MW Notebook: Division races begin to take shape

The Sports Xchange

October 04, 2015 at 11:10 pm.

Sep 26, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose State Spartans running back Tyler Ervin (7) runs for a touchdown against the Fresno State Bulldogs during the third quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 26, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose State Spartans running back Tyler Ervin (7) runs for a touchdown against the Fresno State Bulldogs during the third quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

An unpredictable season in the Mountain West became a little clearer Saturday when San Diego State thumped Fresno State, Utah State beat Colorado State and UNLV edged Nevada.

In the wide-open West Division, former doormats San Jose State and UNLV look like realistic title contenders while two-time defending champion Fresno State already has lost to a pair of division rivals. Preseason favorite San Diego State still could be the top team after a rough nonconference slate.

The Mountain Division, as usual, goes through Boise State, which has caught fire over the past three games, winning by a combined 163-14 scoring margin. Utah State was expected to provide the most significant competition for the Broncos. That seemed unlikely early in the season but the Aggies beat Colorado State on Saturday in a game that re-established them as a top-half team in the division.

San Jose State plays at UNLV on Saturday in the key game on this week’s schedule. Boise State travels to Colorado State in a matchup that seemed more appealing a few weeks ago.

AIR FORCE (2-2, 1-0)

Game: Navy 33, Air Force 11. The Falcons committed four turnovers in Navy territory and stalled at the 1-yard line on another drive while absorbing their largest loss to Navy since 1978. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds hit Air Force with runs of 67, 54 and 40 yards.

Takeaway: The Falcons’ offense, which has looked sharp at times this season, was mistake-prone and largely ineffective against Navy. They should be able to regain their momentum this week against Wyoming.

Next: vs. Wyoming, Oct. 10

BOISE STATE (4-1, 1-0)

Game: Boise State 55, Hawaii 0. The Broncos scored 49 first half points as true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien delivered a second terrific start. The defense posted its second shutout in three games and now has outscored opponents 163-14 in that span.

Takeaway: Boise State suddenly looks like the program that scored 40 to 60 points with regularity from 2002 to 2011. Throw in a dominant defense and it will be difficult for anyone in the Mountain West to beat the defending champ.

Next: at Colorado State, Oct. 10


Game: Utah State 33, Colorado State 18. Utah State quarterback Kent Myers rushed for 191 yards and a TD to lead the Aggies past the Rams. Colorado State QB Nick Stevens was 21-for-46, connecting on less than half of his throws.

Takeaway: The Rams have taken a step back under first-year coach Mike Bobo since last year’s breakthrough season. “I get the sense we’re all playing like freshmen, and it’s a lot to do with a new coaching staff,” Bobo said, according to The Coloradoan. “There’s no carryover from the previous years, and we’re making some mistakes that cost you ballgames.”

Next: vs. Boise State, Oct. 10

FRESNO STATE (1-4, 0-2)

Game: San Diego State 21, Fresno State 7. The Bulldogs netted 89 yards on offense while dropping to 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 2004. They were 0-for-12 on third down.

Takeaway: The Bulldogs’ offense seems to be getting worse by the week. Zach Greenlee started at quarterback and was ineffective. Tailback Marteze Waller, an all-conference talent, left with a possible concussion after rushing for 20 yards on 11 carries.

Next: vs. Utah State, Oct. 10

HAWAII (2-3, 0-1)

Game: Boise State 55, Hawaii 0. The Rainbow Warriors failed to score for the third straight road game. QB Max Wittek was 7-for-24 for 66 yards with two interceptions before leaving with a knee injury. Meanwhile, the defense that showed so much fight against two Big Ten opponents allowed seven first half touchdowns.

Takeaway: The Warriors seemed like West Division contenders when they beat Colorado and gave Ohio State trouble for three quarters. But if they can’t score points on the road, they aren’t likely to make much noise.

Next: vs. San Diego State, Oct. 10

NEVADA (2-3, 0-1)

Game: UNLV 23, Nevada 17. The Wolf Pack didn’t score in the first half for the first time in three years and couldn’t capitalize on two chances to drive for the winning score in the final five minutes. Nevada controlled the action for much of the second half but UNLV linebacker Ryan McAleenan’s pick-six gave UNLV the play it needed to win.

Takeaway: UNLV has won in Reno two of the past three years, changing the dynamics of a rivalry that Nevada had been dominating. The loss prevented what could have been a smooth start to the conference season for Nevada, which has New Mexico and Wyoming coming up.

Next: vs. New Mexico, Oct. 10

NEW MEXICO (3-2, 1-0)

Game: New Mexico 38, New Mexico State 29. The Lobos scored the last 24 points of the game to overcome a 15-point deficit in the second half. New Mexico State’s Larry Rose III rushed for 234 yards in the first half but was a non-factor in the second half.

Takeaway: The Lobos are 3-2 — the second-best record in the Mountain West. But the teams they have beaten have a combined record of 0-14, giving them one of the weakest winning records imaginable.

Next: at Nevada, Oct. 10

SAN DIEGO STATE (2-3, 1-0)

Game: San Diego State 21, Fresno State 7. San Diego State outrushed Fresno State 335-48 to neutralize its own struggling passing attack. The Aztecs went into the game with a plan to run the ball on every play on the first drive, which turned into a 10-play touchdown march.

Takeaway: The Aztecs’ determination to run the ball could pay dividends, but they’ll have to do it without star tailback Donnel Pumphrey for a while. He left the game with a high ankle sprain.

Next: at Hawaii, Oct. 10

SAN JOSE STATE (2-3, 1-1)

Game: Auburn 35, San Jose State 21. San Jose State outgained the SEC Tigers, but four turnovers and breakdowns in kickoff coverage proved too much to overcome. Running back Tyler Ervin rushed for 165 yards on 27 carries to continue his All-Mountain West push.

Takeaway: The Spartans’ record doesn’t look great, but they were in the game on the road in the losses to Oregon State, Air Force and Auburn. A win this week at UNLV would put them in the West Division title conversation.

Next: at UNLV, Oct. 10

UNLV (2-3, 1-0)

Game: UNLV 23, Nevada 17. The Rebels beat their rivals on the road despite losing QB Blake Decker to a shoulder injury. Linebacker Ryan McAleenan’s pick-six proved the critical play in a second half mostly controlled by Nevada. UNLV snapped a nine-game road losing streak.

Takeaway: Coach Tony Sanchez’s first win was a laugher against Idaho State. This was his first challenging win in a hard-fought road game against a rival. That the Rebels had the confidence and fortitude to persevere bodes well for the rest of the season.

Next: vs. San Jose State, Oct. 10

UTAH STATE (2-2, 1-0)

Game: Utah State 33, Colorado State 18. Backup QB Kent Myers provided a spark for the Aggies with 191 rushing yards. Utah State improved to 15-5 under head coach Matt Wells when starting QB Chuckie Keeton doesn’t play.

Takeaway: The Aggies won the Mountain Division two years ago and contended for it last year despite QB injuries. They seem ready to fight through adversity again this year.

Next: at Fresno State, Oct. 10

WYOMING (0-5, 0-1)

Game: Appalachian State 31, Wyoming 13. Appalachian State rushed for 249 yards to overcome Brian Hill’s big day for the Cowboys — 208 yards on 30 carries.

Takeaway: Hill doesn’t have enough help on the Wyoming offense for the Cowboys to be competitive this year.

Next: at Air Force, Oct. 10


1. Hawaii shouldn’t leave the islands. The Warriors have made three trips to the mainland this season. Total points: 0. Hawaii has been shut out by Ohio State, Wisconsin and Boise State. Next up: Oct. 17 at New Mexico, a team with a suspect defense.

2. Don’t bother visiting the Blue. Boise State hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown at home in three games this season. The past two opponents have been shut out and outscored by 107 points.

3. Don’t count out Utah State yet. The Aggies started slow and lost starting QB Chuckie Keeton, but they showed renewed life against Colorado State. Boise State must travel to Logan in two weeks.

4. Fresno State is a mess. The Bulldogs’ quarterback situation has been in disarray all season, which has led to a progressively more inept offense. The two-time defending West Division champions likely will be limited to regular-season games this year.

5. The American Athletic Conference is in the driver’s seat. The American has four undefeated teams vying for a New Year’s Six bowl berth. One of them is Navy, which whipped Air Force on Saturday. Air Force is one of the Mountain West’s best teams.