MW Notebook: Conference whiffs in Week 2

The Sports Xchange

September 13, 2015 at 1:42 pm.

Sep 12, 2015; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; Air Force Falcons quarterback Nate Romine (6) runs the ball against San Jose State Spartans safety Vincente Miles Jr (26) in front of Falcons running back Jacobi Owens (28) in the second quarter at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 12, 2015; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; Air Force Falcons quarterback Nate Romine (6) runs the ball against San Jose State. Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountain West endured a brutal second week of the college football season with a 0-10 record in nonconference games. Air Force was the only conference team to win a game because it played another Mountain West foe in San Jose State.

The weekend was set up as a potential difference-maker for the league. Utah State played at Utah and Boise State played at BYU, two winnable games for two of the top programs in the conference. Plus, Colorado State (Minnesota), Nevada (Arizona) and UNLV (UCLA) got Power 5 opponents at home.

The day seemed to hinge on Minnesota-Colorado State. The Rams came from behind to force overtime but lost. Boise State did the opposite late Saturday night, controlling its game with BYU most of the night until allowing three fourth quarter touchdowns to lose 35-24.

The awful nonconference day will hurt the Mountain West’s chances of placing a team in a New Year’s Six bowl and could cost the conference money from the bonus pool shared by the Group of Five based on performance.

AIR FORCE (2-0, 1-0)

Game: Air Force 37, San Jose State 16. Air Force opened Mountain West play with a win but might have lost quarterback Nate Romine in the process. Romine injured a knee in the final five minutes of the game as the Falcons outscored the Spartans 20-0 in the fourth quarter.

Takeaway: The Falcons’ offense has looked dynamic this year in a division that so far is offensively challenged. But a serious injury to Romine would be a problem. He rushed for 116 yards against San Jose State.

Next: at Michigan State, Sept. 19

BOISE STATE (1-1, 0-0)

Game: BYU 35, Boise State 24. The Broncos led 24-14 in the fourth quarter before the Cougars scored three straight touchdowns — one set up by an interception return to the 12-yard line, one on a fourth down heave into traffic by quarterback Tanner Mangum and the last on a pick six. Boise State wasted a bunch of scoring opportunities in the first half and committed 11 penalties.

Takeaway: Boise State’s veteran offensive line and new quarterback Ryan Finley aren’t getting the job done, limiting the Broncos’ offensive production. The defense that looked so good for the first six quarters of the season started to bend against the run in the second half and had difficulty all night handling receivers in the scramble drill.

Next: vs. Idaho State, Sept. 18


Game: Minnesota 23, Colorado State 20 (OT). The Rams fumbled on their overtime possession, which allowed the Golden Gophers to win with a field goal. The Rams forced overtime with a field goal on the last play of regulation.

Takeaway: QB Nick Stevens, who was fantastic in the season opener against Savannah State, was 8-for-19 for 51 yards with two interceptions. Star wide receiver Rashard Higgins was hurt, but those numbers hint that Stevens is a long way from turning into a true replacement for Garrett Grayson.

Next: vs. Colorado (in Denver), Sept. 19

FRESNO STATE (1-1, 0-0)

Game: Ole Miss 73, Fresno State 21. The Bulldogs allowed touchdown passes of 50 and 44 yards and two interception returns for touchdowns in their latest blowout loss to a ranked team.

Takeaway: Freshman quarterback Chason Virgil might have pulled ahead in the race for the starting job. He came off the bench for the second straight contest but played most of this game. Zack Greenlee passed for 13 yards; Virgil threw for 140. “It wasn’t so much we were disappointed in Zack,” coach Tim DeRuyter told the Fresno Bee. “We were just impressed with the way Chason was playing.”

Next: vs. Utah, Sept. 19

HAWAII (1-1, 0-0)

Game: Ohio State 38, Hawaii 0. The Warriors didn’t manage much offense against the Buckeyes but they avoided a blowout until the fourth quarter. It was 14-0 at halftime and 17-0 going to the fourth quarter.

Takeaway: The Warriors still are struggling offensively despite the win against Colorado in the opener. “We made enough mistakes to last a season,” coach Norm Chow said. “You can’t do that against good football teams.”

Next: vs. UC Davis, Sept. 19

NEVADA (1-1, 0-0)

Game: Arizona 44, Nevada 20. A sloppy Wolf Pack performance allowed the Wildcats to pull away. Nevada botched a punt snap, racked up 105 yards in penalties and messed up a handoff on fourth down. “We stunk in all three phases,” coach Brian Polian told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Takeaway: The Nevada defense, a long-standing problem, was gutted by Arizona’s high-scoring attack. The Wildcats averaged seven yards per carry, finished with 570 yards of offense and had nine runs of 10-plus yards.

Next: at Texas A&M, Sept. 19

NEW MEXICO (1-1, 0-0)

Game: Tulsa 40, New Mexico 21. Tulsa generated 600 yards of offense and New Mexico committed eight personal fouls. The Lobos finished with 390 yards and didn’t score after the first drive of the second half. “It was pretty much a butt-kicking,” coach Bob Davie said, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Takeaway: The Lobos considered this a key game — a winnable nonconference home game against a fellow Group of Five school. But they got walloped, showing they’re still a long way from competing for a bowl bid.

Next: at Arizona State, Sept. 18

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

Game: California 35, San Diego State 7. The Aztecs scored on their opening drive but got shut out the rest of the way thanks to a pair of interceptions, 136 penalty yards and touchdowns allowed on either side of halftime.

Takeaway: The Aztecs have struggled on offense in each of their first two games. They tried two quarterbacks against Cal but that didn’t seem to help. The defense is solid but the offense must improve by conference play.

Next: vs. South Alabama, Sept. 19

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

Game: Air Force 37, San Jose State 16. Quarterback Kenny Potter’s interception set up an Air Force touchdown that broke up what was a 17-16 game entering the fourth quarter. Air Force ended up scoring the final 20 points of the game. Potter made his first start in a two-quarterback rotation.

Takeaway: After a promising offensive performance in the opener, Potter and Joe Gray combined for 140 passing yards against Air Force. Quarterback play has been an issue since David Fales left for the NFL.

Next: at Oregon State, Sept. 19

UTAH STATE (1-1, 0-0)

Game: Utah 24, Utah State 14. Aggies QB Chuckie Keeton looked better than in the opener, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns. But he also threw a pair of interceptions. “Basically our offense went non-existent in the third quarter,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said.

Takeaway: The Aggies made too many mistakes to pull off the upset against a Pac-12 team on the road. They opened the fourth quarter with an interception and a fumble with the game still in doubt.

Next: at Washington, Sept. 19

UNLV (0-2, 0-0)

Game: UCLA 37, UNLV 3. The Rebels defense did a decent job, holding the Bruins scoreless for five possessions in the first half, but they couldn’t muster any offense. The Rebels also had a punt blocked and failed on a fake field goal.

Takeaway: QB Blake Decker left the game with a hamstring injury. His backup, sophomore Kurt Palandech, threw for four yards, completing just 4-of-15 attempts and also tossed an interception that was returned for a touchdown just before halftime. The injury made it clear how important Decker is to the offense.

Next: at Michigan, Sept. 19

WYOMING (0-2, 0-0)

Game: Eastern Michigan 48, Wyoming 29. Eastern Michigan earned its first road, nonconference win since 1988 at the Cowboys’ expense. Eastern Michigan scored on six straight possessions early in the game to seize control.

Takeaway: Sophomore tailback Brian Hill rushed for 242 yards and two touchdowns, his second career 200-yard game. He’s one of Wyoming’s building blocks for the future.

Next: at Washington State, Sept. 19


1. What’s up with the coaches? The Mountain West not only went 0-10 in nonconference games, but many of those losses were filled with penalties and turnovers. The conference is known for strong coaching but it didn’t look that way this week.

2. Boise State isn’t a Top 25 team right now. The Broncos committed a rash of penalties, tossed three interceptions and gave up several easy deep balls in a 35-24 loss at BYU. QB Ryan Finley needs to make major strides to get the Broncos back to their high-scoring ways.

3. Wyoming is terrible. The Cowboys, already with an FCS loss on the resume, lost at home against Eastern Michigan. EMU hadn’t won a non-conference road game since 1988 — 27 years ago.

4. The Mountain West QB situation is at least as bad as it looked in the preseason. Injuries to Nate Romine of Air Force and Blake Decker of UNLV add more question marks to a group that didn’t perform well this week.

5. Fresno State has fallen far: The Bulldogs were absolutely obliterated by Ole Miss, their latest blowout loss to a ranked team. The program has a reputation for playing powerhouse teams but hasn’t beaten a ranked team since 2004.