Mountain West football round-up Week 8 West Division
We continue the Mountain West football round-up with a look around the West Division, in which Nevada is gearing up to take on Boise State. Several teams are on byes, but Fresno and UNLV will be among the shootout schools in action.
Please note that San Diego State is on a bye this week, so it's excluded. For Fresno State, here's a link to Robert Kuwada's latest story.
For the Mountain Division notes, click here.
The Rainbow Warriors enter their second bye week with the No. 1 quarterback job still unsettled. Sean Schroeder was at the controls for two dramatic, albeit unsuccessful, finishes the past three games. He directed UH to five unanswered touchdown drives against Fresno State on Sept. 28. This past Saturday, Schroeder's 44-yard touchdown pass to Chris Gant put UH ahead, 37-36. UNLV then drove for the winning field goal, dooming the winless Warriors to their sixth loss this season.
Taylor Graham, who was the starter the first three games, was declared physically fit for the UNLV game. Although he split reps in warm-ups, he did not play. Ikaika Woolsey, who has the strongest arm among the UH quarterbacks, has been used mostly as a read-option scrambler. He had a 36-yard rush on a quarterback draw against UNLV.
Head coach Norm Chow said Graham, Woolsey and Jeremy Higgins will play in Friday morning's situational scrimmage. Chow said it should not be interpreted that Schroeder is the No. 1 quarterback for UH's next game, against Colorado State on Oct. 26. Chow said Schroeder has played extensively the past three weeks and he wants to give the other quarterbacks more reps. As always, the quarterback is not allowed to be hit during the scrimmage.
Running back Joey Iosefa, who underwent foot surgery last month, and tight end Jordan Pu'u-Robinson, who is recovering from an MCL injury, are expected to be ready for the CSU game. Freshman wide receivers Keith Kirkwood and Marcus Kemp also should be available. Kirkwood missed the UNLV trip because of concussion-like symptoms. Kemp suffered a foot injury from a mo-ped accident.
Next: Oct. 26 vs. Colorado State
Notable: The Rainbow Warriors rejected an offer a few weeks ago to play Colorado this Saturday in Boulder, Colo. The Buffaloes were seeking a game to replace the one that was canceled Sept. 14 because of the Colorado floods. Missed school time was cited as one of the reasons for turning down the offer. Meanwhile, UH announced last week that it agreed to play Ohio State in the Horseshoe on Sept. 12, 2015. Two weeks after that, the Warriors will play Wisconsin in Madison.
- Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Junior quarterback Cody Fajardo is a three-year starter, and the Wolf Pack and Boise State have met every year since 2001, alternating sites each year. So, it stands to reason that Fajardo has experience with the Broncos' famed blue turf.
But he doesn't.
Fajardo had an injured left (non-throwing) shoulder in 2011 and did not play, although he was suited up and watched as senior quarterback Tyler Lantrip and the Wolf Pack offense struggle mightily in a 30-10 loss - the Wolf Pack avoiding the shutout by putting up 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Then-coach Chris Ault questioned whether Fajardo had worked hard enough to get back on the field the week ahead of the Boise State game, and last season offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said on a radio show that Fajardo needed to get tougher.
Nobody is questioning his toughness now. He played with a torn thumbnail and a knee sprain in the New Mexico Bowl last season, and this season he played after spraining his knee in the first half against UC Davis on Sept. 7.
Fajardo ended up missing 2Â½ games because of the sprain, and he said last week ahead of the bye that he was 100 percent healthy again and looking forward to getting onto the blue turf with a football in his hands.
"I think it was a great time for this bye so we can prepare for one of the biggest conference games of this season, obviously, playing Boise at Boise," Fajardo said on Oct. 8, four days after Nevada lost at San Diego State 51-44 in overtime. "And this is going to be the first time I've played on the blue turf, so I'm real excited about that. ... As an offense, as a defense, the whole team, we just need to get better this week and then focus on Boise."
The Wolf Pack will be looking to get its ground game going. Nevada is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, which has led in part to Fajardo throwing 54 and 51 passes, respectively, in the last two games. He had never thrown more than 40 passes in a game prior.
