Bronco Beat

Mountain West Football Report: New Mexico fights Boise blues; SJSU, Nevada compete for bowl



Karson Roberts spent part of his Tuesday going to class and walking around the Air Force Academy with an ESPN crew following his every move.

It wasn’t the quarterback’s launch to stardom that prompted the move — though he has certainly played well as the Falcons have won 4 of 5 to earn bowl eligibility — but rather a launch he’ll be part of in September at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Roberts is part of a group of cadets working on a capstone project that will culminate in placing a satellite in orbit. Outside military and civilian personnel are also involved, but the day-to-day testing and preparation largely falls on Roberts and his group.

When ESPN decided to take its set to the academy in honor of Veterans Day on Wednesday, the combination of Roberts’ prestige as the quarterback of the football team and out-of-the-ordinary work as a cadet made him a natural pick for a special segment.

“It’s cool that they get to come and film and see a day in the life of what we do,” Roberts said. “It’s a cool opportunity.”

The ESPN exposure also comes at a pivotal part of the season for the Falcons. At 6-3, 4-1 Mountain West, Air Force still controls its fate in the conference. In fact, if Boise State beats New Mexico this week and the Falcons can earn their 12th straight home victory with a win over Utah State, then next week’s trip to Boise, Idaho, would determine the Mountain Division champion.

Air Force follows the games against Utah State and Boise State with a trip to New Mexico, which has won four of six.

“We look forward to playing these three really good teams here on the back half,” Roberts said.

Next game: vs. Utah State, noon MT Saturday (ESPN3)

Notable: Air Force’s defense hasn’t surrendered a touchdown in 11 quarters, with the only opposing touchdown in that span coming on a kickoff return in a 58-7 victory at Hawaii. … The Falcons are 6-0 this season against teams ranked 98 and lower in the Sagarin computer ratings. They are 0-3 against teams ranked 96th or better. The final three teams on the schedule average a ranking of 70.3. … The Falcons earned bowl eligibility for the eighth time in nine years under coach Troy Calhoun.

— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette


Boise State allowed 505 rushing yards in a win last year at New Mexico — an ugly defensive performance that became a hot topic this week with the Lobos visiting Boise on Saturday.

New Mexico runs the triple option and baffled Boise State last year, particularly in a 42-point first half.

“Not fond ones,” junior linebacker Ben Weaver said of his memories of that game. “Ones I don’t like to remember but stuff we definitely reflect on and use to get better this year.”

New Mexico scored on offensive plays covering 75, 49 and 75 yards that day. The Lobos also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a TD.

The Lobos rank 13th in the FBS this year with 235.4 rushing yards per game. They’re coming off a win over Utah State and are one win from bowl eligibility.

Their win last week put Boise State back in control of its destiny in the Mountain Division.

“It’s awesome that the ball is in our hands,” Weaver said.

Next game: vs. New Mexico, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU)

Notable: The Broncos will play without two starters in the secondary for the third straight game. Cornerback Donte Deayon (knee) and safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner (ankle) likely will return before the end of the regular season. ... The Broncos lead the Mountain West in scoring offense and defense and total offense and defense. ... Junior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck tops the conference with 929 receiving yards — 262 more than anyone else. He averages 19.0 yards per catch. ... True freshman QB Brett Rypien leads the MW with 286.1 yards of total offense per game. Nevada’s Tyler Stewart is second at 212.6. ... Kicker Tyler Rausa was named a Lou Groza Award semifinalist.

— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman


While the players on Colorado State’s football team have struggled to adjust to new offensive and defensive schemes and a new coaching staff, the coaches have had to adapt their thinking, too.

Coach Mike Bobo and his assistants have had to learn what the players on their team do well and what they don’t do well and create and adjust their game plans accordingly.

It’s one thing to see that an opposing team is vulnerable to a draw play or the deep pass and another to figure out how your team can take advantage on game days.

“Anybody can take a pen and a grease board, and say, ‘They’re lined up in this front and this coverage,’ and say, ‘This is how we’re going to attack it.’ It can work,” Bobo said Monday at his weekly news conference. “But you’ve got to be able to do what you can do. We’re a work in progress on that.”

