Bronco Beat

Mountain West Football Report: QB changes continue in battered league

San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey (19) carries past the Utah State defense during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday in San Diego.
San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey (19) carries past the Utah State defense during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday in San Diego. AP

MOUNTAIN DIVISION

AIR FORCE

Linebacker Connor Healy returned to practice for Air Force on Monday, a welcome sight for a team decimated by injuries.

Healy, a team captain who was second in tackles for the 2014 Falcons, was lost to a sprained left MCL in the Oct. 3 game at Navy. He was expected to be gone for six to eight weeks, but if the knee responds to practice this week he would be back instead in four.

“We’ll see where he’s at,” defensive coordinator Steve Russ said. “We didn’t anticipate him being out here this quickly, but he’s running around and feeling good. (Tuesday) will be a real telling day when he’s out here with pads on. If it looks like it did today, I think we’re going to be real pleased.”

Air Force has reaped the benefits of a deep inside linebacking corps, but the battle for playing time throughout the offseason was only for the spot next to Healy. His place was never in doubt.

Adding him now will only bolster a unit that still includes his brother, Patrick, who has started five games, as well as Grant Ross (third on the team with 34 tackles) and Claude Alexander III (four sacks and six tackles for loss in three games as Healy’s replacement). The team has learned first-hand that it can’t have too much depth at any position.

The Falcons are on their second quarterback, they played without their top two tailbacks last week and they’ve lost a center, tight end, nose guard, outside linebacker and a cornerback at various times this year.

Healy’s injury was the same one suffered by tight end Garrett Griffin before the season opener. Griffin returned to practice for the first time the week of the Colorado State game and played a small role that week.

No one is saying if that’s the same plan for Healy.

“We haven’t gotten to contact with him, so we’ll just have to see,” coach Troy Calhoun said.

Next game: at Hawaii, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Air Force moved Jacobi Owens, a 1,000-yard rusher at tailback last season, to fullback last week because of injuries to Shayne Davern and D.J. Johnson. Owens ran for 137 yards and a touchdown. … Quarterback Karson Roberts scored five touchdowns, second most in school history, and was named Mountain West offensive player of the week. … Air Force has not held a lead in its three road games. … The last time the Falcons played Hawaii they won 21-7 without attempting a pass. ... Air Force’s current 10-game home winning streak is a program record.

— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette

BOISE STATE

Boise State might have to play its final game before a much-needed bye without both starting offensive tackles.

Senior left tackle Rees Odhiambo, a three-year starter and NFL prospect, broke an ankle Saturday against Wyoming. It’s unclear whether he will return this season.

Junior right tackle Mario Yakoo missed the Wyoming game and is questionable this week at UNLV.

The Broncos also were without season-opening starters in quarterback Ryan Finley (broken ankle), safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner (broken ankle), cornerback Donte Deayon (knee surgery) and middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo against Wyoming.

Odhiambo’s return from injury late last season helped spark the Broncos offense. They likely will have to finish at least the regular season without him this year.

“Hopefully we can get him back and he’s able to play — if that’s a bowl game opportunity, great,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “If not, he does have a future in playing this game at the next level. ... There’s a guy who’s one of our best players, best leaders, and he’s not going to be out there playing for us. He’s a competitor and in your senior year, for a guy like that, it’s frustrating.”

Sophomore Archie Lewis, who has started three games at right tackle this year, is listed as the starting left tackle this week. He started in place of injured right tackle Mario Yakoo last week. Lewis has eight career starts, including four at left tackle last year when Odhiambo was injured.

“Archie’s kind of been a guy who’s gotten better each and every week,” senior center Marcus Henry said. “He definitely has proven himself to the line and we have total confidence in him if he has to go in at any position.”

If Yakoo is out, the Broncos could move right guard Steven Baggett back to his former spot at right tackle and play a backup at guard, perhaps Mason Hampton. Harsin also mentioned redshirt freshman Andres Preciado as an option at tackle.

Next game: at UNLV, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU)

Notable: RB Jeremy McNichols returned from a one-game absence because of a concussion and set a school record with 40 touches. He established career highs with 166 rushing yards and 202 yards from scrimmage while scoring two more touchdowns for 16 on the year. ... Yakoo and Vallejo are questionable this week. ... WR Thomas Sperbeck made highlight reels with his juggling, one-handed catch as he fell out of bounds against Wyoming. He has seven touchdown catches in the past six games. ... Senior S Darian Thompson was named a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award.

— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman

COLORADO STATE

Although it might not have seemed that way while the Colorado State football team was losing four out of five games earlier this season, a third consecutive bowl appearance remains well within the Rams’ reach.

Win three of their last five games, and the Rams (3-4, 1-2 Mountain West) will be playing again in December in one of the seven bowl games under contract with the 12-team conference.

First-year coach Mike Bobo and his players said Monday they can’t afford to look that far ahead. They can only look at the game they’re playing in a particular week and do everything within their power to prepare for and win that game. But they know, Bobo said, what winning at least three of those five means.

“They know how many wins you’ve got to get to get to a bowl,” Bobo said at his weekly news conference. “They know where everybody is as far as conference play. We talk about what we’ve got to do this week to earn the right to win on Saturday.”

This Saturday’s opponent is San Diego State (5-3, 4-0 MW), the only team in the Mountain West without a loss in league play. After that, the Rams have games Nov. 7 at Wyoming (1-7, 1-3), at home Nov. 14 against UNLV (2-5, 1-2) and on the road Nov. 21 at New Mexico (4-4, 2-2) and Nov. 28 at Fresno State (2-6, 1-4).

They’re all winnable games for a Colorado State team that had lost four of its previous five before beating Air Force 38-23 on Oct. 17 at Hughes Stadium.

Late runs for bowl games are nothing new for the Rams. CSU had to win four of its last five in 2001 to earn its spot in the New Orleans Bowl, three of its last five in 2008 to get to the New Mexico Bowl and five of its last seven after a 2-4 start in 2013 for another spot in the New Mexico Bowl.

“We just hope to finish the season strong,” senior running back Jasen Oden Jr. said. “… We’re going to worry about one game at a time, and we’re not going to rush it. We’re not going to look forward to what the end of the season might hold.”

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

Notable: Junior Rashard Higgins, one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award last year as the nation’s outstanding receiver, was able to practice Wednesday and Thursday last week after missing the better part of the previous two weeks because of illness and a hamstring injury, Bobo said. … With a bye last Saturday, the Rams only practiced three days last week. … Bobo and his staff used the bye week to hit the road and evaluate recruits. The coach said Monday that his position coaches and coordinators had video clips to evaluate on 40 prospects by Wednesday of this week, so the staff can meet Thursday to start prioritizing recruiting needs for 2016 and beyond. … CSU has lost four in a row and seven of its past eight games against San Diego State, with the lone win during that stretch coming in 2008 in San Diego. The Rams, who are in the Mountain Division, haven’t played the Aztecs of the West Division since 2012. … ESPN announced Monday that it was putting the Nov. 7 CSU-Wyoming game on ESPN3.com instead of on ESPN2 or ESPNU. Kickoff was set for 1 p.m. in Laramie.

— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan

NEW MEXICO

New Mexico coach Bob Davie has decided who will play quarterback for the Lobos the rest of the season.

Will it be sophomore Lamar Jordan, who started UNM’s first seven games this season?

Will it be junior Austin Apodaca, a surprise starter in last week’s 31-21 loss at San Jose State?

Yes.

Both quarterbacks, Davie said Monday, can expect to play in the team’s final four games.

“I think the reality is now that both quarterbacks really do have to play,” Davie said during his weekly Monday morning radio interview.

Jordan is widely viewed as “the running quarterback,” Apodaca as “the passing quarterback.” Davie and offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse, while acknowledging that Apodaca is the better passer and Jordan the better runner, have said repeatedly the base, triple-option offense doesn’t need to change dramatically depending on which quarterback is in the game.

Simply put, whoever the quarterback is, the Lobos need to run better and throw better than they have in recent weeks.

The running game, ranked in the top five nationally in each of Davie’s first three seasons, has averaged just 179 yards the past three games.

Apodaca was effective throwing the ball in relief of Jordan in a 35-17 loss at Nevada and a 28-27, comeback victory over Hawaii. But he was 8-of-20 for 130 yards with an interception at San Jose State and had some crucial misfires.

In deciding to play both quarterbacks, Davie is looking for a spark.

“I think we just let it rip,” he said, “and kind of go with whoever we need to have in there at that particular time.”