The return of guard Connor Talbott, who missed nearly four full games with an ankle sprain and played against San Diego State, should help the team's run production.
Next game: at Boise State, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: The Wolf Pack have lost starting tight end Kolby Arendse (foot) and backup quarterback Devin Combs (knee) for the season, but aside from those two should have every other two-deep player available for the Boise State game. ... Boise State has won 12 of the last 13 meetings between the schools, dating back to 1999. ... The Wolf Pack did not practice Friday through Sunday as the coaches spent time recruiting.
- Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal
San Jose State
The Spartans hit the midway point of the season feeling much better than they did two weeks ago.
After dropping three straight in blowout fashion, SJSU earned back-to-back Mountain West road wins to climb back to .500 overall at 3-3 and move to 2-1 in conference play.
"Momentum's a nice thing to have," coach Ron Caragher said. "We're still a football team that's growing and developing. You can deal with lessons the hard way where you have a tough loss ... or you can come off a win and still learn the lesson. I think it helps this football team gain some confidence having that happen, being down two weeks in a row and roaring back. You get that feeling, that belief that you can come back."
After three straight games with two interceptions, quarterback David Fales had his best outing of the year in the 34-27 win over Colorado State. He completed a season-best 80 percent of his passes (28 of 35) for 431 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Fales was named the Mountain West's Offensive Player of the Week and now leads the conference with 1,943 passing yards. Fresno State's Derek Carr has more yards per game, but has played one fewer contest.
The team's improvements haven't surprised Fales, who guided the Spartans to an 11-2 season and No. 21 national ranking last year.
"This is how we play," Fales said. "It's not new to the seniors. This is how it's done. That's what we're trying to express to the freshmen. This is how we play. This isn't a shocker. This is how we do it. It's about sticking together no matter what happens."
Next game: Oct. 26 vs. Wyoming
Notable: Freshman running back Thomas Tucker, who was carted off the field against Colorado State, was diagnosed with a concussion. He was released from a Loveland, Colo., hospital in time to accompany the team home on Saturday night. It's unknown how long he'll be out. ... Fales was honored as an honorable mention quarterback performer of the week by College Football Performance Awards. Freshman running back Jarrod Lawson, who had 98 yards rushing, 104 yards receiving and two touchdowns, was an all-purpose honorable mention performer of the week.
- Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
UNLV is having its best offensive season in more than 30 years, averaging 33.3 points and 447.2 yards per game with its new hurry-up spread offense, significant jumps from last season's 22.0 and 367.9 averages and a major reason for its four-game winning streak.
The Rebels (4-2, 2-0 MW) haven't averaged that many points since finishing with a school-record 34.9 in 1980. UNLV's yardage average is its highest since the school record 491.3 in 1981.
In Saturday's 39-37 victory over Hawaii, the Rebels picked up a school-record 38 first downs and ran a Mountain West best-ever 113 plays.
But UNLV's offense will be severely tested to keep pace with a Fresno State team (5-0, 2-0) that is even stronger on that side of the ball.
Rebels coach Bobby Hauck hopes for a few defensive stops, but acknowledged the task in front of his team.
"We've got to be honest with ourselves," Hauck said. "Fresno's going to score some points. They do on everybody, and to a degree, if we want to have any chance of winning the game, then we're going to have to keep up.
"We're going to have to play darn near perfect to go in there and beat them."
Fresno State averages 47.4 points and 538 yards per game. Quarterback Derek Carr, the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, averages 372.8 yards passing and he has thrown 19 touchdown passes to just four interceptions.
Carr "is as good a player as we'll see at that position this year," Hauck said. "We've got our hands full with these guys."
Next game: at Fresno State, 8 p.m. MT (MW Digital Network)
Notable: Quarterback Caleb Herring's streak of 183 passes without an interception was a UNLV record and tied the Mountain West mark by Wyoming's Brett Smith in 2012 and 2013. Herring's run of perfection ended on the final play of the first half against Hawaii. ... UNLV has won four consecutive games for the first time since 2000, and it's the longest regular-season streak since the Rebels won seven in a row in 1984. ... Nolan Kohorst was named the Mountain West special teams player of the week, and he was one of three kickers nationally to receive the Lou Groza Award Star of the Week.
- Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal