A four-game winning streak has thrust Air Force into first place in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division by one game with two to play.
A win on Friday at Boise State could clinch the title, depending on how New Mexico fares on Saturday against Colorado State. Regardless of what happens in either game this week, Air Force will prepare for its season finale knowing it still has a shot at a division title.
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“I’d definitely say we’ve all kind of caught our second wind here to finish out the season,” safety Weston Steelhammer said. “We’re taking it one game at a time and we’ve got a pretty big one this week.”
Yes, the game at Boise State is as big as any game the Falcons have played in recent memory. It was going to be big anyway, given Air Force’s 28-14 upset last season, but now there are legitimate stakes attached to it.
The matchup isn’t particularly promising for the Falcons, considering their struggles against the pass (Utah State threw for 364 yards and four long touchdowns last week) and Boise State’s willingness to pass more than 70 times in a game, as it did last week in a loss to New Mexico.
There’s also the home-field factor, as Air Force has won just two of its past 10 road conference games and Boise State has lost just four times at home since 2001.
But the Broncos have dropped two of four, giving up 12 turnovers in those losses. The Falcons forced seven turnovers in defeating Boise State last year.
“You can see the blood and smell it, so we’re going to try to capitalize on that,” Air Force cornerback Roland Ladipo said. “But they’re going to be hungry for this win.”
Next game: at Boise State, 7:30 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN2)
Notable: Jalen Robinette’s 210 receiving yards against Utah State were the third-most in program history. … Air Force wrapped a second straight 6-0 home season, the first time that has happened in consecutive seasons in program history. … Fullback D.J. Johnson left Saturday’s game with an undisclosed leg injury. It is unknown if he will be available this week. … Quarterback Karson Roberts threw for 271 yards last week and is 18-of-27 for 408 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions over the past two weeks.
— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin made true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien available to the media for the first time Monday in an attempt to emphasize his leadership role on the team.
The Broncos are 5-2 in Rypien’s starts and 7-3 overall going into Friday’s must-win Mountain West game against Air Force.
They lost 31-24 to New Mexico last week in large part because of a hot-and-cold passing attack that generated 506 yards but was hampered by 34 incompletions — many of them drops, including three passes that hit receivers and were intercepted on deflections.
“We need to be better as an offense as a whole and I need to be better,” Rypien said. “It starts with me. ... Whether that’s in practice or in the film room, there’s little things that we have to do out there that need to be better in order for us to get wins consistently and just be better on offense consistently.”
Boise State needs to beat Air Force and San Jose State next week and have New Mexico lose one of its final two home games against Colorado State and Air Force to win the Mountain Division.
“This team needs leadership,” Harsin said. “... It’s something I feel and I think our coaches feel that’s very important for us as we move forward and play in these last two games, that we have the leadership to go out there and finish the right way. ... It’s an opportunity for (Rypien) to expand on his leadership role.”
Rypien leads the Mountain West in passing yards per game by more than 100 yards (he’s at 317.4; Nick Stevens of Colorado State is at 202). Rypien also leads in pass efficiency at 143.01.
He was 41-for-75 for 506 yards and two touchdowns against New Mexico (the completions and attempts were school records). He admitted he went outside the scope of the play on a fourth-and-1 overthrow in the fourth quarter and needs to improve his management of the 2-minute offense.
“Any time you have (638) yards of offense, you know you’re doing some good things, but at the end of the day we have to finish and we can’t have turnovers,” Rypien said. “That starts with me. We’ve got to get better timing with our receivers and we’ve got to work some stuff. I trust those guys to make plays. I trust anybody who’s going to get the ball to make a play. I don’t care who it is, if you’re going to come in and you get open, you’re getting the ball. That’s the mentality I have.”
Next game: vs. Air Force, 7:30 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN2)
Notable: The Broncos still are without season-opening starters at quarterback (Ryan Finley), left tackle (Rees Odhiambo), safety (Dylan Sumner-Gardner) and cornerback (Donte Deayon). Wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes is questionable after injuring an ankle last week. ... WR Thomas Sperbeck needs six receiving yards to break the school single-season record. He set Mountain West and school records with 20 catches last week for a school-record 281 yards. ... The Broncos have lost three games in a season for just the second time in eight seasons.
— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
The option offense coach Bob Davie has used to turn around New Mexico’s football program over the past four seasons has evolved into something quite a bit different than the Air Force option attack that he set out to emulate.