For instance, Bobo said he’d like to throw the ball more than the Rams (4-5, 2-3 Mountain West) did Saturday at Wyoming to take advantage of the talents of receiver Rashard Higgins, tight end Kivon Cartwright and others in the passing game. But he can’t try to force the passing game on his team, as he did at times during a 41-17 loss Oct. 31 to San Diego State.

Quarterback Nick Stevens, a first-year starter, threw three interceptions against San Diego State. He threw just 15 passes, a season-low for the Rams, on Saturday in a 26-7 win at Wyoming. CSU ran a season-most 55 times, for a season-high 228 yards and three touchdowns.

“I feel like we have not been as successful as I’d like throwing the ball, and I truly felt the game turned the week before when I tried to force some things; they’ve got to happen within our offense,” Bobo said. “… We’ve got to do what we can do to be effective and win the game.

“… As we plan for this week, it’ll be where we feel our best matchups are going into this game, how we can be successful and try to do what we can do well,” Bobo said, “not necessarily what somebody else might have done well on film. What our personnel can do well.”

Next game: vs. UNLV, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (Root)

Notable: Senior RB Jasen Oden, the Rams’ leading rusher with 574 yards on 130 carries, sat out at Wyoming with a left shoulder injury that he suffered a week earlier against San Diego State. His status for Saturday’s home finale against UNLV will be determined later this week, Bobo said. … Dalyn Dawkins handled a bigger load in Oden’s absence and ran for a career-high 140 yards on a career-most 25 carries at Wyoming. It was just the second 100-yard rushing game of the season for the Rams. Oden had 143 yards on 30 carries in a Sept. 26 win at Texas-San Antonio. … Senior S Trent Matthews had three of the Rams’ four takeaways at Wyoming, intercepting one pass and recovering two fumbles. … The Rams remain one of the most-penalized teams in the nation after being flagged 10 times for 101 yards at Wyoming. CSU averages 8.8 penalties a game, No. 125 among the nation’s 128 FBS teams, for an average of 80.4 yards. Bobo said the Rams might start paying for officials to attend practices in an effort to address the problem.

— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan


The New Mexico Lobos are 0-for-life against Boise State, and the games against the Broncos in Idaho’s capital city have been particularly onerous.

The Lobos will line up on the blue turf once again Saturday night, hoping better things await.

In three games at Albertsons Stadium, New Mexico is 0-3 — UNM is 0-6 against the Broncos overall — and has been outscored 110-26.

The Lobos’ first visit was in 1999, coach Rocky Long’s second season at New Mexico. Coach Dirk Koetter’s Broncos won by a respectable score of 20-9.

New Mexico didn’t come to Boise again until early December 2011, when coach Chris Petersen’s Broncos brought down the curtain on the Mike Locksley-George Barlow era with a 45-0 rout of the Lobos. It could have been far worse.

New Mexico again closed out the season at Boise, in coach Bob Davie’s second year at UNM, in 2013. Petersen’s Broncos pummeled an injury-depleted Lobos team 45-17.

Will New Mexico’s fourth visit to Boise turn out differently? The oddsmakers think not, installing coach Bryan Harsin’s Broncos (7-2, 4-1) as an early 30-point favorite.

But the Lobos (5-4, 3-2), energized by last week’s 14-13 upset of Utah State (a team that beat Boise State) and by the prospects of the program’s first bowl bid since 2007, are feeling good about themselves.

“(The Utah State win) builds our confidence going into these last three games and going up to Boise,” linebacker Dakota Cox said. “I think we made a statement, definitely.”

Next game: at Boise State, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU)

Notable: New Mexico’s five victories are the most it has had in a season since 2007, when the Lobos went 9-4 and beat Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl. ... After UNM fell out of the various bowl projections early in the season, some of those projectionists are back on the bandwagon. SB Nation has the Lobos playing Middle Tennessee in the New Mexico Bowl. The Tampa Bay Tribune and ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and Mark Schlabach have UNM playing on its home field in the postseason as well, but against Rice ... The Lobos suffered no major injuries against Utah State and had a bye week on Oct. 31. As a result, Davie said on KNML-AM radio Monday, his team will go to Boise healthier than it has been in weeks. ... Davie said he intends to stick to his two-quarterback offense (Lamar Jordan, Austin Apodaca) at Boise. Apodaca was ineffective against Utah State, passing for just 7 yards and losing 18 on the ground, but Davie said the Aggies’ pass rush and the situations into which Apodaca was thrown did not favor him.

— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal


Utah State’s quarterback situation remains unchanged, according to coach Matt Wells.

Sophomore Kent Myers will start Saturday at Air Force, with fifth-year senior Chuckie Keeton as the primary backup. Sophomore Damion Hobbs will play, too, when the Aggies use a package of plays designed specifically for his ability to run the football.

All three quarterbacks played in last week’s 14-13 loss at New Mexico.

Keeton saw his first action since suffering a knee injury on Sept. 19 at Washington after Myers was dazed on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Lobo linebacker Kimmie Carson in the second quarter.

Carson was called for roughing the passer but was not ejected. On Sunday, he was handed a half-game suspension by the Mountain West.

“When Kent came out, our doctors, trainers and medical staff were still examining him for the shot he took above the shoulders,” Wells said. “So I had no idea where he was. That’s why you saw Chuckie play the rest of that series.”

Myers returned the next time Utah State owned the football. On a cold, blustery day, he ended up completing 13 of 24 passes for 213 yards and one touchdown.

Myers also ran 11 times, but he gained only 8 yards. In all, the Aggies rushed for 78 yards against New Mexico, which this week ranks eighth in the Mountain West in total defense.

Why was Utah State’s run game so ineffective?

“You name it,” Wells said. “… We got outnumbered at times. We had communication errors up front at times. We didn’t run it where we should have at times. We didn’t read it right at times. It was all the way around. There’s not one area to put a finger on.”

Next game: at Air Force, noon MT Saturday (ESPN3)

Notable: Kicker Brock Warren was 8-for-8 on field goals this season before missing a 41-yarder with 59 seconds left against New Mexico. … Senior nose guard David Moala missed games against San Diego State and Wyoming after spraining his knee in Utah State’s 52-26 win over Boise State on Oct. 16. The Aztecs and Cowboys combined to rush for 606 yards against the Aggies. Moala returned at New Mexico, however, and the Lobos ran for only 132 yards. They managed 10 first downs and went 2-for-14 on third down. Said Wells: “It makes a big difference having him in there. He’s a good football player and he’s played well.”

— Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune


For much of the season, and during its three-game losing streak, there’s been one common theme for the Cowboys – slow starts defensively.

Wyoming (1-9, 1-5) has allowed foes to score touchdowns on their first offensive possessions the last three games.

And things snowballed from there.

On Oct. 24 at Boise State, the Broncos scored on their first four offensive possessions. They led 17-0 after the first quarter and 24-7 at halftime and won 34-14.

Six days later at Utah State, the Aggies scored on their first six drives. They led 30-14 at halftime and won 58-27.

In last Saturday’s 26-7 home loss to Colorado State, Wyoming allowed the Rams to score on their first four possessions. The Rams led 17-0 after the first quarter and 23-0 at halftime.

The Cowboys gave up 48 points in the first quarter in those games.

“That’s been frustrating,” coach Craig Bohl said. “We’re going to work hard defensively on starting faster and do some pin-pointed things in practice aimed toward that. Some of that is growing pains, even though it’s late in the year. We need to start better.”

Third down also has been an issue for the Cowboys this season. Even though Colorado State was 3 of 11 on third down, Wyoming has allowed foes to make 45.2 percent of their third-down conversions – 111th out of 127 teams in the FBS.

“Some games have been better than others,” defensive coordinator Steve Stanard said of the way his defense has played at the start of games this season.

“The start of the games a lot of time has to do with confidence. Sitting at 1-9, sometimes with a bunch of young players their confidence isn’t as high. After a series or two they realize, ‘We’re all right, we can play with these guys.’

