Mountain West football round-up Week 11 West Division
Bowl eligibility. While Fresno State has it and then some, for other teams, it's just hovering one win above them.
Utah State's next opponent, UNLV, is one of those teams. But the Rebels will have to figure out how to solve the Aggies' defense after getting shut down by usually porous San Jose State. The Spartans are also one of those teams in the hunt, and they'll face a team that just a bit further back in San Diego State this week.
Meanwhile, Nevada and Hawaii are among the programs coming to terms with losing seasons. And it's not pretty.
Check out all the notes around the league, written by the beat newspaper reporters of the Mountain West. In lieu of a Fresno State note, here's a link to Robert Kuwada's latest story.
UNLV just had its troubles against a San Jose State team not known for playing high-level defense.
Now the Rebels (5-4, 3-2 MW) face a Utah State (5-4, 4-1) team that plays far better defense than any team in the Mountain West.
"They do a nice job of disguising and moving around," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. "The one thing that to me shows up is generally when you're playing a team that likes to do that, they give up some big runs and get creased occasionally. These guys don't."
The Aggies run a 3-4 defense that allows 342.2 yards and 18.9 points per game, both tops in the Mountain West and 16th nationally. No other conference team is close. San Diego State is second in total defense (409.5 average) and Boise State is second in scoring defense (25.2).
In UNLV's 34-24 loss to San Jose State on Saturday, the Rebels faced a Spartans team that made the decision to limit their running game.
San Jose State accomplished that in holding leading rusher Tim Cornett to 24 yards on 12 carries. It was his lowest production since gaining a yard two years ago at Nevada.
Quarterback Caleb Herring was UNLV's rushing offense, picking up 55 yards on mostly scrambles.
But Hauck said he didn't expect Utah State to mimic San Jose State's strategy.
"They're not like San Jose," Hauck said. "They've been doing this for six or seven or eight years up there, so they're going to do what they do, and they do it well."
Next: Utah State at UNLV, 6 p.m. MT Saturday, ESPNU
Notable: Ten of the 20 meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less. ... Herring's career interception percentage is 2.1, which is in line to break UNLV's record of 2.9 set by Randall Cunningham from 1982 to 1984. ... Rebels coaches are making the proper halftime adjustments. UNLV has been outscored by a total of 80 in the first half, but have outscored opponents by a combined 35 in the second half.
Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Norm Chow, Hawaii's 67-year-old head coach, said he was speaking "tongue-in-cheek" when he told reporters, "I'm too old for this," following a 47-10 loss to Utah State this past weekend. Chow was angry that his comment was misinterpreted in published reports. "I'm not going to quit ever," said Chow, who is in the second year of a five-year contract that pays $550,000 annually. "I preached not quitting to these kids. You expect me to quit? Are you crazy?"
Quarterback Sean Schroeder backed Chow, noting: "He's the hardest worker, as you have to be to lead this team."
The Rainbow Warriors had a rocky start to this two-game, 10-day trip. After the morning practice on Halloween, the Warriors departed Honolulu that afternoon for Manhattan Beach, Calif., where they stayed overnight. On Nov. 1, they were awakened to reports of a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport. LAX was closed and the flights canceled for several hours. The Warriors did not depart until 10 p.m. Pacific time. They did not arrive at their hotel in Logan until 2:35 a.m. Saturday - fewer than 12 hours before kickoff against Utah State.
After the game, the Warriors took the 2-hour bus ride to Salt Lake City, where they trained through Wednesday (Nov. 6) in preparation for Saturday's game against Navy. Chow said it was better to remain on the mainland than to travel back to Hawaii.
Chow said Schroeder will make his fourth consecutive start. The Warriors also expect to have back running back Joey Iosefa, who has played only series this season because of a foot injury, and defensive tackle Kennedy Tulimasealii, who missed the Utah State game because of a shoulder injury. But the Warriors will be without defensive tackle Siasau "Saui" Matagiese, who suffered a knee injury against Utah State. With no limits on the travel roster for non-conference game, the Warriors could have brought up additional players this week. They declined.
Matagiese, who is on the 17-player leadership committee, will remain with the team through the road trip.
Next game: Hawaii at Navy, Saturday, Nov. 9, on the CBS Sports Network.
Noteworthy: Navy's head coach is Kenny Niumatalolo, a former UH quarterback and assistant coach. Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper also is a former UH quarterback. ... The Warriors plan to tour Washington D.C. on Thursday and Friday. Alas, there is no meeting at the White House. President Obama and Chow are Punahou School graduates.
Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Nevada football coach Brian Polian wants it to be known that he likes Tim DeRuyter. He just doesn't love what DeRuyter did.
DeRuyter, the second-year Fresno State football coach who used to be the defensive coordinator at Nevada (2005-06), chose not to have his quarterback, Derek Carr, take a knee in the final 90 seconds of the Bulldogs' victory over the Wolf Pack on Saturday night at sold-out Bulldog Stadium.
Carr had just thrown a 27-yard pass to the Wolf Pack 3-yard line, which gave him the school's all-time passing record. One play later, Marteze Waller ran up the middle for a score and a 41-23 victory.
Polian, responding to a question at his weekly luncheon at the Peppermill on Monday, stopped short of calling it "running up the score," as the man who asked the question suggested it could have been.
"I'm not going to say that," Polian said. "I'm going to say only that if I was in that position I would not have done it. That's all I'll say about that."
Then he paused and added, "I shook his hand, though," drawing laughs from the crowd of about 80.