The formations are different and the reads the quarterback is making don’t always lead to the same conclusion.
Still, Colorado State coach Mike Bobo and his defenders feel good about their chances of keeping the Lobos ground game under wraps Saturday, in part because of the success they had last month against Air Force. Colorado State limited Air Force to 269 rushing yards — well below its average of 333.2 — in a 38-23 win Oct. 17 at Hughes Stadium.
The Rams played with a kind of discipline they hadn’t shown previously, with defenders reading the proper keys, controlling their gaps and swarming to the ball, so that if the first defender missed the tackle, the second or third defender could bring the ball carrier down.
“What we really honed in on was actually running to the ball, everybody just sticking to their job,” junior linebacker Deonte Clyburn said Monday. “That’s what really helped us against Air Force. Nobody was trying to go out of their comfort zone, and nobody was trying to do too much. Everybody was just really focused on what they needed to do and that’s what really got us the win.”
It was a big change from previous games, where opposing quarterbacks and running backs found gaping holes to run up the middle against. Texas-San Antonio gained 279 yards on the ground in a 33-31 loss to the Rams on Sept. 26, and Utah State quarterback Kent Myers ran for 191 yards on 16 carries to lead a 298-yard rushing effort in a 33-18 win over CSU on Oct. 3.
New Mexico ran for 401 yards in one game earlier this season and averages 231.4 rushing yards a game.
“It’s an assignment football game, much like Air Force,” Bobo said. “It’s a different style of option, and they’ll probably get in more traditional sets than Air Force does, but it’s still assignment football. … We’re going to have to be very disciplined to win this ballgame.”
The difference, though, is that the Lobos will go to the air, too. They threw for a season-high 218 yards last Saturday night in a 31-24 win at Boise State. Air Force really had no passing game to turn to when the Rams contained the ground game. New Mexico does.
“It’s going to come down to eye discipline,” Bobo said. “Get your eyes on your keys and don’t get caught up. You’ve got to do your job, put your eyes where they’re supposed to be. … Whatever your key is, put your eyes on it and play your responsibility.
“When you start trying to do something else, that’s when they’ll bust you for the big play.”
Next game: at New Mexico, 3:30 p.m. MT Saturday (Root Sports)
Notable: CSU leads the nation in net punting at 43.4 yards a kick, and punter Hayden Hunt is No. 4 nationally at 46.3 yards a punt. … Xavier Williams, the Rams’ third-leading receiver with 19 catches for 232 yards and two touchdowns, sat out against UNLV with a back injury. His status for the New Mexico game will be determined later this week, Bobo said. … CSU has won back-to-back games for the first time since having a nine-game winning streak snapped by Air Force in last year’s regular-season finale. … The last time CSU played at New Mexico’s University Stadium, the Rams scored 18 points in the final 2:52 to beat Washington State 48-45 in the 2013 New Mexico Bowl. … CSU running back Kapri Bibbs scored six touchdowns in a 2013 win at New Mexico, and Dee Hart scored six last year in the Rams’ win over the Lobos in Fort Collins. … CSU has averaged 62 points in its past two games against New Mexico.
— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
In an effort to boost attendance for New Mexico’s final two games of the season, both at home, UNM is striking while the Lobos are hot.
On Monday, however, ESPN said — in effect — chill, Lobo fans. New Mexico’s season finale against Air Force on Nov. 28 has been scheduled for an 8:15 p.m. kickoff on ESPNU.
Earlier Monday, on the heels of the Lobos’ stunning upset of Boise State and its first season of six wins or more since 2007, UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs submitted an open letter to the fan base.
Now is the time, he wrote, to jump on the bandwagon.
“Many fans have taken a wait-and-see approach,” Krebs wrote. “Well the wait is over. ... This team deserves your attention. The wait-and-see is over, because our time is now.”
Krebs went on to say he appreciates the fans who’ve been attending UNM football games all along.
“Now,” he wrote, “we need you in the stands when we take on Colorado State on November 21 and Air Force on November 28.”
New Mexico has averaged 23,485 in attendance through five home games (UNM has seven home dates this year), about 60 percent of capacity at University Stadium.
That figure includes a season-high attendance of 30,900 for the Lobos’ game with downstate rival New Mexico State on Oct. 3. The two most recent home games, against Hawaii on Oct. 17 and Utah State on Nov. 7, averaged barely 20,000.
