Mountain West football round-up Week 6 West Division
We continue this afternoon with the Mountain West football round-up, with team-by-team takes from beat writers on the West Division.
While most of the Mountain Division is cooling its heels, the West has plenty of match-ups set up this week. San Jose State and Hawaii will square off after losses, while Nevada and San Diego State are looking to keep rolling after wins. UNLV is also on a hot streak - but has to cool on a bye. The Bulldogs remain the team to beat, but have some issues of their own.
Check out the news from around the Mountain West:
Fresno State appeared to get its run game going a bit in its victory at Hawaii, with Marteze Waller gaining 95 yards on 22 plays and Josh Quezada adding 78 on just 13 carries.
But given an opportunity to finish Hawaii with 3 minutes to go, having forced the Rainbow Warriors to punt on what should have been their last possession, the Bulldogs couldn't gain control. They took over at their 41-yard line and gained 8 yards on first down, a run by Waller. But on second-and-2, a run was stuffed for no gain. And on third-and-2, quarterback Derek Carr was hit for a loss of one yard when another run broke down amid some assignment mishaps.
Rather than pound out the final 3:01 that was on the clock, the Bulldogs had to sweat it out - they punted the ball back to Hawaii, having taken only 1:04 off the clock, and the Rainbow Warriors got all the way to the Fresno State 40 before L.J. Jones picked off a last-gasp throw toward the end zone.
That failure didn't negate the Bulldogs' progress, but it took something away from it.
"At that point, you'd like to be able to finish the game off by running the football," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "And I think we had a nice run on first down, second down we had a minimal gain, but we had third-and-short and we didn't execute the play. There were some busted assignments on the play that, if we execute the assignment, we should have had a first down easy.
"It's inexcusable. We didn't coach it well, the player didn't execute it well and we have to get that fixed because we had a good enough push, we had the right play called, but we didn't block the right guy.''
Next game: at Idaho, 3 p.m. MT Saturday (local TV only)
Notable: The Bulldogs' Carr had a streak of 180 consecutive passes without an interception snapped in the third quarter at Hawaii, when he had a pass tipped at the line and carom to inside linebacker Art Laurel. Carr was three passes shy of tying the conference record of 183 set by Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith, a streak that ended in a loss at Nebraska in week one. ... There was some discussion whether the Bulldogs should carry an extra defensive back or two to road games, given the possibility of an ejection for a targeting penalty. But Fresno State had slot receiver Isaiah Burse ejected on its second series at Hawaii for a hit near the sidelines. It was an odd call, and DeRuyter said he would seek clarification. "We're obviously going to send it in to the conference's supervisor of officials, Ken Rivera, and ask for his interpretation because this is the type of play I feared in the summer that would get someone thrown out in what appeared to us on the sideline to be an innocuous play,'' he said. "In fact, I think Isaiah got the worst of it. To throw somebody out for something like that, I think they interpreted the rule the way it's written in the books, but I don't think this is the intent of the rule."
- Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
After nearly engineering the greatest comeback in NCAA history, quarterback Sean Schroeder still does not know if he will start in Saturday's game against San Jose State.
Third-year freshman Ikaika Woolsey started in place of quarterback Taylor Graham, who was recovering from an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder, in this past Saturday's game against Fresno State. Woolsey departed with the Rainbow Warriors trailing 42-3 with 6 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Schroeder then threw three scoring passes and directed two other touchdown drives in a 34-0 surge over the next 13:24. Schroeder was 10 of 14 for 256 yards during that span. But the Rainbow Warriors failed to score on their final two drives, with Schroeder's desperation heave intercepted as time expired in a 42-37 loss.
Coach Norm Chow said he will decide on a starting quarterback later this week. Graham is expected to resume practicing on Wednesday. If Graham is healthy, he will retain his starting job, Chow said. If Graham is unavailable, Chow will decide whether Schroeder is better suited as a starter or reliever. Chow described Schroeder as UH's "Mariano Rivera." Schroeder started 11 games in 2012 after transferring from Duke. But he was hit more than 120 times that season, and underwent back surgery this past April 1. He did not participate in spring training. By the time Schroeder was deemed healthy at the start of training camp, Graham was the No. 1 quarterback. Woolsey is a third-year freshman who grayshirted in 2011 and redshirted last year.