Polian pointed out that the Bulldogs, who entered Saturday's game ranked 16th in the BCS standings, are in a battle with Northern Illinois for a possible spot in a BCS bowl game. Northern Illinois, also unbeaten, was 17th last week and 18th after the latest rankings came out Sunday.
Both Fresno State and Northern Illinois are from non-automatic-qualifying conferences (Mountain West and Mid-American, respectively), and only one is guaranteed a spot. And that team has to either finish in the top 12 or in the top 16 if it is ranked higher than the champion of one of the five AQ conferences.
"I like Tim. I like Tim," Polian said. "And the thing that people have to keep in mind is ... as a competitor, in the moment, I'm not happy about it. But Fresno State and Northern Illinois are competing to be the highest-ranked non-AQ team to get into a BCS bowl. And unfortunately in the day and age of uneducated voters and computers and people that simply look at scores, I'm sure that was a factor, because I know Tim, and Tim is not the kind of guy that is going to run it up just for the sake of running it up.
"So, while I'm not happy - at the moment I was not happy as a competitor - I understand it. And I have not made an issue of it and won't make an issue of it. It is what it is. The world is round and we'll get to play them again. Hopefully we'll be faced with that choice someday."
Next game: At Colorado State, 1:30 p.m. MT, Saturday (Mountain West Network)
Notable: Cornerback Charles Garrett and linebacker Matt Lyons were suspended for the first quarter of the Fresno State game for being late to a team meeting. ... Starting defensive tackle Jack Reynoso (concussion) did not make the trip. ... At least four starters are questionable this week: Reynoso, defensive end Brock Hekking and receivers Richy Turner and Aaron Bradley.
Dan Hinxman, RGJ
San Diego State
After missing their last five field goal attempts, SDSU did not try for a single field goal in the 35-30 win over New Mexico, and went so far as to go for it on fourth down on fourth-and-10 from the opponent's 36 yard line.
Aztecs coach Rocky Long said that was partly due to his kicker's abilities and partly due to strategy.
"Most of those field goals were long field goals," Long said. "They would have been 50-yarders, 49 to 53-yarders. And our punter wasn't punting exceptionally well.
"So if you can't get it inside the 10 and you punt it into the end zone, you only gain 10 or 15 yards anyway, so you might as well go for it."
The Aztecs finished 3 of 4 on fourth down conversions, for a 75 percent success rate - which is much better than the 32 percent (6 of 19) season success rate they had going into the game.
Sophomore kicker Seamus McMorrow was 5 for 5 on PATs, and would have been the kicker if SDSU had decided to attempt a field goal.
But it's a good bet that the Aztecs aren't going to attempt any long field goals in the foreseeable future.
Long said he believes the kicker's range is about 40 yards at this point of the season.
McMorrow missed a 40-yarder and a 37-yarder against Fresno State.
Next up: SDSU at SJSU, Saturday 7:30 p.m. CBS Sports Network
Notable: DT Dan Kottman has left the team citing personal reasons. Aztecs coach Rocky Long said he will grant Kottman his release with no stipulation except that he cannot play for any other Mountain West teams. ... Walk-on QB Quinn Kaehler will get a scholarship in January, Long said. ... RB Adam Muema's 233-yard, three touchdown performance vs. New Mexico on Saturday was the second-best individual effort by a running back last week. Only Air Force's Anthony LaCoste had a better week.
Stefanie Loh, U-T San Diego
San Jose State
By the rest of the conference's standards, San Jose State's running game still hasn't reached elite status. The Spartans still rank 11th at 148.8 rushing yards per game. And even during their recent surge over their past four games, their 216.3 average merely ties them for sixth in the Mountain West over that period.
But as a complement to the conference's second-ranked passing game, SJSU's rushing attack has suddenly become a weapon to look out for. The Spartans rushed for 312 yards in Saturday's 34-24 win over UNLV. That was the second-highest rushing total in the Mountain West this weekend, trailing only Air Force.
Freshman Jarrod Lawson is averaging 125.5 yards per game since entering the starting lineup Oct. 5 against Hawaii, a mark that would lead the conference if stretched out over the entire season.
Even with quarterback David Fales struggling against UNLV with a career-low 150 passing yards, teams will always key on him. He's second in the Mountain West in passing yards for a reason. But the renewed rushing attack is giving teams something to think about.
"David's history will make teams want to go in and stop the passing game. I know UNLV took that approach," Caragher said. "But in turn, that did help the running game and I'm just glad our guys could seize it. Down the road, people will see that and it just makes people prepare for more."
This week's opponent, San Diego State, has the conference's third-ranked rushing defense and second-ranked defense overall. The rushing defense is even more impressive considering they have faced Air Force and New Mexico, two teams that aren't very good overall but have the Mountain West's top rated rushing attacks. New Mexico ranks third in the country at 313.6 yards per game and Air Force is 11th at 279.2.
Next game: vs. San Diego State, 8:30 p.m. MT (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson coached from the sidelines against UNLV for the first time this season. He had previous coached from the press box, but he and Caragher discussed making the change last week. "I think it was a good move," Caragher said. "The advantage of being on the field is the chemistry, the leadership and you're down amongst the players during those time outs and during those breaks to rally the guys." ... SJSU's Nov. 16 game at Nevada will air on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m., meaning the Spartans won't get the $500,000 they would've received if it was picked up on ESPN or ESPN2. They'll also be in for a late night bus ride home, which likely won't depart until after midnight. SJSU has a short week to follow with Navy coming to town on Friday, Nov. 22. ... Sophomore kicker Austin Lopez was named MW special teams player of the week for kicking two field goals and going 4 for 4 on PATs. He's 44-yard field goal with 2:58 left made it a 10-point game.
- Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News