New Mexico coach Bob Davie also has weighed in on the attendance issue, but took exception on Monday to a question suggesting he’d been “harping” on the issue.
“I do hope (the fans) come out, because I hope we have a product that’s good enough that gets them to come out,” he said. “.... I’ve always prided myself on really narrowing the focus and coaching our team and not really telling people what to do.”
Tuesday, Davie declined to comment on the effects on attendance of an 8:15 p.m. kickoff in late November.
“That slot’s been pretty good to us,” he said, noting that the Boise State game started at 8:15 — or, actually, 8:26.
Next game: vs. Colorado State, 3:30 p.m. MT Saturday (Root Sports)
Notable: Quarterback Lamar Jordan, who left the game after banging his head on the turf at Boise State, practiced Monday and should be OK for Colorado State, Davie said. He said Jordan and junior quarterback Austin Apodaca likely will again share playing time. “We’re still in the mode of what gives us the best chance,” he said. “(The quarterback rotation) is one of the dilemmas we have. It’s also in some ways, if you look at it optimistically, a luxury we have.” ... Back-to-back victories over Utah State and Boise State had an immediate impact on recruiting. Two players from Cleveland High in Rio Rancho, N.M., quarterback/defensive back Gabe Ortega and wide receiver Marcus Williams, announced on Monday they had committed to UNM. “A lot of people started committing after (the Boise State game),” Ortega said, “so I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to play for a great football program.” ... With New Mexico’s sixth victory, the Lobos are back in all the bowl projections that had abandoned them after some earlier losses. Most of the projections have UNM staying home to play in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 19. Jeff Siembieda, the New Mexico Bowl’s executive director, said that’s not at all a given this early in the process.
— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
Back-to-back losses at New Mexico and Air Force by a total of eight points in games that went to the final minute has ended Utah State’s chance to play for the Mountain West championship.
The Aggies can still qualify for a school-record fifth straight bowl game, however, by beating Nevada on Saturday. They finish the regular season on Nov. 28 against BYU, also at Maverik Stadium.
“We want to be in a bowl game, there’s no question about it,” coach Matt Wells said. “ … I think it continues to reinforce what we’re trying to build — a very consistent, winning program that gets to November and plays games that mean something.”
In a 14-13 loss at New Mexico, the Aggies missed a 41-yard field goal with 59 seconds left. In a 35-28 loss at Air Force, they had a first down at the 11-yard line with less than a minute remaining but could not force overtime.
Utah State hopes to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2010 against the Wolf Pack.
“We can’t go back and change the last two weeks,” Wells said. “But we can control our attitudes, our effort and our mindset. … As players and coaches, we don’t want to cheat this program one bit. We don’t want to cheat each other. … We’ve got to give everything we’ve got.”
Referring to his seniors, Wells said, “We want to send these guys out right. … They deserve it.”
Next game: vs. Nevada, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: The Aggies have won 13 straight at home heading into their game against Nevada, going back to 2013. The school record is 17 straight, set from 1959 to 1963. … Receiver Hunter Sharp caught 13 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns passes against Air Force. The 13 receptions were the most by an Aggie since Kevin Curtis in 2002. The 193 yards were the most by an Aggie (also Curtis) since 2001.
— Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune
A bye week this late in the season is unusual, and not always ideal.
But it’s a good thing for Wyoming this week.
The Cowboys (1-10, 1-6) are coming off one of their more physical games of the season in a 38-3 loss at San Diego State last Saturday.
“We did not sustain any significant injuries, but there were a lot of bumps, bruises, blood and stitches,” coach Craig Bohl said.
“Going into the game we felt like (San Diego State) was the most physical team in the conference, and after the game I would say that was the case. We’ll need this week to get healed up. It’s been a long time since I saw a locker room like that after the game. It looked like a 16-round fight against Evander Holyfield.”
The San Diego State game was the first for redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman since he injured his right shoulder Oct. 24. Coffman was sacked five times, including four in the first half. He had a cut across his nose from when he was sacked and his helmet slid down and cut him.
“We didn’t execute like we wanted to, and I didn’t feel very good about my performance,” Coffman said. “(San Diego State) got after us a little bit. They wore us down, and they were a little bit bigger and stronger than us. It showed out there.