“You have to come out with your stinger up and ready to go. That’s easier said than done when you have a bunch of young players and you’re 1-9 instead of 9-1. What we’re encouraged with is they’re still busting their humps in practice. They are not backing down at anything we’re throwing at them.”

Wyoming’s offense hasn’t helped the defense in two of the last three games. Against Boise State and Colorado State, UW had 233 and 239 yards, respectively. It also had turnovers on either its first or second offensive series in those games.

Against Colorado State, Wyoming matched a season high with four turnovers.

Next game: at San Diego State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN)

Notable: Bohl said he “would be surprised” if redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman doesn’t start Saturday. Coffman missed the last two games with a right shoulder injury. He was cleared to play last Saturday against Colorado State but didn’t get a lot of practice time in the days prior to the game. “I’m 100 percent sure I am going to play this week,” Coffman said. … Junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry (shoulder) will miss his fourth consecutive game. … Sophomore running back Brian Hill is second in the FBS with 1,327 yards. … Bohl described playing at San Diego State with the Aztecs having won a league-best five straight games as “a daunting task.” … Bohl said some of his assistant coaches will be in California early doing some recruiting prior to the San Diego State game.

— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports.



Fresno State is 2-7, 1-5 in the Mountain West, and it obviously has a few problems. One of the most mystifying is the third quarter, which in the first three seasons under Coach Tim DeRuyter was a kickoff point for teams that won a lot of football games. In 24 conference games, the Bulldogs outscored their opponent in the third quarter 15 times, played to a tie five times and were outscored just four times.

They went in at halftime, made their adjustments and off they went. The offense produced 10 or more points in the quarter 13 times, the defense posted a shutout 11 times.

But in a 30-16 loss to Nevada, the third quarter was again a disaster. Fresno State ran only four plays in the quarter, the time of possession 13:20 for the Wolf Pack and 1:40 for the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs have been out of it at halftime, really, only once, trailing Utah State 29-7. At San Jose State, they were down 21-10 and one score away from applying some pressure to the home team. But at San Diego State they were tied at 7 and outscored 14-0 the rest of the way. Against UNLV they were tied at 14 and outscored 14-3 in the third quarter before rallying to win. At Air Force they were down 21-14 before giving up 21 unanswered points in the second half and 42 in the game. And against the Wolf Pack they were down 17-16 and could not take anything from the first half into the second.

They have now scored only 23 points in the third quarter in their eight games against FBS teams including 16 in MW play while allowing 97 and in conference games 69. In six conference games, the Bulldogs have been outgained in the third quarter 139.8 yards to just 42.5.

The easy answers are the Bulldogs just are too young in too many places, the quarterback play has been very poor or maybe the time of possession deficit starts to catch up with an undersized defense. But resilience also has something to do with it.

“When things start to go bad, and UNLV is the one exception probably where our guys found ways to make some plays on both sides of the ball, we have to keep coaching our guys up, we have to keep demanding that they do things right and eventually it will turn,” Coach Tim DeRuyter said.

“Until we do, it won’t turn. Our guys, they kept fighting. It starts to get to a point where you press. It was a one-score game in the fourth quarter and we’re telling our guys, ‘This is exactly where we want to be. This is exactly where we were two weeks ago against UNLV.’ But then you crack on a blitz where they crease us and we miss some tackles and we give up an explosive run and the air is out of the balloon and once that happens it’s tough to get it back.”

