MW Notebook: A 2-0 start against the Power 5

The Sports Xchange

September 06, 2015 at 9:14 pm.

Sep 4, 2015; Boise, ID, USA; Boise State Broncos quarterback Ryan Finley (15) looks for a receiver down field during the first half verses the Washington Huskies at Albertsons Stadium. Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 4, 2015; Boise, ID, USA; Boise State Broncos quarterback Ryan Finley (15) looks for a receiver down field during the first half verses the Washington Huskies at Albertsons Stadium. Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountain West went 2-0 against the Power 5 conferences in the opening week of the season, a nice start for a conference that struggled in those matchups last year.

The Mountain West was 5-17 against the Power 5 last year.

The opening week wins were delivered by Boise State, which beat Washington 16-13 in Boise, and Hawaii, which beat Colorado 28-20 in Honolulu.

Boise State played the conference’s marquee game on Friday night against its former coach, Chris Petersen. The Broncos will be in the spotlight again next Saturday at BYU, which opened with a win against Nebraska.

Nine Mountain West teams played FCS teams in their openers — Wyoming lost to North Dakota — so it’s far too early to tell what the conference has.

AIR FORCE (1-0, 0-0)

Game: Air Force 63, Morgan State 7. Nine different Falcons scored the team’s nine touchdowns in an opening romp. They scored in all three phases of the game and rushed for 394 yards.

Takeaway: You can’t tell anything from this game. Morgan State was overmatched and out of its element even before leaving 10 players at home.

Next: vs. San Jose State, Sept. 12

BOISE STATE (1-0, 0-0)

Game: Boise State 16, Washington 13. The Broncos dominated the first half to build a 16-0 lead but didn’t score in the second half and nearly lost because of their punt team. Washington used a 17-yard punt return, a 76-yard punt return and a blocked punt to score its 13 points. The Huskies trailed by three when Cameron Van Winkle tried a 46-yard field goal in the final minute. It missed wide right.

Takeaway: The Broncos’ defense could be fantastic — it basically pitched a shutout in the opener. The ground game looks good, too, led by sophomore Jeremy McNichols. But new quarterback Ryan Finley will need to make more plays in the passing game to beat a team like BYU on the road.

Next: at BYU, Sept. 12


Game: Colorado State 65, Savannah State 13. Nick Stevens threw for 289 yards and five touchdowns in his first game as the replacement for Garrett Grayson. Savannah State was such a mess that it snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head on the first two plays, the latter going for a TD. Six different players caught the Rams’ six touchdown passes.

Takeaway: New coach Mike Bobo’s no-huddle offense looked good in its debut. The Rams showed they have more weapons than just Biletnikoff Award finalist Rashard Higgins.

Next: vs. Minnesota, Sept. 12

FRESNO STATE (1-0, 0-0)

Game: Fresno State 34, Abilene Christian 13. Marteze Waller rushed for 154 yards and the Fresno State defense showed some growth. The Bulldogs scored 27 straight points at one point.

Takeaway: The Bulldogs’ improved defense was a good sign for the rest of the season, but Abilene Christian wasn’t much of a test.

Next: at Ole Miss, Sept. 12

HAWAII (1-0, 0-0)

Game: Hawaii 28, Colorado 20. Quarterback Max Wittek, a transfer from USC, threw three touchdown passes to lead the Warriors. The Buffaloes drove inside the Warriors’ 10-yard line at the end of the game but completed a pass in bounds with no timeouts left and couldn’t get off another snap.

Takeaway: The Warriors showed promise last year and contended for the West Division title. They look like they could contend again this year, given the win over a Pac-12 team.

Next: at Ohio State, Sept. 12

NEVADA (1-0, 0-0)

Game: Nevada 31, UC Davis 17. Quarterback Tyler Stewart, making his first start in two years, completed 9-of-10 passes in the first half as the Wolf Pack cruised to the win. Tailback Don Jackson added 124 rushing yards.

Takeaway: If Stewart and Jackson can give the Wolf Pack offense a new 1-2 offensive punch, they could be a factor in the wide-open West race.

Next: vs. Arizona, Sept. 12

NEW MEXICO (1-0, 0-0)

Game: New Mexico 66, Mississippi Valley State 0. The Lobos tied their own conference record with eight rushing touchdowns in another Mountain West-FCS mismatch. The Lobos defense got its first shutout in seven years. The Delta Devils never crossed midfield.

Takeaway: It was a nice start for New Mexico — but the level of competition was not good.

Next: vs. Tulsa, Sept. 12

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

Game: San Diego State 37, San Diego 3. Calvin Munson returned two interceptions for touchdowns, part of a five-interception effort by the Aztecs’ talented defense. Damontae Kazee grabbed the other three interceptions.

Takeaway: The Aztecs’ offense didn’t show much. They scored three non-offensive touchdowns, including a kickoff return.

Next: at California. Sept. 12

SAN JOSE STATE (1-0, 0-0)

Game: San Jose State 43, New Hampshire 13. Tyler Ervin rushed for three touchdowns and 127 yards. Thomas Tucker tacked on two touchdowns and 74 rushing yards. New Hampshire gained only 186 yards.

Takeaway: The Spartans are expecting to show significant improvement this year after playing with a young roster last year. The offensive explosion in the opener hints at progress.

Next: at Air Force, Sept. 12

UNLV (0-1, 0-0)

Game: Northern Illinois 38, UNLV 30. Coach Tony Sanchez injected some life into the Rebels program during the offseason — and it showed in the opener. The Rebels pushed the Huskies deep into the fourth quarter. QB Blake Decker was 21-for-39 for 319 yards with two touchdowns. Wide receiver Devonte Boyd had five catches for 107 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown reception that gave the Rebels an early 7-0 lead.

Takeaway: The Rebels are an intriguing team because Sanchez is making the leap from high school. With a veteran QB and star wide receiver, they have a chance to make some noise this year.

Next: vs. UCLA, Sept. 12

UTAH STATE (1-0, 0-0)

Game: Utah State 12, Southern Utah 9. Andrew Rodriguez returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to allow the Aggies to avoid a stunning upset. The defense played well but senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton’s return from injury was a dud. Keeton passed for just 110 yards. The Aggies’ 11 penalties didn’t help, either.

Takeaway: Keeton was supposed to be the difference-maker who could lift the Aggies to their first Mountain West title. Instead, he and the offense struggled mightily against an inferior program.

Next: at Utah, Sept. 11

WYOMING (0-1, 0-0)

Game: North Dakota 24, Wyoming 13. North Dakota out-physicaled the FBS Cowboys and took a 14-0 lead in the first half with a pair of long touchdown runs. The hole grew to 21-0 before Wyoming got on the board.

Takeaway: The Cowboys are young and knew this would be a learning season, but getting whipped by North Dakota hints that this could be worse than expected.

Next: vs. Eastern Michigan, Sept. 12


1. Boise State only has one question mark on its team: quarterback Ryan Finley. Finley did enough to lead the Broncos to victory in his first start but he didn’t make any plays throwing the ball down the field. He finished with 129 passing yards.

2. Utah State might not be as good as expected. Oft-injured quarterback Chuckie Keeton was unproductive in the season opener against Southern Utah and was bailed out by a punt return that won the game. Friday’s game at Utah could be trouble.

3. UNLV coach Tony Sanchez, the former high school coach, turned all that excitement he pumped into the Rebels program into actions on the field. The Rebels lost their opener at Northern Illinois but gave the Huskies more trouble than anyone expected.

4. Hawaii is a realistic threat in the West Division. The Warriors have a brutal schedule, though. Next up: Saturday at Ohio State.

5. It could be a long year at Wyoming, which entered the season with a young roster and expecting to learn some tough lessons for the future. But the Cowboys probably didn’t expect one of those lessons to be that they weren’t physical enough to handle North Dakota.