“The shoulder felt pretty good in the first half. In the second half it was starting to hurt pretty bad. I was not throwing as well as I would have liked to. I’m excited for this bye week, and I should be good by the time we get to UNLV.”
Next game: vs. UNLV, Nov. 28
Notable: Bohl said junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry will not return this season after suffering a shoulder injury in the second half of the team’s Oct. 17 home game against Nevada. Gentry hasn’t played since he suffered the injury. He caught 37 passes for 678 yards and four touchdowns in seven games this season. Gentry’s receiving yards, touchdowns and yards per catch (18.3) are career highs. … True freshman free safety Andrew Wingard had a career-high 16 tackles against San Diego State, including a career-best 12 solo stops. Wingard is fifth in the country among all Football Bowl Subdivision players with 7.7 solo tackles per game. Only Kansas junior defensive back Fish Smithson (78) has more. Wingard is 12th in the nation in total tackles (10.3 per game) and has 113 tackles this season. … Wyoming needs to beat UNLV next week to avoid its first one-win season since 1970.
— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports
Quarterback Zack Greenlee had lost his starting job twice already this season, was completing only 50 percent of his passes, averaging 92.1 passing yards per game and had an efficiency rating of 119.25. But in a 42-14 victory at Hawaii, he became the sixth quarterback this season with six touchdown passes in a game, all of them a bit more accomplished than the Bulldogs’ third-year sophomore.
Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson was the first to do it, in a victory at Maryland. He was followed by Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty against Miami, Ohio, and Baylor quarterback Seth Russell against Rice, then Washington State quarterback Luke Falk against Oregon State and Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen at Ole Miss.
Greenlee did it despite – or maybe because of – some big hits from the Rainbow Warriors.
Hawaii was penalized three times for roughing the passer on the Bulldogs’ first scoring drive including two on third-and-9 plays. The fourth roughing the passer penalty came in the second quarter on a second-and-10 and the fifth was a dead ball personal foul on a third-and-11 play on that same drive — the play was blown dead when the Bulldogs had a false start. The sixth penalty, another roughing the passer penalty, came in the third quarter on another second-and-10.
If the plan was to hit Greenlee, get him frazzled into making mistakes, it backfired.
“It was different – I had never seen anything like that before,” he said. “But it definitely brought something out in us. Any time you get some shots like that, it gets the competitive juices going.
“I was fired up. I think we all were. We put a few drives together right there and it helped us the rest of the game. We just kept going.”
The Bulldogs scored on the first two of the three drives, which left coach Tim DeRuyter to joke that they would now go live in pregame warmups to get their quarterback tuned up before games.
“I was proud of him,” DeRuyter said. “I think their plan was to try to get in his head and rough him up and at first it took him a while to get settled in, but then once he took a couple of shots it’s like he responded and I think him hanging in there and responding the way he did inspired our guys.”
Greenlee, who was making his first start since that loss at San Diego State when the Bulldogs gained all of 89 total yards, had not handled pressures all that well. But he never lost his cool. In the third quarter, he got poked in the eye when absorbing the fifth roughing the passer penalty.
“He looked like he was a boxer who got tattooed in the eye,” DeRuyter said. “I thought we needed to have one of those corner guys to fix him. We needed a cut man. I looked at him on the sideline and said: ‘Zack, are you OK? Do we need to get Kilton (Anderson) going?’ and he said ‘No, let me go.’
“He was determined, and I hadn’t seen that kind of fight from him in any game. He was almost defiant. I think he had those competitive juices going and wanted to show them he couldn’t be knocked out.”
Greenlee was out for one play, and right back in the game.
Next game: at BYU, 1 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: Outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine had 1.5 tackles for loss including one sack in the victory at Hawaii and is now third on the all-time Mountain West list. Ederaine has 43.0 TFLs and with two games remaining is four shy of tying San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris for the top spot. … Fresno State had eight explosive plays of 20 or more yards (one run and seven passes) against the Rainbow Warriors, the most they have had in any game this season. The Bulldogs had only nine in a four-game stretch against FBS teams at the start of the season – three at Ole Miss, against Utah and at San Jose State and zero at San Diego State. … Greenlee in the first half had a passer rating of 202.30. Fresno State has played four quarterbacks this season and its passer rating going in was 100.96. … The school record for passing touchdowns in a game is seven, set by Derek Carr in a victory against New Mexico in 2013. Carr had six touchdown passes the following week in a loss at San Jose State. … The win at Hawaii marked the first time this season Fresno State has scored a touchdown in all four quarters – it put up 7, 21, 7 and 7. … Marteze Waller will have to wait another week to become the fifth Fresno State running back with 3,000 career rushing yards. The senior went into the game with 2,922 and gained 27 yards on 13 plays, 2.1 yards per play. The Bulldogs this week play at BYU, which is ranked 42nd in the nation in rushing defense at 145.7 yards per game.
— Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
Not only have the Rainbow Warriors lost eight in a row, they have endured numerous injuries. On Tuesday, the Warriors had seven offensive linemen from the active roster available to practice. Only 18 of the 33 players on the defensive three-deep chart were healthy enough to practice.
“We’re trying to M*A*S*H-unit it out there, put a Band-Aid on somebody and try to find who want wants to play and finish out the last two games,” interim head coach Chris Naeole said.
Naeole announced that Ikaika Woolsey will make his third consecutive start this Saturday. Woolsey was pulled after the first half of last week’s 42-14 loss to Fresno State. Woolsey is running low on targets. Right wideout Quinton Pedroza received a medical retirement last week. Tight end Dakota Torres’ right arm was in a sling on Tuesday.
Despite the dwindling number of available players, Naeole said, the best will play.
“This is not happiness camp,” Naeole said. “This is not Pop Warner where everybody has to touch the ball and play. This is a business. People have to understand, at the end of the day, this is a business.”
Next game: vs. San Jose State, 9 p.m. MT Saturday (Time-Warner OC Sports)
Notable: Against Fresno State, the Warriors were whistled five times for roughing the passer, including three times on the same scoring drive, and two times each for personal fouls and pass interference. Cornerback Nick Nelson, who doubles as the punt returner, was ejected for targeting. Without Nelson and Keelan Ewaliko, who was injured on a kickoff return, the Warriors were without their top two returners for most of the game. … Makoa Camanse-Stevens, a walk-on receiver, is expected to start at slotback against San Jose State. Camanse-Stevens is a versatile athlete who has completed a 55-yard option pass, averages a team-high 16.6 yards on nine catches, and made four tackles on special teams. … Marcus Kemp, who leads the Warriors in catches (30) and receiving yards (484), has started only one of the past six games.
— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
The Wolf Pack football team is bowl eligible.
That doesn’t mean the Wolf Pack football team is headed to a bowl game.
The Mountain West has seven bowl tie-ins this season, although the Hawaii or Las Vegas Bowl will go to BYU, leaving six spots for MW teams. The conference currently has five bowl-eligible teams in Nevada, Boise State, Air Force, San Diego State and New Mexico. Two more teams – Utah State, which Nevada plays Saturday, and Colorado State – are one win away from bowl eligibility.
If the Aggies and Rams both win a sixth game, which seems likely, that would leave seven teams for six slots, potentially leaving one bowl-eligible team on the outside looking in, like San Jose State in 2013.
Nevada (6-4, 4-2) could all but wrap up a certain bowl berth with a win over Utah State or San Diego State in the next two weeks. It’d be more difficult to leave out a seven-win Pack over a six-win Pack.
“I always feel like we need to get one more,” coach Brian Polian said, “but when you study the different landscapes, you have a good chance at six. Last year, I felt six wasn’t going to get you in. I feel like this year, six gives you a chance. I’m not saying I feel like it’s a guarantee or certainty, but when you look at the landscape, not only with our tie-ins but also with where other conferences are, there’s a chance.”
Currently, there are 62 bowl-eligible teams for 80 spots, leaving 18 free. Thirty-five teams have been ruled out of bowl contention; 31 teams could still become bowl eligible over the next three weeks.
So, while Nevada is likely safe even if it loses its final two games, it’s not assured of a bowl. And with the Wolf Pack reaching a bowl in nine of the last 10 seasons, one of just four Group of 5 teams to accomplish that, playing in a bowl game and continuing that streak remains vital in recruiting.
“It’s very important,” Polian said. “It’s important that recruits know that there’s been a lot of success here for a long time because we might not have immediate name recognition with some recruits. As you educate them, and they start to understand there’s been a high standard around here for a long time and a winning tradition, that’s definitely something that we focus on in recruiting.”