Next game: at Hawaii, 9 p.m. MT Saturday

Notable: The Bulldogs reopened the competition at quarterback with Kilton Anderson and Zack Greenlee vying through the week in practice to start at Hawaii. Execution has been an issue with both. Anderson has a passing efficiency rating of just 85.02 while Greenlee is at 119.26. Greenlee would rank seventh in the conference, if he had played in enough games to qualify. “Nobody has a job that’s safe when you’re not playing well and you have to compete and earn it every single week,” DeRuyter said. “If you’re not getting it done, you can’t stay with the status quo.”… Inside (Mike) linebacker Nela Otukolo, who did not play in the Bulldogs’ loss to Nevada due to a knee injury, is likely to miss the final three games of the season. With the freshman sidelined, Fresno State will have redshirt freshman walk-on George Helmuth from Clovis North High in a backup role behind senior Kyrie Wilson. … Fresno State is 0-4 on the road, losing at Ole Miss and San Jose State, San Diego State and Air Force in conference play. The Bulldogs, who play at Hawaii on Saturday and at BYU next week, have not gone winless on the road since 1976 in a 5-6 season. … The Bulldogs have played 24 quarters of football in conference play and they have gained 70 yards or fewer in 15 of them with a low of minus-9 in the second quarter in a loss at Air Force, and allowed 100 yards or more in 14 of them with a high of 221 in the third quarter of that loss to the Falcons. … Fresno State has only nine rushing touchdowns this season and only five from running backs — Marteze Waller has four and Dustin Garrison has one. ... The Bulldogs have had only one season over the past 20 years with fewer than 15 rushing touchdowns – they had 11 in 2000 when averaging 26.4 points per game.

— Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee


No report this week.

Next game: vs. Fresno State, 9 p.m. MT Saturday


Nevada’s senior day celebration Saturday won’t take very long.

The Wolf Pack only have 12 seniors on their roster, the eighth-fewest in the nation. But coach Brian Polian, in his third year at Nevada, said the seniors have been instrumental in the development of his program.

“I appreciate this class a great deal,” Polian said. “They’ve been through a lot of transition. The vast majority of these guys weren’t recruited by us. These guys have had to buy in and they’ve been terrific. There’s been great leadership even though this class has been small. When you look at it from a football perspective, there are a handful of guys in this class that have been incredibly productive as football players. We will miss them as people and we will miss them as players. There’s no doubt about that.”

The senior class includes running back Don Jackson, who is 15th on Nevada’s all-time rushing list after passing 2,000 yards last week; defensive ends Lenny Jones and Ian Seau, who both rank in the top 10 in program history in tackles, as well as defensive tackle Rykeem Yates; and linebackers Bryan Lane Jr., Matthew Lyons and Jordan Dobrich, who have combined for 642 tackles in their careers.

Last week, Dobrich was named a National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete and is a finalist for the academic Heisman and Jackson (gangs) and Jones (jailed twice) both overcame troubled youths to become team captains. Both have already graduated and begun work on their master’s degrees.

“There are a lot of success stories in this class,” Polian said. “We won’t know truly how successful they are for another 20 years. But when you look at this class, there are some guys who will hopefully get a chance to play beyond here, but we’ll get a lot of good husbands and fathers, a lot of good men who are going to contribute in the community and lead and that is part of our job description here.”

On the field, a lot is on the line when Nevada plays SJSU on Saturday. A win would make Nevada bowl eligible for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. With road games against Utah State and San Diego State to close the season, Nevada could use this win this week to lock up that bowl berth before the schedule tightens up. Polian said he won’t talk to his team about the bowl implications of Saturday’s game.

“I’m certain they know where we’re at,” he said. “They don’t need me to talk about it. Everybody wants to go to a bowl. In order to get that done, we have to win a sixth. Our focus is solely on this weekend.”

Next game: vs. San Jose State, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)

Notable: Nevada’s leading tackler, Asauni Rufus, is suspended for the first half against SJSU after targeting a Fresno State player in the second half of their game Thursday. … The Wolf Pack’s game at Utah State on Nov. 21 has been set for 1:30 p.m. MT on ESPN3, which means Nevada missed out on bonus money under the MW’s national TV payout system. … Wolf Pack tight end Evan Faunce, who has missed the last two games with an undisclosed upper-body injury, will play against SJSU. Starting nose guard Salesa Faraimo (calf) and key special teams player Alex Bertrando (knee) are questionable. Offensive lineman Joey Anglemire (knee) will miss his fifth straight game.

— Chris Murray/Reno Gazette-Journal


No report this week.

Next game: vs. Wyoming, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN)


It’s showdown week in the Eastern Sierra where San Jose State’s season probably will be decided in its game Saturday at Nevada.

The Spartans are in a tough predicament after failing to make a two-point conversion with 45 seconds left Friday night in a 17-16 defeat to Brigham Young.

The loss amplifies the importance of the league game in Reno because San Jose State (4-4, 3-2 Mountain West) needs to win two of its final three games to become bowl eligible.

It is facing a team that needs just one more victory to become bowl eligible. The Wolf Pack (5-4, 3-2) end the season at Utah State and San Diego State so this might represent their best chance to secure bowl eligibility.

“This is a great battle for second place in the West,” San Jose State coach Ron Caragher said. “Two teams on the cusp of getting bowl eligible. We know a lot’s on the line. From a regional standpoint, we go head-to-head in recruiting.”

The Spartans, who have lost six in a row in November, have come away with only one victory in the past 11 games against Nevada. It gets worse. San Jose State hasn’t won in Reno since 2000.

With two days of reflection, Caragher was resolute about trying a trick play to win the BYU game with the two-point try. The coaches called on running back Tyler Ervin to win it with his arm instead of relying on quarterback Kenny Potter, who looked confident in leading San Jose State to the touchdown that set up the point-after attempt.

Ervin is one of the country’s best all-purpose players with 1,239 yards rushing and 245 yards receiving.

“We did put the ball in the hands of the most talented player on the field,” Caragher said. “With him such a key focused player we thought the pass would be there.”

Caragher said it came down to tight end Billy Freeman’s right hand being restrained so he couldn’t hold on to the ball.

“We were inches away from completing the play,” the coach said. “It wasn’t something we pulled out of thin air on Friday night. It was a really good two-minute play.”

Next game: at Nevada, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)

Notable: San Jose State is trying to defeat both Nevada schools in one season for the first time in history. The Spartans won in overtime last month at UNLV 33-27. … The Spartans have 11 first-time starters, but they still lead the country with the fewest penalty yards assessed at 30.0 per game. … Potter ranks 12th nationally and first in the conference with a 68.4 percent pass completion rate. Potter, a Long Beach City transfer, is the first San Jose State quarterback in the modern era to rush for touchdowns in four consecutive games. Potter, who missed the Fresno State and Auburn games with a high ankle sprain earlier this year, has made four consecutive starts. He has completed 104 of 155 passes for 1,061 yards. … Freeman leads the team with injured Tyler Winston with 35 receptions after making a game-high six catches against BYU. Winston is out for the season after suffering a knee injury during the New Mexico game Oct. 24.

— Elliott Almond, San Jose Mercury News


Winning three games isn’t a big deal to most teams.

It is to UNLV.

That’s because hitting that mark hasn’t been easy for the Rebels. They finished eight of the previous 11 seasons stuck on two victories.

But with Saturday’s 41-21 victory over Hawaii, UNLV reached that key third victory. The Rebels are 3-6 (2-3 MW) heading into Saturday’s game at Colorado State.

“We’ve been in search of it and close to it for a long darn time,” UNLV first-year coach Tony Sanchez said. “That’s a benchmark. It’s not the goal by any means. Now we can show it on paper because we’re improving.”

The Rebels had their share of chances to get to three victories before this past weekend.

UNLV lost at Northern Illinois, to San Jose State and at Fresno State after leading in the second half of each game. Its season could have been drastically different if UNLV had finished the job in those games.

“We’ve had issues finishing,” Sanchez said. “(The Warriors are) scrappy, and we got what we thought we would from them. We felt like we let them hang around a little longer than we should. That’s college football, and our guys made some plays and eventually we pulled away. It was great to see them finish in the fourth quarter.”

Next game: at Colorado State, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (Root)

Notable: Blake Decker completed an 85-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Criswell, the second-longest completion in UNLV history. The record is 87 yards, which was set in 1977 against Northern Arizona on a touchdown pass from Carlton Kelley to Henry Vereen. Decker also had a 75-yard TD pass to Devonte Boyd. … UNLV lost just its second fumble of the season, which ties 13 other teams for the national lead. Both lost fumbles were by quarterbacks, and UNLV is one of nine teams without a lost fumble from a running back. … The Rebels have given up 19 sacks, but none in the past two games. UNLV last went consecutive games without allowing a sack in the final game of the 2002 season and the first three in 2003.

— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal