Bronco Beat

Mountain West Football Report: Air Force, San Diego State compete for home field

Boise State-Air Force Highlights

Highlights from the Boise State-Air Force game on Nov. 20, 2015.
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Highlights from the Boise State-Air Force game on Nov. 20, 2015.

MOUNTAIN DIVISION

AIR FORCE

Air Force was picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division.

It started the season 3-3.

It lost its quarterback, two standout fullbacks and a nose guard to season-ending injuries. A linebacker, defensive end, center, tight end, cornerback, outside linebacker and kicker have missed multiple games with injuries.

And yet the Falcons have clinched the Mountain Division title and, with one game remaining, are in position to host the conference championship game.

"I think we’ve always had that confidence," outside linebacker Jacob Onyechi said. "No one on the defense, no one in our Falcon locker room, is surprised. We know that we had the potential to do it and the results have been showing up on the field. Hopefully we can keep that going."

Air Force has won five in a row, outscoring Fresno State, Hawaii, Army, Utah State and Boise State 192-82. The rushing attack ranks third in the nation but is complemented by a passing game that is ranked eighth nationally in efficiency and posted 550 yards against the Aggies and Broncos.

Falcons players had Saturday off, returning early that morning from Boise State. Knowing they could clinch the division title with a New Mexico loss to Colorado State, many watched the game in their rooms, at their host families’ homes or simply by checking their phones.

The result was gratifying, but not altogether satisfying.

"We have our sights set on winning the whole thing," quarterback Karson Roberts said. "It’s really cool that we got to win our division, but New Mexico is a good team and we’re looking to win that game and from there we have a good shot at getting home-field advantage against San Diego State."

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

Notable: The last conference title for the program came in 1998. … The 550 passing yards from Roberts over the past two weeks is a school record in consecutive conference games. … The Falcons lead West Division champ San Diego State 46.5-55.75 in the four polls that will determine the site of the conference championship game. Air Force has won 12 in a row at home, a program record.

-- Brent Briggeman, The Gazette

BOISE STATE

Boise State has allowed 600 yards of offense nine times in the football program’s 48-year history.

Two of those ugly performances have occurred in the past 13 months against the two Mountain West Mountain Division teams that run option-based offenses.

That will send second-year defensive coordinator Marcel Yates into the offseason seeking answers for the second straight year.

The Broncos are 1-3 against those teams, New Mexico and Air Force, since Yates got the job, including back-to-back losses at home the past two weeks. The Broncos conclude the regular season Friday at San Jose State.

"We’re still a good defense," Yates said Sunday. "We just struggle vs. the option. What I have to do, what we have to do as a staff, is after the season we need to go out and study how to stop the option."

He did the same thing last year, after New Mexico racked up 627 yards in a Boise State win and Air Force rushed for 287 yards in a Boise State loss.

The Broncos faced the duo in consecutive weeks after a bye this year, which allowed the defense to work on option principles for three straight weeks. Yates expected that to help.

"But there was something missing, and that comes back to me," he said. "The key thing is you can’t give up explosive passes."

Air Force threw for a shocking 279 yards on Friday on just nine completions (31 yards per completion). New Mexico threw for 218 yards on nine completions the week before (24.2).

Players and coaches agree that the big pass plays happen when someone on defense takes his eyes off his assignment.

"I felt we had a great game plan throughout the week for both teams," junior defensive end Sam McCaskill said. "We did a good job of bringing a lot of energy and really making it known what each person had to do so there was no question on game day."

Next week: at San Jose State, 1:30 p.m. Friday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: WR Thomas Sperbeck broke the school record for receiving yards in a season last week. He has 76 catches for 1,289 yards with a 17.0-yard average per catch. ... RB Jeremy McNichols has rushed for 100-plus yards in six straight games, all of the Mountain West games in which he has played. He also has set a Mountain West record with a rushing TD in 10 straight games. ... TE David Lucero, a redshirt freshman contributor, was arrested last week on an attempted strangulation charge and suspended indefinitely from the team. The alleged victim was a female student-athlete. ... S Darian Thompson (concussion) and WR Shane Williams-Rhodes (ankle), both seniors, missed the Air Force game. They're questionable this week.

-- Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman

COLORADO STATE

The biggest beneficiary of Colorado State’s improved production in the running game has been sophomore quarterback Nick Stevens.

In their past three games -- all wins -- the Rams have run for an average of 258 yards and scored eight touchdowns on the ground.

During a 3-5 start to the season, the Rams were averaging just 164 rushing yards a game.

So it wasn’t enough for Stevens, a first-year starter, to simply complete passes to open receivers. With no running game to speak of in losses to Utah State and Boise State, he was trying to carry the entire offense on his shoulders. He didn’t understand the new offense of coach Mike Bobo well enough to take what the defense was giving him while throwing as many as 47 passes in one game – a loss to Utah State – and 30 or more in two others.

Instead of checking into running plays at the line of scrimmage, he was trying to make big plays with his arm. That mentality led to three interceptions in one game, a 41-17 loss to San Diego State.

"The best remedy for a struggling quarterback, if we say he was struggling, is to have a solid running game and to be more balanced," Bobo said Monday. "I made a concerted effort going into the Wyoming week that I was going to take a lot of pressure off him in the throwing game and I was going to put pressure on our special teams and our defense and our running game, and I think that’s helped."

The Rams (6-5, 4-3 MW) won that game at Wyoming 26-7, starting a three-game winning streak that made them bowl eligible for the third straight year.

Stevens isn’t throwing nearly as often now, but he’s throwing more effectively. In the past three games, he’s averaged 19.3 passes a game and completed 69 percent, with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He leads the Mountain West in passing efficiency with a 144.8 rating and touchdown passes with 20. And he’s No. 2 in passing yards with 2,404, a CSU record for a sophomore.

"That explosiveness and efficiency in the run game has really helped me as a quarterback in our passing game just because the defense finds themselves having to step up to fit in the run," Stevens said. "And then we have so much play action in our offense that really opens up the windows down the field to fit the ball into our receivers.

"… Progressing as a quarterback I’ve realized if I just take what the defense gives me, things end up working out."

Next game: at Fresno State, 7 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Sophomore Dalyn Dawkins took over the team lead in rushing yards with a 94-yard game at New Mexico to get to 744 for the season -- 117 more than senior Jasen Oden, who sprained a knee on his only carry in the game. Oden’s status for this week is "questionable," Bobo said. … Three starting defensive backs left the New Mexico game with injuries, but the coach said he expects senior safeties Trent Matthews and Kevin Pierre-Louis to play Saturday at Fresno State. He put CB Preston Hodges in the "questionable/doubtful" category. … Hayden Hunt, a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter, didn’t punt once at New Mexico. The Rams scored touchdowns on three of their nine possessions, kicked field goals on four others (one was blocked), were stopped once on fourth down and killed the clock to end the game.

-- Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan

NEW MEXICO

Saturday, pending the awarding of the expected bowl invitation, New Mexico coach Bob Davie will say goodbye to 14 scholarship seniors.

That's not a large group.

Davie wishes it were smaller.

When Davie took over the program in 2012, scholarship numbers were so low in the wake of Mike Locksley's messy departure that Davie redshirted only four freshmen that year: safety Ryan Santos, wide receiver Ridge Jones, offensive lineman Darian Allen and tight end Christian Rebhun. Jones, Allen and Santos now are fourth-year juniors; Rebhun has left the program.

In succeeding years, two more members of that 2012 class -- offensive lineman Garrett Adcock and quarterback-turned tight end Cole Gautsche -- took redshirt years.

Saturday, in the regular-season finale against Air Force, seven fourth-year scholarship seniors will take part in pre-game senior day activities: wide receiver Carlos Wiggins, linebacker Mike Arredondo, tight end Chris Edling, tight end Reece White, cornerback Cranston Jones, running back David Anaya and wide receiver Marquis Bundy.

White and Anaya entered the program as walk-ons but later were awarded scholarships.

The four years, Wiggins said, have flown by.

"It's gonna be bittersweet," he said. "... My time's up. Good times come to an end, and I had a good time here."

Davie said he appreciates the sacrifice the four-year players have made.

"I could go through that whole group of guys," Davie said. "The story is well-documented. Could have been redshirted, should have been redshirted, weren't redshirted, and here they are as seniors.

"Unselfish is the word for those guys."

This year, as perhaps a statement on the maturation of the program, only two true freshmen -- defensive end Cody Baker and inside linebacker Alex Hart -- have seen the playing field.

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

Notable: The cumulative score in the last three New Mexico-Air Force games is 100-99 in favor of the Falcons. Air Force won at home in 2012 (28-23) and 2014 (35-31); New Mexico won in Albuquerque in 2013, 45-37. ... When and if the anticipated bowl invitation arrives, Davie said he hopes UNM (6-5, 4-3) stays home and plays in the New Mexico Bowl. "I'd like to see us play another home game here in this stadium," he said. "For three years I've sat around here and hadn't said much, but it's kind of gnawed at me to see two other teams playing on our field." ... Junior cornerback Isaiah Brown will miss Saturday's game after taking a shot to the head in the first half of UNM's 28-21 loss to Colorado State last week. It will be the 15th "DNP" of his career, 14 for health reasons. He was the subject last week of an Albuquerque Journal story headlined "Brown just happy to be healthy."

-- Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal

UTAH STATE

Utah State has qualified for its fifth straight bowl game, no matter what happens against BYU on Saturday afternoon at Maverik Stadium.

USU is 6-5 this season after its 31-27 win over Nevada last week. The Aggies rallied from a 27-7 deficit in the third quarter to become bowl-eligible.

The problem?

Six other Mountain West teams have also reached the six-win requirement for bowl participation. Another -- San Jose State -- can join the group with a victory over Boise State on Friday night.

The Mountain West could end up with more eligible teams than available bowl berths, meaning it’s possible a six-win team like Utah State could get left out of it.

Wells doesn’t see it happening.

"I think seven wins guarantees you a bowl game," Wells said. "I’d like to think six wins and what we’ve done puts us in a bowl game. But, until you get the invite, you never know."

Wells heaped praise on the Cougars during his weekly press conference, especially Branson Kaufusi.

Asked if he’s the best defensive end Utah State has seen in its first 11 games, Wells said: "I don’t know if he’s the best. He might be. The only reason I say he’s not the best is because we’ve seen some other good players. But he’s up there.

"The guy is a modern-day Goliath. Y’all, don’t walk out on the field in pre-game and see him because you’ll be scared. He’s humongous. And he’s athletic. That’s what Goliath had to look like, back in the day."

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

Notable: Senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton replaced starter Kent Myers in the first quarter against Nevada. Myers suffered a shoulder injury on the first play. His status for the BYU game is in doubt. … Keeton needs one touchdown pass to set a school record. He is currently tied with Jose Fuentes (2000-02) with 60. …Utah State has won 14 straight games at home, three shy of the school record. … Senior linebacker Kyler Fackrell leads the nation in fumble recoveries with five. He recovered a bobbled snap from center in the end zone with 6:55 left in the game against Nevada. The touchdown gave Utah State its first lead in any game since Oct. 30. The Aggies had lost two straight to New Mexico and Air Force. …Senior nose guard David Moala called the BYU game "a chance to give back to our fans. They deserve it the most. I just want to leave a mark for Aggie Nation." … On the significance of the 85th game between Utah State and BYU, Wells said, "This is the big one right here. I guarantee our guys will be ready to play."

-- Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune

WYOMING

Second-year coach Craig Bohl said there have been some "silver linings" as the Cowboys have endured through a one-win season.

One of them comes Saturday when Wyoming (1-10, 1-6) hosts UNLV (3-8, 2-5) in the season finale for both squads.

"The No. 1 silver lining is the opportunity to coach these seniors," Bohl said. "These guys have been really resilient. The record on the field doesn’t indicate progress, but the seniors have done a great job of laying a foundation and modeling strong character and resolve.

"It will be heart-warming for me as the head football coach to send them out. As coaches, we are doing everything we can to come up with a victory."

Eight seniors will be honored before the game, and Bohl said that’s the fewest he’s had in 35 years as a college coach.

One of those seniors who won’t play is running back Shaun Wick, who Bohl said will miss his eighth straight game due to a concussion. Wick is eighth in school history with 2,179 yards, and tied for eighth with 20 rushing touchdowns.

Bohl said Wick should qualify for a medical redshirt waiver from the NCAA, which would allow him to play next season. However, Bohl isn’t looking that far ahead.

"The first thing is he’s got to get healthy," Bohl said. "When that comes about, he’ll be making a decision whether he wants to continue football or not. The No. 1 concern is his well-being. Doctors will spell it out, and Shaun will make the decision that is in his best interest."

UW is coming off a bye week, and used it with a combination of practices and time off for the players. Bohl said veterans like redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman and senior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough got limited practice reps so they could rest and recover. Coffman is coming off a separated right throwing shoulder, and his first game back was UW’s last game – a 38-3 loss at San Diego State on Nov. 14.

Senior Rafe Kiely will make his second straight start at center in place of sophomore Charlie Renfree. Bohl said Kiely’s play has improved in recent weeks. Offensive line coach Scott Fuchs said both Kiely and Renfree will play Saturday.

Kiely played in UW’s first 10 games as Renfree’s backup. Kiely enters Saturday’s game having played in 32 games in his career, including 18 starts.

Kiely and Yarbrough are the only two fifth-year seniors on the UW roster.

Next game: vs. UNLV, noon MT Saturday (Root)

Notable: Yarbrough is Wyoming’s career leader in tackles for loss with 37, and broke the record with one at San Diego State. … Sophomore running back Brian Hill needs 57 yards to become the Cowboys’ single-season rushing leader. Hill’s 1,399 yards is ninth in the FBS, and his 127.2 yards per game is 11th. … Junior Chase Roullier was given the highest combined grade among college offensive guards in both run and pass blocking by Pro Football Focus last week, which also ranked Roullier as the ninth-best college player among offensive and defensive linemen. … Senior cornerback Tyran Finley will be in uniform Saturday. Finley was suspended by Bohl after the Oct. 10 game at Air Force for a violation of team rules. … Wyoming needs a win to avoid its first one-win season since 1970. … True freshman free safety Andrew Wingard is fifth in the FBS with seven solo tackles per game, and 10th in total tackles with 10.3 per contest.

--Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports

WEST DIVISION

FRESNO STATE

When coach Tim DeRuyter was hired at Fresno State and defensive coordinator Nick Toth installed a 3-4, the Bulldogs put together one of the biggest turnover turnarounds over the past 10 years. They had 35 takeaways in 2012, after gaining just nine the previous season.

But those 22 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries were not a predictor of future successes. The Bulldogs have had fewer turnovers every year since, going from 35 to 23 to 20 and with only a Mountain West game against Colorado State left for the 3-8 Bulldogs this season they have 19.

Fresno State has scored only six touchdowns and 51 points off their turnovers gained (its opponents have scored 110 points off 23 turnovers), which adds to the frustration. But a young and injury-depleted defense has been the biggest problem in the second half of the season.

"We have to make sure we’re being aggressive, that we’re trying to get after the quarterback when we can," Toth said. "The trick with this group right now with some younger guys, you just have to be careful because you can blitz yourself into a situation where those guys haven’t gotten as many reps with that. There’s a tradeoff. You want to pressure or try to set edges or dictate tempo to the offense, but you have to be real careful with the guys that are on the field. You want to try to force those takeaways, but you also don’t want to give up big plays."

Finding that balance has been difficult this season. The Bulldogs have had 11 players on defense miss at least one game to injury including starting inside (Mike) linebacker Kyrie Wilson, inside (Will) linebacker Jeff Camilli, strong safety Charles Washington, free safety Shannon Edwards and outside linebackers Brandon Hughes and Tobenna Okeke.

"We had a situation against Nevada where we were scratching and clawing (the Bulldogs were down 17-16 at halftime in that game) and I had a weird mix in there and I tried to get after them," Toth said. "But the mix on the field was really inexperienced and we ran a call that they didn’t have a lot of reps in and it cracked for 50 yards. You have to be careful.

"You want to create those takeaways that we tried to against Nevada and we did at Hawaii, but you have to keep your eye on everything."

Next game: vs. Colorado State, 7 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN)

Notable: The Bulldogs went Back To Zack in their loss at BYU with quarterback Zack Greenlee following up that six touchdown pass game at Hawaii in which he had the highest single-game passing efficiency rating for a Fresno State starter since Derek Carr was flinging footballs all over the field with the worst single-game passing efficiency rating. Greenlee hit only 14 of 41 passes for 125 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions, his rating just 45.12. … Greenlee and redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson again are competing in practice this week to see who will start against Colorado State. … Senior running back Marteze Waller is just four yards away from becoming the fifth back in school history with 3,000 career rushing yards. Waller cozied up to it at BYU, getting to 2,999 yards on his 17th carry of the game. On the 18th and last, though, he was hit for a 3-yard loss. It has not been all that easy to get there. Over the past three games, Waller has carried the ball 48 times and he has been held to two yards or fewer on 25 of them. … Fresno State gained only 275 total yards in the loss to the Cougars, the fifth time that they have been held under 300 this season. That is the most going back through the 2000 season. … Senior outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine had 1.5 tackles for loss at BYU, giving him 44.5 in his career He needs 2.5 in the finale against Colorado State to tie former San Diego State linebacker Mile Burris for most all-time in the Mountain West. … Fresno State went into that game with only 25 drives into the red zone, tied with Hawaii for the fewest in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs got there three times against BYU, but were able to score only three points once there. They have only 14 touchdowns from those possessions, fewest in the conference.

-- Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee

HAWAII

The past Saturday, the Rainbow Warriors lost their ninth consecutive game — to finish zip-for-eight in the Mountain West — and then things turned ugly. Defensive tackle Kennedy Tulimasealii questioned the effort of some teammates — and coaches.

During one point in the first half, during which San Jose State converted all seven third-down attempts, defensive coordinator Tom Mason pleaded whether anyone had a solution.

"I said through the headsets, ‘Somebody give a third-down call. Hell, I’ve run out of them,’ " Mason recalled.

By then Chris Naeole had thrown down his headset.

"I’m tired of hearing people in my ear," Naeole would said later.

The announced turnstile count of 11,625 was the smallest for a home game in the Warriors’ 40-year residency at Aloha Stadium. That mark might be challenged this Saturday when the Warriors play host to Louisiana-Monroe, a one-victory team that fired its coach two weeks ago. The game will match two interim head coaches. Naeole, who played 12 years in the NFL, was promoted from offensive line coach when Norm Chow was fired on Nov. 1.

In the past two weeks, the Warriors lost six players to season-ending injuries This year, 14 projected starters from training camp have missed significant time because of injuries. Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey nearly joined that list when he suffered an Achilles injury on a touchdown throw. Woolsey hobbled 80 yards to hold for the point-after kick.

Woolsey is expected to start on Saturday. With Max Wittek done for the season, Woolsey is the only experienced quarterback on the active roster.

Next game: vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 9 p.m. MT Saturday (Time Warner OC Sports)

Notable: Paul Harris has three 100-plus rushing games in a row and five for the season. Harris is a junior-college transfer who joined the team in July. He has played this season despite suffering injuries to both ankles. … It appears inside linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams, the Warriors’ leading tackler, won’t be available for the regular-season finale. Garcia-Williams has had a back issue. Outside linebacker Jeremy Castro also is done for the season because of a neck stinger. … The Warriors have been depleted on the defensive line. Against San Jose State, nose tackle Kory Rasmussen played left end. This season, the Warriors have used six players at that position, including walk-on freshman Zeno Choi. … It should be another two weeks before the Warriors name a new head coach. June Jones is considered to be a top candidate. Jones was UH’s head coach for nine seasons, through the 2008 Sugar Bowl, when he led the Warriors to a 12-0 regular season in 2007.

-- Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser

NEVADA

The Wolf Pack simply can’t close games, and that theme is five years in the making.

Since 2011, Nevada is 10-19 in games decided by a touchdown or less, that latest close loss coming last Saturday when the Wolf Pack frittered away a 20-point second-half lead in a 31-27 loss at Utah State.

"We have to learn how to finish," Wolf Pack defensive end Lenny Jones said.

The can’t-close theme isn’t anything new.

In 2011, the Wolf Pack lost a 20-3 fourth-quarter lead against Louisiana Tech in the WAC title game. In 2012, the Wolf Pack lost three double-digit leads in the final four minutes. In 2014, Nevada was 1-4 in games decided by a touchdown or less. And it’s lost three more games under such situations this year.

When coach Brian Polian took over in 2013, he said Nevada wasn’t mentally or physically tough enough and that’s why it struggled in second halves during his first season. He said those areas have improved, but still aren’t where they need to be if Nevada wants to be a championship-caliber program.

"In college football, more games are lost than are won," Polian said. "I’m not taking anything from Utah State. They played good and made plays when they needed to, but I feel like we lost that game. They didn’t play otherworldly in the last half of the game. We made mistakes. We have to stop doing that. We have to stop screwing it up."

The Wolf Pack appeared to turn the corner on finishing one week prior when QB Tyler Stewart rallied Nevada to a last-minute touchdown to tie San Jose State on senior day before winning it in overtime. Finally, Nevada came up big in the big moments. But one week later, it was back to the Pack’s old ways.

"There are some places where the culture is engrained and they finish games," Polian said.

Nevada hasn’t been one of those places.

Next game: at San Diego State, 8:45 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN2)

Notable: Nevada was without five regular starters on its kickoff coverage unit against Utah State and it showed. The Wolf Pack allowed a kick return for a touchdown for the first time since 2010 and the Aggies averaged 55.5 yards per return on four kick returns. … One of those special teams standouts, LB Alex Bertrando, had surgery to repair a torn MCL and is out for the season. Two others, LB L.J. Jackson and DE Jarid Joseph, who were both out with concussions, are expected to play against SDSU. A fourth, starting LB Matt Lyons (foot), is doubtful against the Aztecs. … The Wolf Pack is a 17.5-point underdog against SDSU, its second-largest underdog spread of the season. It was a 31.5-point underdog at Texas A&M. … RB James Butler went over 1,000 yards against Utah State and is the 18th player in program history to do so. Teammate Don Jackson is 24 yards shy of 1,000 yards.

-- Chris Murray/Reno Gazette-Journal

SAN DIEGO STATE

It was an odd way to first celebrate the West Division title in the Mountain West Conference.

Plates in hand, a buffet in front of them, the players on San Diego State’s football team gathered in a non-descript ballroom in an off-the-strip hotel to have their pregame meal on Saturday night before heading off to beat UNLV 52-14.

The first of their season goals had been accomplished when Nevada, the only team with a chance to catch the Aztecs, blew a 20-point second-half lead in a loss to Utah State in the afternoon.

By the time the Aztecs players arrived for their meal, the only ones who didn’t know must have been sleeping or charging their phone.

For good measure, Long announced it to the team, let them soak it up for a few seconds, and then added, "If you want to be a special team, you win them all. If you want the best chance to host the championship game, you BETTER win them all."

Going 8-0 in any league for the first time in school history and getting nine regular-season wins for the first time since 2012 -- that is still very much on the table when the Aztecs (8-3, 7-0) play their regular-season finale at home on Saturday against Nevada (6-5, 4-3).

"That should be motivation enough," Long said on Sunday.

Hosting the league title game? That’s a long shot now. Air Force's defeat of Boise State on Friday and New Mexico’s loss to Colorado State on Saturday clinched the Mountain Division title for Air Force (8-3, 6-1).

The Falcons then made a big jump past SDSU in the polls that will determine the championship host. When the composite poll was tallied on Monday, Air Force was at 46.5, with the Aztecs at 55.7.

As long as both teams win out (Air Force goes to New Mexico on Saturday), the Falcons probably won’t lose their lead and will draw the Aztecs at home in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the championship on Dec. 5.

Curious among the results in the polls was that despite its win, SDSU lost four places, from 52 to 56, in the Colley Matrix.

"I don’t understand any of it, and I don’t care to learn," Long said.

The coach stands by the MW’s condition that a team ranked in the Top 25 should have home-field advantage in the title game. Beyond that, he’s not sure. Air Force and SDSU didn’t play each other this year. Their record against common opponents is the same except for one – the Falcons lost 38-23 to Colorado State and SDSU beat the Rams 41-17.

"It could be tweaked a little more when we don’t have a team (in the Top 25 situation)," Long said on Saturday. "There should be some other criteria for that – head-to-head, won-loss record … you can do a lot of things."