Next game: at Utah State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: Nevada’s regular-season finale at San Diego State was picked up by ESPN2, giving Nevada a $500,000 bonus under the MW’s national TV payout system. The Wolf Pack made $880,000 this year as part of the TV bonus system. … Polian gets a $25,000 bonus for the SDSU game being on ESPN2. He also got a $15,000 bonus for the Fresno State game being on ESPN2 and gets $15,000 if Nevada reaches a bowl. If Nevada gets into a bowl, Polian will net $640,000 this year. His guaranteed salary of $585,000 ranks ninth out of 12 MW coaches. … Key special teams players Jarid Joseph (concussion), Travis Wilson (shoulder) and Alex Bertrando (knee) will all be game-time decisions against Utah State. So, too, will starting linebacker Matt Lyons (foot). OL Joey Anglemire (knee) is out. … For the first time in its seven conferences games, the Wolf Pack enters a game as an underdog. Utah State is a 14-point favorite.
— Chris Murray/Reno Gazette-Journal
SAN DIEGO STATE
San Diego State has asked starting quarterback Maxwell Smith if he’d consider returning for next season on an NCAA injury waiver, and the graduate transfer is giving coaches the vibe that he would like to do so.
“He’s very positive about the idea,” Aztecs head coach Rocky Long said.
After Smith’s discussion with the coaches, they also told him to put it out of his mind for now.
“It’s all speculation at this point,” Long said. “It’s way too early to get excited about it. The NCAA would have to approve it. It’s a long process of gathering paperwork.”
Aztecs players have been successful in recent years with waivers due to injury. Both linebacker Jake Fely and cornerback J.J. Whittaker are playing in their sixth years on campus this season because of large amounts of missed time in the past.
But it’s also easier when all of that information needs to come from one school. Smith started his career at Kentucky, where he played in eight games (starting three) as a true freshman and four games as a sophomore before an ankle injury limited him.
Smith returned to play nine games his junior year (starting four), but also missed three games with a rotator cuff injury that required surgery after the 2013 season. He has said he wasn’t healthy enough to compete for playing time in the 2014 season at Kentucky, after which he transferred to SDSU and earned the starting job in the fall.
The possibility of Smith’s return, of course, is significant for the Aztecs, who may also return their star tailback, D.J. Pumphrey, who repeatedly has said he will return for his senior season rather than go into the NFL Draft.
In the Aztecs’ current season, in which they are 6-0 in the Mountain West after Saturday’s 38-3 victory over Wyoming, Pumphrey has 12 of the team’s 19 rushing touchdowns, and Smith has thrown 12 touchdowns while being an excellent game manager. He’s thrown two interceptions in 180 attempts and hasn’t suffered a pick in a school-record eight straight games.
“Yeah, it would make a big difference,” Long said. “I would guess (Smith) is going to be better; he’s getting better now. And he wouldn’t have to start by learning the system.”
Beyond Smith, the Aztecs don’t have an obvious answer at quarterback next season. Smith beat out redshirt freshman Christian Chapman and junior Jake Rodrigues in the offseason, Ryan Agnew will be a redshirt freshman next year and arriving as a true freshman will be Mt. Carmel dual-threat QB Lucas Johnson.
A return by Smith might give SDSU a transition year to work with the other three quarterbacks on a possible transition to a spread offense.
Next game: at UNLV, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: The Aztecs (7-3) became eligible for their sixth straight bowl with the win over Wyoming … The oft-injured Fely suffered a broken thumb against the Cowboys. He was X-rayed during the game, received a cast and returned to play in the second half. Long said he expects Fely to be ready to play on Saturday against UNLV. … SDSU’s current streak of four straight wins by 23 points or more is the longest in the nation.
— Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN JOSE STATE
San Jose State’s November woes continued with a 37-34 overtime defeat at Nevada.
The Spartans (4-6, 3-3, Mountain West) have lost seven in a row in November over two seasons, and are 2-10 in the month during coach Ron Caragher’s tenure.
They have a chance to reverse the trend in Honolulu. But San Jose State also would need to upset Boise State (7-3, 4-2) on Nov. 27 at home to have a chance to reach the postseason.
“For us, we’re not going to look past Hawaii,” quarterback Kenny Potter said. “We have to win the next one first.”