Next game: vs. San Jose State, 10 p.m. MT Saturday (MW Digital Network)
Notable: UH long snapper Brodie Nakama is the son of San Jose State head baseball coach Dave Nakama. The elder Nakama will travel on the Spartans' charter flight to Honolulu on Thursday. Per an agreement with the Mountain West Conference, UH will pay for the Spartans' charter flight. Brodie Nakama's older brother, Kirk Nakama, is Western Michigan's long snapper. ... Tight end Jordan Pu'u-Robinson will miss at least two games after suffering a partially torn MCL in his left knee.
- Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
The Nevada football team might be something this week that it hasn't been all season: healthy.
First-year coach Brian Polian said Monday at his weekly Quarterbacks Club Luncheon that he expects offensive linemen Connor Talbott (ankle) and Zach Brickell (pneumonia) to be able to play when the Wolf Pack plays at San Diego State. Cornerback Tere Calloway (knee) is getting close to coming back and might just need the bye week following Friday's San Diego State game to get healthy enough to return.
"The injury report is getting better," Polian said. "... I don't think we're going to be missing anybody this week, which would be the first time all season."
That does not include second-team quarterback Devin Combs, who is out for the season with a knee injury, or reserve tight end Stephen Jeffers (foot), who is still being held out of practice.
The Wolf Pack also dodged a bullet with middle linebacker Jordan Dobrich, whom Polian thought was seriously injured when a teammate fell into his knee during pregame warm-ups Saturday against Air Force. Dobrich played only a few series before giving way to Jonathon McNeal, who moved over from his outside linebacker spot to quarterback the defense. Dobrich was healthy enough, though, to play on punt coverage teams.
Polian sounded most happy about getting Talbott, a sophomore guard, back. Talbott started in the New Mexico Bowl last season but has been limited twice by an ankle sprain, which has forced the Wolf Pack to go with the inexperienced Fred Lavulo (who began the season as a defensive lineman) and redshirt freshman Jeremy Macauley at the guards.
"We need to get Connor Talbott back," Polian said.
Polian took a moment at the end of his question-and-answer session Monday to praise his players and fans. The Wolf Pack players remained on the field as Air Force players joined their band to sing the alma mater. Nevada players also engaged with seriously ill children before the game as part of Special Spectators, a national program that gives access to sporting events to seriously ill children.
"It was a pretty emotional win, and they acted like tremendous sportsmen," Polian said of his players. "They stood at attention while Air Force played its alma mater."
The luncheon crowd of about 75 applauded the effort.
"They were outstanding," Polian added. "I can't tell you what our record is going to be, but I can tell you I really enjoy coaching this team. There's a lot of great young men."
Next game: at San Diego State, 7 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN)
Notable: Friday's game will be a reunion of four offensive linemen who played together at Reed High in nearby Sparks, Nev. Garrett Corbett is a second-team tackle for San Diego State. Kyle Roberts (tackle) and Jeremy Macauley (guard) are starters for Nevada. Austin Corbett is redshirting for the Wolf Pack. ... Polian said after Nevada's 45-42 victory over Air Force on Saturday that he wasn't happy with the rushing performance and said, "We have to get that figured out." After reviewing game tape he changed his tune. Nevada rushed for 210 yards and 4.8 yards per carry. ... Starting left tackle Joel Bitonio played in all 100 offensive plays against Air Force.
- Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal
San Diego State
The Aztecs will be without their best defensive player when they open Mountain West play against Nevada on Friday night .
Middle linebacker Jake Fely, a preseason All-Mountain West first-team selection, broke a bone in his right foot in the Aztecs' 26-16 win over New Mexico State last Saturday.
Fely will need surgery to have pins inserted and he will be out for at least eight weeks, so it's unlikely that he will play again this season.
It's a significant loss for the Aztecs.
"He's an emotional leader on the team," defensive end Cody Galea said. "It's a huge blow."
Fely led the Aztecs with 11.5 tackles for loss in 2012 and is fourth on the team in tackles (17) this season.
As the middle linebacker, he makes the calls for the defense and is known for his sideline-to-sideline speed and high-motor play.
Without him, the Aztecs will now slide junior Josh Gavert into the middle linebacker spot. Gavert was a backup outside linebacker in 2012, but he moved inside this past spring to be Fely's primary backup.
He finished out the New Mexico State game after Fely was injured right before halftime and finished tied with Nat Berhe for the lead in tackles (7). Gavert also added one sack and one tackle for loss.
Still, it's turning out to be a rough year for the Aztecs' linebackers. SDSU lost backup LB and special teams star Scott Graves to a torn bicep tendon in fall camp, then had to do without starting OLB Derek Largent for two games after Largent sprained his knee in the season opener.
With Fely out for the year, the depth takes another hit, and true freshman Calvin Munson is now the primary backup at middle linebacker.
Next game: vs. Nevada, 7 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN)
Notable: RB Chase Price missed the NMSU game with a separated shoulder but could be back in time for this week's game... The Nevada game marks the first time since 1998 that ESPN will be in San Diego for an Aztecs regular-season game. ... SDSU's win over NMSU marked the first game since the win over Nevada in October 2012 in which the Aztecs quarterbacks did not throw an interception.
- Stefanie Loh, U-T San Diego
San Jose State
San Jose State is struggling because of poor execution, something coach Ron Caragher says is on him to fix.
"I say lack of execution, but I'm 100 percent responsible for execution," Caragher said.
The first-year coach likes what the team is doing from a scheme and play-calling aspect, now it's just up to the coaching staff and players to get it done on the field.
"I like what we're doing schematically," Caragher said. "I like what we're doing across the board. We just need to be able to execute."
The red zone seems to be the biggest problem area for the Spartans. They've scored just three touchdowns on their 12 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line, tied for worst in the nation.
"To be successful, we need to have higher percentages than that," Caragher said. "You need to punch it in and come away with touchdowns. I think we've had some moments where it's there and for whatever reason it's not executed. That's definitely an area we need to improve."
Red zone issues in last week's 40-12 loss to Utah State included a dropped wide-open pass at the goal line and a bad snap over the head of quarterback David Fales that resulted in a turnover.
Next game: vs. Hawaii, 10 p.m. MT Saturday (MW Digital Network)
Notable: Wide receiver Jabari Carr is doubtful to play this week after suffering a separated left shoulder against Utah State. With Noel Grigsby (knee) also out, the Spartans will be without two receivers who have combined for 355 career catches, 4,386 yards and 25 touchdowns. ... Cornerback BenÃ© Benwikere (concussion) is questionable after being carted off the field against Utah State. As of Monday, he was symptom-free but still has several tests to pass to be cleared.
- Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
UNLV is rolling, which probably isn't the best time for a bye week.
But that's what the Rebels have after winning three in a row for the first time since 2003.
Coach Bobby Hauck said the team will use the time off to concentrate more on fundamentals, get healthier and work on academics.
"You can't worry about that (the timing) so much just because you don't have control over it," Hauck said. "The schedule comes out, and it is what it is. You make the most of it, and that's what we'll do."
UNLV (3-2, 1-0 Mountain West) is coming off several milestones in its 56-42 victory at New Mexico on Saturday.
The Rebels ended their 23-game road losing streak, the second-longest in school history. UNLV lost 26 consecutive games from 1994 to 1998.
Its 56-point output against New Mexico was the school's highest total since beating New Mexico State 58-42 on Nov. 15, 1986.
UNLV also is over .500 for the first time since beginning the 2009 season 2-1.
The victory at New Mexico was emotional and important, with players dousing Hauck with water with about 35 seconds left. They also gave him the game ball.
So in some ways it might be good to have a week off and come down a little emotionally before hosting Hawaii on Oct. 12.
"I think to a degree, and the other part of it is Hawaii's doing some things that are difficult," Hauck said. "We've got an extra week to get ready for that, which should help."
Next game: Oct. 12 vs. Hawaii
Notable: Wide receiver Devante Davis was named Mountain West offensive player of the week, and punter Logan Yunker received the special teams honor. It is the first time UNLV has had two conference players of the week since defensive lineman James Dunlap and kick returner Deante' Purvis earned league honors on Oct. 31, 2011. Davis caught 10 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner. Yunker averaged 51.7 yards per punt.
- Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal