MW Notes: Aggies, Aztecs emerge as title favorites

The Sports Xchange

October 18, 2015 at 3:41 pm.

Oct 16, 2015; Logan, UT, USA; Boise State Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien (4) fumbles the ball forced by Utah State Aggies defensive end Ricky Ali'ifua (95) at Romney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 16, 2015; Logan, UT, USA; Boise State Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien (4) fumbles the ball forced by Utah State Aggies defensive end Ricky Ali’ifua (95) at Romney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Five out of six underdogs won Mountain West games last week with Utah State and San Diego State emerging from the rubble as the division favorites.

Utah State provided the biggest shocker with a 52-26 defeat of No. 21 Boise State in Logan, Utah. The Aggies collected seven first-half takeaways — eight overall — and led 45-10 at halftime. They beat the Broncos for the first time since 1997 to improve to 3-0 in conference play. The Aggies are in sole possession of first place in the Mountain Division.

Utah State coach Matt Wells called the win “maybe the greatest win in this program’s history.”

“It isn’t the championship but it puts us in the driver’s seat,” he said. “We’ll control our own destiny and that will be a challenge. It’s a challenge our guys will gladly accept.”

San Diego State took down upstart San Jose State on the road, 30-7. The Aztecs have won three straight games to open conference play after struggling to a 1-3 mark in nonconference play. Every other team in the West has at least two conference losses, giving San Diego State a strong lead.

The only favorite to win was New Mexico, which rallied to beat Hawaii and improve to 4-3. Previously winless Wyoming stunned Nevada, Fresno State roared back in the fourth quarter to beat UNLV and Colorado State broke out of its funk by beating rival Air Force.

Utah State plays at San Diego State on Friday.

AIR FORCE (3-3, 2-1)

Game: Colorado State 38, Air Force 23. Colorado State QB Nick Stevens torched the Falcons’ pass defense for 296 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams scored 24 straight points to bust open a 14-13 game. Air Force fullback Shayne Davern scored on a 60-yard run but also left the game with an apparent knee injury. The Falcons lost to the Rams for just the second time in the past 10 meetings.

Takeaway: Air Force looked like a contender in the Mountain Division at one point. Now the Falcons likely need to beat Utah State and Boise State to have a chance.

Next: vs. Fresno State, Oct. 24

BOISE STATE (5-2, 2-1)

Game: Utah State 52, Boise State 26. The Broncos committed seven first-half turnovers and eight in the game. The eight turnovers were the most for the program since 1989. They trailed 45-10 at half, the worst first half for the Broncos since 1998. The critical stretch came in the final three minutes of the first half. The Broncos had the ball trailing by 14 points and were going to get the ball to start the second half. Instead of getting back into the game, they lost three turnovers and the Aggies turned each into a touchdown — including a pick-six on the final play of the half.

Takeaway: Quarterback Brett Rypien finally looked like the true freshman he is with five turnovers. But he didn’t get any help with poor blocking, receivers who weren’t able to make difficult catches and a previously dominant defense that couldn’t handle the poor field position it was dealt.

Next: vs. Wyoming, Oct. 24


Game: Colorado State 38, Air Force 23. QB Nick Stevens, benched after two series a week earlier in the loss to Boise State, was given a vote of confidence by his coach and produced a terrific game in a rare rivalry win for the Rams. Stevens threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns. Coach Mike Bobo told Stevens before the game that he wouldn’t be taken out this time. Joe Hansley caught a pair of TD passes and Jasen Oden Jr. scored two rushing TDs.

Takeaway: The win was the Rams’ second in the past 10 meetings with their rivals from Colorado Springs. It also rejuvenated the Rams’ bowl hopes.

Next: vs. San Diego State, Oct. 31

FRESNO STATE (2-5, 1-3)

Game: Fresno State 31, UNLV 28. The Bulldogs outscored the Rebels 14-0 in the fourth quarter to get their first conference win of the season. Marteze Waller scored the game-winning TD on a 38-yard run with 2:37 left in the game.

Takeaway: Fresno State snapped its five-game losing streak, which should be good for morale. The Bulldogs still will be hard-pressed to reach a bowl with road games against Air Force and BYU on the schedule. Kilton Anderson, the fourth starting QB of the season, contributed 193 passing yards, 78 rushing yards and two rushing TDs.

Next: at Air Force, Oct. 24

HAWAII (2-5, 0-3)

Game: New Mexico 28, Hawaii 27. Quarterback Austin Apodaca threw the game-winning TD pass to Dameon Gamblin in the final minute to cap an 80-yard drive for the Lobos. Hawaii could have clinched the win moments earlier but kicker Rigoberto Sanchez missed a 22-yard field-goal attempt. He had made kicks from 49 and 47 yards earlier in the game.

Takeaway: The Rainbow Warriors scored points on the road for the first time this year. They should have earned a rare road win, too, but were done in by a missed chip-shot field goal.

Next: at Nevada, Oct. 24

NEVADA (3-4, 1-2)

Game: Wyoming 28, Nevada 21. The Wolf Pack fell behind a winless team by 21 points and couldn’t do enough to complete a comeback attempt. They had the ball at the Wyoming 36-yard line in the final two minutes but quarterback Tyler Stewart was sacked on fourth down.

Takeaway: A disappointing season took an ugly turn for the Wolf Pack, who got beaten by a team that hadn’t won in almost a year. The margin for error is small the rest of the season with road trips to Utah State and San Diego State the last two weeks.

Next: vs. Hawaii, Oct. 24

NEW MEXICO (4-3, 2-1)

Game: New Mexico 28, Hawaii 27. Backup QB Austin Apodaca drove the Lobos 80 yards for the winning touchdown, a 28-yard pass to Dameon Gamblin. Moments earlier, the Lobos caught a huge break when Hawaii missed a 22-yard field-goal attempt that would have all but ended their hopes. Apodaca was 6-for-10 for 70 yards on the winning drive.

Takeaway: The Lobos’ four wins aren’t exactly against the who’s who of college football — Mississippi Valley State, Wyoming, New Mexico State and Hawaii — but they have a winning record and are two wins away from a possible bowl game. “My first thought right now is, we have to get better,” coach Bob Davie said, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Next: at San Jose State, Oct. 24

SAN DIEGO STATE (4-3, 3-0)

Game: San Diego State 30, San Jose State 7. The Aztecs surged into control of the West Division with a dominant road win against the Spartans. Star tailback Donnel Pumphrey contributed 207 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, San Jose State tailback Tyler Ervin — the national leader in all-purpose yards — was limited to 22 yards on 17 carries.

Takeaway: The Aztecs have opened Mountain West play with three straight wins by a combined score of 79-28 as their expected standout defense has shown up.

Next: vs. Utah State, Oct. 23

SAN JOSE STATE (3-4, 2-2)

Game: San Diego State 30, San Jose State 7. The Spartans were stifled all night by the Aztecs’ defense as they missed an opportunity to gain control of the West Division race. Tailback Tyler Ervin, who has been dynamic all season, generated just 22 yards on 17 carries (and three catches for minus-1). Quarterback Kenny Potter threw for 113 yards and tossed a pair of interceptions. The Spartans finished with 148 yards of offense.

Takeaway: The Spartans need Ervin’s productivity to succeed on offense. San Diego State found a way to take him out of the game. Ervin had been the national leader in all-purpose yards. “We need to hose off after this game,” coach Ron Caragher said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “You feel slime sometimes and you just need to hose off and not let the ugliness from tonight carry over into next week.”

Next: vs. New Mexico, Oct. 24

UNLV (2-5, 1-2)

Game: Fresno State 31, UNLV 28. The Rebels squandered a two-touchdown lead and got outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter to blow a chance for a conference road win. It was the second straight week that the Rebels were unable to hold onto a fourth-quarter lead. “That was an abomination,” coach Tony Sanchez told the media afterward.

Takeaway: The Rebels would be in first place in the West Division if they had been able to close out the past two games. Instead, they’re a long-shot to go to a bowl game. “For a long, long time in this program, we found a way to lose,” Sanchez said. “It’s been kind of the nature of who we are, and that’s got to change.”

Next: vs. Boise State, Oct. 31

UTAH STATE (4-2, 3-0)

Game: Score. Utah State 52, Boise State 26. The Aggies’ defense forced eight turnovers, including seven in the first half. Star linebackers Nick Vigil and Kyler Fackrell were in the middle of much of the action with a combined 25 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and four quarterback hurries. Sophomore quarterback Kent Myers avenged his only loss as a starter with 220 total yards and four touchdowns (three passing).

Takeaway: The Aggies have shaken off a poor start to the season to become the team most expected them to be. A win this week at San Diego State would put them in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage in the MW championship game.

Next: at San Diego State, Oct. 23

WYOMING (1-6, 1-2)

Game: Wyoming 28, Nevada 21. The Cowboys secured their first win since Nov. 1, 2014, with a fourth-down sack in the final two minutes as the Wolf Pack were driving for the potential tying TD. Quarterback Cameron Coffman was 18-for-20 for 213 yards and three touchdowns and tailback Brian Hill rushed for 188 yards.

Takeaway: Coffman and Hill have been two of the better offensive players in the Mountain West despite the Cowboys’ struggles as a team. “I feel like we have finally figured it out,” Hill said, according to

Next: at Boise State, Oct. 24


1. The Mountain West is likely out of the New Year’s Six picture. Boise State’s blowout loss to Utah State guarantees that the league champion will have at least two losses. And with the ugly nonconference performance by the Mountain West, that isn’t going to be good enough to compete with the American Athletic Conference champion and possibly Toledo of the MAC.

2. Utah State coach Matt Wells is a rising star. Wells has dealt with repeated injuries at quarterback but keeps producing successful teams. In a Mountain Division everyone expected Boise State to dominate, Utah State is in position to win its second title in three years.

3. San Diego State is back on track. The Aztecs were a mistake-prone mess in the nonconference season but they’re 3-0 in the Mountain West. By whipping San Jose State, they regained their preseason status as the West favorite.

4. New Mexico has stronger bowl hopes than Nevada. Bob Davie’s Lobos have an almost hollow set of four wins, but they only need two more. Brian Polian’s Wolf Pack have already lost to two of the Mountain West’s worst programs: Wyoming and UNLV.

5. Boise State needs to regroup. The Broncos cruised through four straight blowout wins before committing seven first-half turnovers last week at Utah State. The 52-26 loss was arguably the Broncos’ worst performance in 17 years.