Next game: vs. Nevada, 8:45 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN2)

Notable: Aztecs starting safety Na’im McGee has been suspended for the first half of Saturday’s Nevada game by the league for a hit on UNLV receiver Kendal Keys that was considered targeting. Long said he didn’t agree with the initial call or the subsequent league ruling. "I don’t know if there was a way to avoid the guy," Long said. … The Aztecs have been enormously fortunate on the injury front this season. Every player who began the season as a starter remains available to play … SDSU’s 52 points vs. UNLV were its most since 1969 … The Aztecs have won seven consecutive games by at least 14 points for the first time since an eight-game streak in 1969-70.

-- Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN JOSE STATE

San Jose State faces what amounts to a play-in game Friday to become bowl eligible with the mandatory six victories.

The Spartans (5-6, 4-3 Mountain West) will have to overcome the odds to defeat Boise State, a school that hasn’t lost to San Jose State in 11 meetings.

But the Spartans are riding with confidence after trouncing Hawaii 42-23 whereas Boise State (7-4, 4-3) has a two-game losing streak.

San Jose State will bid adieu to 18 seniors, most of whom started under coach Mike MacIntyre, who left after the 2012 season to take over at Colorado.

The seniors, who played a bulk of their careers under Ron Caragher, hope to reach their first bowl game since 2012.

"It’s a huge grand finale," fifth-year lineman Wes Schweitzer said.

San Jose State heads into the biggest game in the Caragher era with little recovery time. The Spartans flew home early Sunday morning a few hours after their victory in Honolulu.

They arrived on campus at 9:30 a.m. but coaches gave them the day off. San Jose State returned to practice Monday morning to get ready for the Broncos.

"We have the shortest week after the longest trip of the year," Caragher said.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges doesn’t expect Boise State to have an advantage because of the schedule. After all, it’s the 12th game of the season for both schools.

"At this point they’ve seen all they’re going to see and we’ve seen all we’re going to see," he said.

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

Notable: San Jose State has its most rushing touchdowns since 2004 with 23. …. This is the fifth time since 1950 that a San Jose State team has rushed and thrown for more than 2,000 yards in a single season. … The Spartans have committed one turnover in the past four games -- a fourth-down fumble lost in the red zone against Brigham Young. … Kenny Potter, a 6-foot-2 transfer from Long Beach City College, was one of eight quarterbacks named "stars of the week" by members of the Manning Award committee. Potter was 23-of-32 for 312 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed 54 yards and scored twice more at Hawaii. "His best football is way ahead of him," Borges said. "He’s still on-the-job training now."

-- Elliott Almond, San Jose Mercury News

UNLV

UNLV already wasn’t the healthiest team before facing San Diego State on Saturday.

And now the Rebels come off the physical 52-14 loss and hope to have enough to beat Wyoming.

"We played against some good rushing teams throughout the course of the year, and I don’t know if any of them beat us up the way they did," UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. "They were a lot more physical than we were, and it just shows how far we need to go and the things we need to improve on."

The Aztecs rushed for 286 yards and five touchdowns against UNLV. Donnel Pumphrey rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns in the first half before taking off most of the final 30 minutes.

UNLV was without quarterback Blake Decker (ankle and hip) in that game as well as linebacker Tau Lotulelei (arm) and defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga (knee).

The Rebels are not the same team without Decker, who has been injured much of the season.

And without Lotulelei and Valoaga, they weren’t able to put up much of a defense against the Aztecs running game. Lotulelei leads UNLV with 11½ tackles for loss, and his absence was an unpleasant surprise for Sanchez.

"We weren’t even informed by our medical staff," Sanchez said. "We were informed by him 40 minutes before kickoff that he wasn’t playing, so we didn’t know that.

"So we had a lot of guys out. That lack of depth really showed."

Lotulelei is listed as a starter against Wyoming, but Decker is on the second team and Valoaga on the third unit.

Next game: at Wyoming, noon MT Saturday (Root)

Notable: UNLV has been within a touchdown in the fourth quarter in all but three games. … The Rebels went 652 plays without a fumble lost from a running back until Lexington Thomas turned over the ball to San Diego State. It had been two years to the day since the previous one. … UNLV lost two fumbles overall against the Aztecs, the first time the Rebels had multiple lost fumbles since Nov. 10, 2012 at Colorado State. … The Rebels haven’t won at Wyoming since 2003.

-- Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal

 

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