Next game: vs. Utah State, Nov. 7

Notable: New Mexico (4-4, 2-2) has a bye this week. It’s doubtful that any bye week comes at a bad time, but Davie said the timing in this case is particularly good. Injuries need healing, particularly in the defensive line. The coaching staff will scatter after Wednesday’s practice on recruiting trips. And the week off gives Davie and his assistants a chance to evaluate the team and the program going into the final four games. ... The prevailing question around Albuquerque regarding UNM football this week seems to be this: Why start your “passing quarterback” at San Jose State and then have him throw only three passes in the first half? Davie hasn’t answered that question as yet, but the answer might be found in the statistics. The Lobos threw three passes in the first half against the Spartans and scored 14 points. They threw 17 passes in the second half and scored seven points.

— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal

UTAH STATE

In hindsight, Utah State coach Matt Wells might have done more gambling and less punting in the third quarter of San Diego State’s 48-14 win over the Aggies last Friday night.

Utah State trailed all the way against the Aztecs, but Devante Mays’ 26-yard touchdown run early in the second half made it 31-14 — a three-possession game.

After Mays’ score, the Aggies showed some life on defense and held San Diego State twice. They got the ball back with a chance to grab some serious momentum but ended up punting on fourth-and-1 and fourth-and-2.

Following the second punt, the Aztecs drove for the clinching score.

“As I evaluate myself and look back on it now, it’s easy to say I should have gone for it,” Wells said at Monday’s weekly press conference. “And I might in the future. But at that point we had two straight three-and-outs by the defense and we weren’t doing much on offense. That’s probably a reason to get it jump-started. But also, if it backfires, you’re down four scores.”

San Diego State thoroughly outplayed the Aggies, who gave up 336 rushing yards, including 181 on 23 carries by running back Donnel Pumphrey.

“We got out-coached, we got outplayed and they won a good college football game,” Wells said. “They did a nice job creating their run game. We didn’t do a good job of (stopping) it or making adjustments.”

On offense, Utah State owned the football for only 22 minutes. Sophomore quarterback Kent Myers, solid during a three-game winning streak, completed only 8 of 19 passes for 93 yards. He fumbled the ball away twice and was intercepted once.

Next game: vs. Wyoming, 8:15 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN2)

Notable: Utah State is still in control of the Mountain Division race. If the Aggies win out, they will reach the conference championship game because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Boise State and can hand Air Force its second league loss on Nov. 14. … The Aggies are dealing with some critical injuries, especially one to nose guard David Moala. He did not play at San Diego State because of a sprained knee. The Aztecs rushed for 336 yards. It’s not known whether Moala will play Friday against Wyoming because Wells does not discuss injuries, unless they are season-ending. “It’s just the time of the year (when) guys are banged up,” he said. “The more you talk about it, the more it sounds like excuses. It’s college football and our guys are banged up, just like a lot of guys. You just have to play through stuff.” … If Wells needed a reminder about the impact turnovers can have on the outcome of football games, he got one three weeks ago while watching his young son in little league. “It was 2-0,” Wells said. “Then Wyatt’s team coughed it up three times and they ended up getting drilled.”

— Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune

WYOMING

Nick Smith started the season as Wyoming’s No. 3 quarterback.

Since the end of the first game, Smith has been the No. 2 guy.

This week he’s No. 1.

Second-year coach Craig Bohl said Monday that Smith – a redshirt freshman – will take snaps as the Cowboys’ starter due to the right shoulder injury to redshirt senior Cameron Coffman in the third quarter of last Saturday’s 34-14 loss at Boise State.

Wyoming (1-7, 1-3) plays at Utah State (4-3, 3-1) on Friday night.

Bohl said Coffman is “doubtful to remote” to play this week. He also said X-rays on Coffman’s shoulder came back negative, but that he was “very sore” Monday.

“The fact (Smith) will get all the reps with the (No. 1 offense) this week will have an impact,” Bohl said. “We will put him in situations that I think are going to test him a little bit more in practice.”

Although Coffman was listed as the backup on UW’s latest depth chart, Bohl said redshirt sophomore Aaron Young – the team’s No. 4 quarterback heading into the season – will get reps as the backup quarterback this week.

Smith was 4 of 8 for 53 yards and ran five times for 18 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter at Boise State. In his only other playing time this season, Smith came in during Wyoming’s second offensive series against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 12 after sophomore Josh Allen suffered a broken collarbone. Smith played the rest of the game and was 3 of 13 for zero yards, but ran 10 times for 65 yards.

Coffman missed the Eastern Michigan game with a sprained knee suffered late in the season opener against North Dakota.

Running is the strongest part of Smith’s game right now, and Bohl said Smith “needs to develop” his passing game. However, Bohl also said Monday that the team is not changing its offense this week with Smith at quarterback.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity, and it’s a great opportunity for me to show guys what I can do and help lead this team anyway I can to a victory,” Smith said. “I’m fairly comfortable with the offense, and as each week goes on I get more and more comfortable and understand what we want to do.

“My passing game is coming along a little bit, but that’s an area I need to work on.”

Smith had good size at 6-foot-4, 233 pounds. Offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said Smith has done a good job of practicing and preparing for games since his first playing time against Eastern Michigan.

“He understands what it takes from a game experience standpoint now, and I know he does from a preparation standpoint,” Vigen said. “Maybe he’s got those bumps in the road out of the way from his previous game experiences.

“He’s a kid that wants to do well and is a competitor. If you have those things, you have a chance.”

Next game: at Utah State, 8:15 p.m. Friday (ESPN2)

Notable: Junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry will miss his second straight game due to a shoulder injury suffered in the second half of the Oct. 17 game against Nevada. Gentry leads the Cowboys with 678 receiving yards. … Despite only 76 yards against Boise State – his third-lowest total this season – sophomore running back Brian Hill is fourth in the FBS with 1,061 yards, and is ninth with 132.6 yards per game. He is the fastest player in school history to reach 1,000 yards – eight games. … True freshman free safety Andrew Wingard will return punts in place of junior linebacker D.J. May, who also returns kickoffs. Bohl wants to decrease the number of reps May gets in a game. May is coming off a career-high 14 tackles at Boise State. … Wingard’s 5.8 solo tackles per game leads the MW and is 17th nationally.

—Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports

WEST DIVISION

FRESNO STATE

Senior outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine has a chance to finish in the Top 5 in the Mountain West Conference in career tackles for loss, going into the final third of the season in sixth place with 40.0 and now that he is that close, he is intent on making it to the top.

TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes is fifth on the all-time list with 40.5, Horned Frogs’ end Chase Ortiz is fourth with 41.5, Colorado State linebacker Mychal Sisson is third with 42.0, BYU defensive end Jan Jorgensen is second with 44.0 and San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris is the career leader with 47.0.

“I never would have seen that coming, but now that I’m so close I told my teammates I have to finish on top,’’ Ederaine said. “I’m not a big fan of coming close, but falling short.”

How he has done it still is a question, even around Fresno State. At 230 pounds, he is not an overpowering presence. He is quick, but not blazingly fast coming off the edge. And last season he barely could lift his arms when playing with bad shoulders, both requiring offseason surgery.

Coach Tim DeRuyter points to his uncanny ability to slip blocks, even when fully engaged. If a lineman gets his hands on him, he can bend, twist and wriggle his way free.

“He’s a guy that is very slippery,” he said. “I don’t know, it’s strange. He’s a guy that just understands the game and he has a lot of just bend to him. He can work an edge on people and that enables him to make plays with his length. Normal guys just don’t have that and it has allowed him to be very successful. He doesn’t necessarily have to go right down the middle and shock and shed like traditional football players, and he does work edges very well.”

Defensive coordinator Nick Toth put them all together with smarts acquired over the past two seasons – Ederaine played in only three games as a freshman in 2012, led the Bulldogs with 16.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore and led again with 12.5 as a junior despite playing with the shoulder injuries.

“The thing about the guy is he has a really high football IQ, so play diagnosis and pre-snap recognition that allows him to cheat on some plays,” Toth said. “You see some of his biggest plays are because he has cheated. His responsibility might be to set a harder edge, but he is crossing the block because he knows that guy is going to be overaggressive on him and he’s able to make a play.”

Ederaine? He starts to formulate an answer, mentions great teammates, great coaching and then … just smiles.

“I don’t even know why,” he said.

But he is well aware of what is out there down the stretch of a season.

“If you’re close, you might as well go all the way,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I can get it done. I’m not taking this Bulldogs jersey off without getting it done.”

Next game: Nov. 5 vs. Nevada

Notable: Fresno State continues to struggle with its pass game. Redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson made his third career start in a 42-14 loss at Air Force, completing 14 of 39 passes for 177 yards with one interception. This season, the Bulldogs are averaging 31.5 pass attempts per game. There are 86 teams averaging at least 30 passes per game, and Fresno State ranks last among them in passing yards per game with just 166.1. It also is 81st in completion percentage at 50.8 percent and 78th in passing efficiency rating at 104.17. … The Bulldogs had four explosive plays of 20 or more yards in their first 17 plays against the Falcons – they had been averaging 3.1 per game going in. They had only one the rest of the way and in the second and third quarters ran a total of 20 plays for a loss of four yards. … Fresno State forced one turnover in the loss at Air Force and is on pace this season for only 18 turnovers gained. The fumble recovery was the Bulldogs’ 12th turnover gained this season and they are on pace for 18 , which would be the lowest since Tim DeRuyter and Toth installed a 3-4 defense. Fresno State forced 35 turnovers in its first season, but the number has gone down every year since. The Bulldogs forced 23 turnovers in 2013 and 20 last season.

— Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee

HAWAII

The Rainbow Warriors must win their final five regular-season games to avoid their fifth consecutive losing season (and fourth under coach Norm Chow). A difficult schedule (five of past seven games were on the road, including at Ohio State, Wisconsin and Boise State) and injuries (14 of the 22 projected starters in training camp have missed games) contributed to this start (2-6 overall, 0-4 in the MWC).

The Warriors imploded in the past two road games, both on the road, when they squandered second-half leads against New Mexico and Nevada. The Warriors raced to a 17-0 lead against the Pack (on freshman Devan Stubblefield’s two TD catches and Rigo Sanchez’s 50-yard field goal) but could not slow the run. Acknowledging that Chow, who is in the fourth year of a five-year contract, is on the proverbial hot seat, slotback Dylan Collie said: “It kills me. I love that man.”

The Warriors appear ready to stick with quarterback Max Wittek, who threw for a career-high 291 yards against Nevada. But Wittek was sacked five times and intercepted three times (one came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half). Wittek has played despite ailments to both knees and a foot. Ikaika Woolsey’s lone pass — a completion — was nullified because of a penalty. Beau Reilly, the No. 3 quarterback, has not played this season. The No. 4 QB, Aaron Zwahlen, has made four of the five road trips, but has been held out as a redshirt candidate.

Next game: vs. Air Force, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Devan Stubblefield missed the 2014 season after suffering ACL and meniscus tears on the first drill of training camp. Stubblefield was cleared for full contact this summer and, two weeks ago, he played without a brace on his left knee. He had a breakout game against Nevada, catching eight passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Stubblefield has started the past two games in place of Quinton Pedroza, who has a knee ailment. … Isaiah Bernard has started two games in place of Marcus Kemp, who also has knee issues. Against New Mexico on Oct. 17, Bernard suffered dehydration-like symptoms and remained in Albuquerque for several hours after the Warriors departed. He was not cleared to practice until the past Thursday. … Left tackle Ben Clarke does not participate in contact drills during the week because of a foot problem. But he started each of the 45 games of his UH career. Clarke committed to UH in February 2011, but grayshirted that fall. He joined the Warriors in January 2012. He is a biology major who aspires to a career in medicine.

— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser

NEVADA

After a month-long training camp and eight straight weeks of games, the Wolf Pack finally get a week off.

“I do think it came a little late,” linebacker Jordan Dobrich said of the team’s bye week, “but it’s here now.”

And Nevada is thankful for that. Coming off a 30-20 win over Hawaii, the Wolf Pack will get a couple of days off. Nevada will take off Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Friday this week before playing Fresno State on Nov. 5, a Thursday game that limits how much time the Wolf Pack could really take off.

“Everybody is emotionally and physically tired right now, me being one of them,” said coach Brian Polian, whose team only gets one bye this year after getting two the last two seasons. “I’m happy our guys get to go into the bye with a win and we get a chance to collectively catch our breath and hopefully get some guys back physically healthy so we can focus on going to Fresno State and trying to get to 5-4.”

Polian, who is 1-3 coming off byes the last two seasons, said his team “badly” needed a bye week. A number of key starters have been playing with injuries and could be held out of practice this entire week.

“We need it physically,” Polian said. “We’re banged up right now. I know everybody is banged up. We’re banged up in some key spots. We need to take a breath. I know we have four weeks to go. Our staff is going to recruit for two days and the players are going to take a breath.”

The Wolf Pack enter the bye week 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Mountain West, placing them third in the West Division behind San Diego State (4-0 in league) and San Jose State (3-2). Nevada still plays those two teams, which means it’s very much alive in the division title race. The Wolf Pack also need two more wins over their final four games to become bowl eligible for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.

“Everything is still basically in front of us,” Wolf Pack tight end Jarred Gipson said. “Coach let us know that, but we’re still taking it one week, one game at a time.”

Next game: at Fresno State, Nov. 5

Notable: Nevada’s game against Fresno State is its first on ESPN or ESPN2 this season. ... DE Ian Seau recorded four sacks against Hawaii last Saturday, which was 0.5 shy of the Nevada and MW single-game record. His eight sacks rank 10th in the FBS. … DE Lenny Jones has moved into a tie for fifth on Nevada’s all-time sacks list with 18. Next on the list is ex-teammate Brock Hekking, who had 22.5 sacks. … Nevada has had its two lowest-attendance games in the Polian era in its last two games. An announced crowd of 19,992 was at last Saturday’s game, the smallest Mackay Stadium crowd since 19,399 fans attended a 2012 game against Northwestern State.

— Chris Murray/Reno Gazette-Journal

SAN DIEGO STATE

An exercise in logic: San Diego State beat Utah State by 34 points and the Aggies beat Boise State by 26 points, so the Aztecs must be 60 points better than Boise, right?

Not quite.

Lopsided scores, like SDSU’s 48-14 Mountain West win over Utah State on Friday night, are the product of turnovers. It creates a mountain of momentum once the ball gets started downhill.

“It’s totally the turnovers,” said SDSU head coach Rocky Long, whose team collected three first-half turnovers and four total against the Aggies. “If they don’t turn the ball over, I think it’s going to be a very close game probably until the end — it might even go to an overtime or something.

“Turnovers give tremendous momentum shifts to the teams that get the turnover.”

The Aztecs lead the Mountain West in turnover margin at plus-eight.

SDSU forced two fumbles vs. Utah State and safety Malik Smith added an interception. The turnovers were converted into two touchdowns and a field goal, helping the Aztecs to a 34-7 halftime lead.

“The same thing happened to them against Boise,” Long said, referring to the eight turnovers the Aggies collected in a 52-26 win. “We were just lucky enough to be the ones on the receiving end tonight. ... That’s how you get a score like that. We are not that much better than Utah State.”

SDSU running back D.J. Pumphrey, who rushed for a season-high 181 yards and scored two touchdowns, said building a 17-0 first-quarter lead was huge: “It gives us the early momentum and it helps our defense a lot.... When we run the ball and have long drives, they’re off the field and then are able to force turnovers and play a great game.”

Next game: at Colorado State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Pumphrey needs 46 yards to reach 1,000 yards for the season. It would be the 21st 1,000-yard season in school history, the most recent being Pumphrey’s school-record 1,867 yards last year. … The Aztecs are off to their first 4-0 league start in the 17-year history of the Mountain West. … SDSU is 6-1 against the Mountain Division since the conference was split into two divisions three years ago. The other teams in the West Division are a combined 12-25 against the Mountain Division.

— Kirk Kenney and Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN JOSE STATE

No report this week.

Next game: vs. BYU, Nov. 6

UNLV

Quarterback Blake Decker returns to the lineup after missing the past two games with a dislocated shoulder.

UNLV missed him, losing heartbreakers to San Jose State and Fresno State. The Rebels fell 33-27 in overtime to San Jose State and 31-28 to Fresno State after leading by two touchdowns in the third quarter.

“It was hard; it was really hard,” Decker said of not playing. “Last year, I played injured the majority of the year, but to actually sit out a game and watch the guys battle it out and watch the guys fight for it and come up short, it’s tough. It’s tough to be on the sideline in any situation, but I’m proud of my guys for the way they played, and I’m excited to get back in action with them.”

With Decker, the Rebels had the threat of a passing attack. Without him, opponents were able to focus on stopping the run.

But the Rebels, who were off last week, had every opportunity to win the past two games, and their bowl prospects would have been significantly brighter had they prevailed. But now UNLV’s chances of making the postseason are remote at best.

Just don’t say that to the Rebels.

“People have got to understand we have high expectations here regardless of — for lack of a better term — the drudgery over the last 25 years,” coach Tony Sanchez said. “We attack it as a fresh new start and a new year, and everything that’s gone on we own. We also own the opportunities that we have.

“The consistency in the effort has been phenomenal. I think anyone who knows football and has followed this program has recognized that. Now we have to do a better job at finishing the little things, but that’s what comes with building, and we’ll continue to do that.”

Next game: vs. Boise State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU)

Notable: UNLV is 3-1 against Boise State in Las Vegas, but the three victories were in the 1970s. The Broncos won 48-21 in 2011 in their most recent visit to UNLV. … The Rebels average 213.6 yards rushing per game. They have not averaged more than 200 yards on the ground since 2002 when the Rebels posted a 214.4 figure. … After Boise State, UNLV hosts Hawaii. Those are the only back-to-back home games on the Rebels’ schedule.

— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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