winning the mythical national title.

Now Sanchez goes against Rosen again, this time as quarterback of No. 13 UCLA. Rosen is coming off a tremendous debut, completing 28 of 35 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns in the Bruins’ 34-16 victory over Virginia.

UCLA also returns 18 starters, so it figures to be a difficult night at Sam Boyd Stadium for the Rebels.

But their season opener at Northern Illinois wasn’t supposed to be easy, either. UNLV gave the Huskies all they could handle on Saturday, leading 17-3 late in the first half before eventually falling 38-30.

“I feel like we had a chance to win this game,” Sanchez said. “I look at personnel, and I looked at our guys. I like our guys. I like their commitment. I like their toughness. I think we have some skill.

“We’re not a bad football team.”

Next game: vs. UCLA, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday, CBS Sports Network

Notable: Nine incoming freshmen played at Northern Illinois. … Sophomore quarterback Kurt Palandech received a series in each the first and second halves, which was planned. He led the Rebels to a touchdown on the first drive, but they were forced to punt on the second one. … UNLV and UCLA have never played each other, though the teams are only 283 miles apart. It’s the second-closest FBS school to UNLV. USC is the closest. The Rebels play at UCLA next season to complete the home-and-home deal.

— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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