It will be another road challenge. San Jose State is 1-4 on the road entering its final away game. The Spartans’ only victory was a 33-27 overtime triumph last month at UNLV.
“Our team has gotten better from the Air Force (37-16 defeat) and Oregon State (35-21 loss) games,” Caragher said. “We’ve been competitive in all of our road games. We’re knocking on that door. Eventually it will open.”
That said, the coach acknowledged the disappointment this season, particularly after losing consecutive heartbreakers by a total of four points to Brigham Young and Nevada.
“I’m tired of being close,” Caragher said. “We all are.”
Potter had a career game against Nevada despite suffering from strep throat and vomiting on the sideline.”He fought through it,” Caragher said.
Next game: at Hawaii, 9 p.m. MT Saturday (Time-Warner OC Sports)
Notable: Potter became the first San Jose State quarterback in 30 years to rush for at least 100 yards in a game after gaining 116 yards in 19 carries against Nevada. In 1985, Spartans quarterback Doug Allen gained 117 yards on eight carries against Fresno State. The Long Beach City College transfer also completed 15 of 26 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. ... Sophomore Michael Carrizosa is a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award given to the top punter in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Carrizosa leads the country for the ninth week, averaging 48.5 yards a game after all three of his punts Saturday at Nevada went more than 50 yards. … Billy Freeman is one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award for the country’s best tight end. Freeman has a team-leading 36 catches for 412 yards and five touchdowns. … The son of Spartan baseball coach Dave Nakama is a junior long snapper for the Rainbow Warriors. Brodie Nakama, a St. Francis High-Mountain View graduate, started every game last season as a short snapper.
— Elliott Almond, San Jose Mercury News
For once, UNLV coach Tony Sanchez didn’t have the answers.
It was tough to figure out what went wrong for the Rebels’ defense in Saturday’s 49-35 loss at Colorado State. That’s because just about everything seemed to.
UNLV didn’t put up much of a fight defensively, allowing 325 yards rushing and 7.1 yards per carry. Colorado State’s Dayln Dawkins gained 151 yards on 19 carries.
Rams quarterback Nick Stevens passed for 209 yards and four touchdowns, with three of the TDs going to Rashard Higgins. In playing like the consensus All-American he was last season, Higgins caught seven passes for 102 yards.
Allowing that kind of production was too much for UNLV, which received strong play from its offense, even with quarterback Blake Decker going out early again. Between Decker and backup Kurt Palandech, the Rebels scored five touchdowns and gained 502 yards.
Lexington Thomas rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, Devonte Boyd caught eight passes for 131 yards and Kendal Keys had six receptions for 87 yards and three TDs.
UNLV made enough plays offensively to win on most nights. Just not this one.
“Bad tackling,” Sanchez said. “It was pretty atrocious. We looked a little tired out there. We had a few moments, not many. They pretty much moved the ball, running the ball, on us at will.”
Sanchez said the numerous emotional games the Rebels have played this season might have caught up with them.
“I’m disappointed in the outcome, no doubt about it,” Sanchez said. “I told our guys the hardest thing about this is I don’t feel we played our best football. I feel like we left a lot of things out on the football field.
“That’s a good football team. They were a better football team than we were tonight. I think that was apparent, so we needed to do things on a higher level in order to try to compete with these guys. We’re just not where they’re at right now.”
Next game: vs. San Diego State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Sanchez said he didn’t have immediate word of Decker’s injury, but it doesn’t look as if he will play against the Aztecs and he is listed as doubtful. Decker left the game at Colorado State late in the second quarter, walking gingerly on his right foot. Palandech is listed first on the depth chart this week, with freshman Dalton Sneed second. Sneed is redshirting, so he would most likely only play in an emergency. … Boyd has three consecutive 100-yard receiving games, tying a school record, accomplished five other times by four other receivers. The most recent to do it was Len Ware in 1997. … Cornerback Tim Hough has intercepted four passes, tying UNLV’s freshman record set by Marlon Beavers in 1973. … UNLV’s next opponent has a strong Las Vegas connection. Two former Rebels head coaches are on staff — Bobby Hauck as special teams coordinator and Jeff Horton as offensive coordinator and running backs coach. Also, wide receivers coach Hunkie Cooper played for the Rebels and most recently coached Canyon Springs High in Las Vegas. One of his former players at Canyon Springs was current San Diego State star running back Donnel Pumphrey.
— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal