Mountain West round-up Week 13 Mountain Division
It's a big week in the Mountain Division, and no game is bigger than Colorado State coming to Utah State this Saturday.
The Rams aim to ride the hot hand of their sophomore running back Kapri Bibbs, who has run over school records as well as defenders this season. But the rest of the division is not without drama: Boise State and New Mexico have some quarterback issues and decisions to make. Meanwhile, Air Force is dealing with a season without a bowl, while Wyoming is trying to recover to get into the postseason.
Read up on the Mountain Division, with the biggest news from the reporters who cover Utah State's conference rivals. The West Division notes, featuring Fresno State expressing displeasure over a BCS slight, can be read here.
Kapri Bibbs hasn't just run all over the football field the past two weeks, the Colorado State running back "has put us on the map," coach Jim McElwain said Monday.
Although Bibbs, as a first-year player in the program, isn't available to the media, the numbers he's put up the past two weeks have attracted national attention. He ran for a school-record 312 yards in a Nov. 9 win over Nevada and followed that up with a school-record six touchdowns Saturday night in a 66-42 win at New Mexico. In the past two games, the 5-foot-11, 203-pound sophomore has run for 603 yards and 10 touchdowns on 68 carries.
He leads the NCAA's top division, the Football Bowl Subdivision, in touchdowns (25) and points (150) and is No. 2 in rushing with 1,439 yards, trailing only the 1,801 yards of Boston College's Andre Williams.
He was the Walter Camp Foundation national player of the week and won an ESPN Helmet Sticker. He was selected one of four nominees for the Capital One Impact Performance of the Week on Saturday night and Monday was named the Mountain West Conference's offensive player of the week for the second week in a row.
People across the country are talking about the Colorado State running back, even if they can't talk directly to him.
"I think it's awesome," McElwain said Monday. "And I think it's something that shows the hard work of a lot of guys around a guy, and yet, because of that, as I have said, his name does show up in the box score. And that's pretty cool. In fact it's really cool."
Bibbs already has set single-season CSU records for touchdowns and points and moved up to No. 5 on the career list for rushing touchdowns in a season with 25 this year, one more than Gartrell Johnson, Damon Washington and Oscar Reed had in their entire careers and just one shy of the career totals of Bradlee Van Pelt and Kevin McDougal. Only Steve Bartalo, with 46, and Cecil Sapp, with 29, have scored more.
He's run for three or more touchdowns in each of the past five games and in six of the past seven, setting school records for the most three-TD games in a row and in a season. Bibbs is No. 3 on the school's single-season rushing list, trailing only Sapp's 1,601 yards in 2002 and Johnson's 1,476 in 2008.
And Bibbs still has two more regular-season games and a possible bowl game to add to his totals.
Bibbs "is a guy that can run behind his pads" and "understands the patience it takes to match the discipline of your footwork with the front (line)," McElwain said.
Best of all, the coach said, "He's got a God-given ability to finish."
Next game: at Utah State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: McElwain defended his policy of not allowing first-year players in his program to talk to the media, saying there's a lot of individual development going on when an athlete first enters the program in terms of academic demands and social adjustments and that talking to reporters is "part of the right of passage" for those who have been in the program and understand what it is to be engrained in the green and gold. "My biggest thing is it's to help the development of a young man in his life. There's going to be time; it's not like it's never going to happen. And yet I guess my excitement is that you guys want to (talk to Bibbs). That, to me, is cool." ... Backup running backs Donnell Alexander (knee) and Davon Riddick (ankle) are expected back after missing the New Mexico game with injuries. ... CSU announced a noon kickoff time for its regular-season finale Nov. 30 against Air Force.
- Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
Air Force didn't exactly take it easy during its second off-week of the season, so there was no pushing it into an extra gear Monday as it continues to prepare for UNLV.
"We didn't take any days off at all," senior cornerback Steffon Batts said. "We're trying to win these last two games."
The Falcons (2-8) won't have the luxury of December practices to develop their underclassmen as they'll miss a bowl game for the first time in seven years, but coach Troy Calhoun said that didn't impact his decision to keep the team on an intense schedule despite not playing this past week.
It likely played a factor that this week's game falls on a Thursday, so there was no need to limit the team to a short week of preparation.
"We worked over the weekend," said Calhoun said. "We have to. Just the advancement that we have to make and the investment we have to make in our younger guys, we have to take advantage of each day."
UNLV will come to Falcon Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the home finale for Air Force. The Rebels (5-5) need one more victory to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2000. UNLV, which is also coming off an open week, closes with a home game against San Diego State.
Next game: vs. UNLV, 7:30 p.m. MT Thursday (ESPNU)
Notes: Nose guard Robert Green, who missed the season's first seven games with an MCL injury before returning to play a huge part in a victory over Army, has injured the PCL in the same knee and will miss the final two games. Calhoun said that surgery won't necessarily be required for Green's latest injury and he could be recovered in about six weeks. ... Linebacker Joey Nichol is out this week and may not return after injuring his groin against Army. Nichol leads Air Force and ranks seventh in the Mountain West in tackles.
- Brent Briggeman, The Gazette (Colorado Springs)
The Broncos are inching closer to needing to make a decision at quarterback.
Senior starter Joe Southwick has returned to practice - he was in pads Tuesday - and will play in some role when he's ready, coach Chris Petersen said.
Junior backup Grant Hedrick still is expected to start Saturday night at San Diego State, Petersen said.
Petersen has been non-committal about who will start when Southwick returns, but he said "there's no doubt" the senior will play.
"We'll just take that one day at a time," Petersen said.
Southwick broke his right ankle Oct. 19 against Nevada and had surgery Oct. 21. He showed some rust Monday.
"Like he has been out for a while," Petersen said. "He's throwing the ball fine."
Southwick is 15-4 as the Broncos' starting quarterback (not counting the Nevada game, when he left after the first play). The Broncos averaged 40.8 points per game in his games this season.
Hedrick is 3-1, counting the Nevada game. The Broncos have averaged 36 points per game in those.
The quarterbacks have similar stats, too. Hedrick's rating is slightly higher (153.20 to 149.89).
Hedrick's biggest weakness might be turnovers. He threw an interception and lost a fumble last week against Wyoming - giving him six turnovers (three interceptions, three fumbles) this season - after a fantastic performance at Colorado State.
"I thought Grant was solid (against Wyoming)," Petersen said. "That's why I think it's so interesting at that quarterback position. You can take a couple steps forward in one week and then maybe a step back in certain phases of it. He made some good decisions."
Next game: at San Diego State, 8:35 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Boise State will collect a league-high $1.6 million in TV bonuses under the plan it negotiated as part of the school's recommitment to the Mountain West. Fresno State is second at $1.3 million. ... True freshman WR Thomas Sperbeck is out with a sprained ankle. Senior WR Kirby Moore (foot) has been practicing but still has not played since Sept. 20 at Fresno State. ... LB Ben Weaver, the Broncos' top tackler, didn't play against Wyoming but Petersen is hopeful he'll play this week. RT Rees Odhiambo returned from injury in that game. ... The Broncos' opponent has scored first in each of the past four games and seven of 10 on the year.
- Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
Kasey Carrier's college football career is over.
Cole Gautsche's is on hold.
New Mexico coach Bob Davie said Gautsche, a sophomore quarterback, and Carrier, a senior running back, will not play in the Lobos' final two games this season. Both exhibited concussion symptoms after absorbing blows to the head during UNM's 66-42 loss to Colorado State last Saturday.
Gautsche's latest injury raises red flags. He missed a game last year with concussion symptoms and sat out this year's game at UTEP after a similar incident in the season opener against UTSA.
Regarding the young quarterback's football future, Davie declined to speculate. But he said: "We're going to take one step at a time. Cole's a very important (player), but more important than all that is Cole.
"We're going to pull out all stops to make sure we do everything we can to first diagnose exactly what the problem is, how severe the problem is moving forward and always, obviously, err with caution."
Carrier, a preseason All-Mountain West Conference selection, finishes his senior season with 1,122 yards rushing and 3,233 good for fifth on New Mexico's all-time list for his career.
Junior Clayton Mitchem will start at quarterback Saturday for UNM (3-7, 1-5) at 15th-ranked Fresno State (9-0, 6-0). Junior Crusoe Gongbay is the likely starter at running back.
"Man down, man up," Davie said. "Next one in."
Next game: at Fresno State, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNews)
Notable: New Mexico's season finale at Boise State (Nov. 30) will be aired on ESPN2, meaning UNM will as per the Mountain West's TV contract pick up a $500,000 bonus. But the Lobos will have to earn it, facing the Broncos (7-3, 5-1) in Boise with an 8:15 p.m. kickoff. Brrr. ... Backup linebackers Tevin Newman and David Orvick also are lost for the final two games due to injury, Davie said. Starting offensive guard Jamal Price is "50-50" with a shoulder injury. ... On the good news/bad news statistical scale, New Mexico ranks second in the nation in rush offense (323.8 yards per game) and 122nd ahead of only downstate rival New Mexico State in rush defense (262.7). ... Punter Ben Skaer has stepped on the field only as a holder the past two weeks as the Lobos scored 87 points in splitting games against Air Force and Colorado State. He's ranked fourth nationally with an average of 46.5. Had Skaer punted once in either game, he would have dropped out of the NCAA rankings without the required 3.6 attempts per contest. Since he did not punt against the Falcons and the Rams, those games don't count against his total.
- Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
The Cowboys are going to a college basketball approach for their final two regular season games.
"This is a tournament," interim defensive coordinator Jamar Cain said. "Are we going to win this championship or go home? Our backs are against the wall."
Cain said he drew a basketball bracket on a board for his players to show them what's in front of them, and it starts by having to beat Hawaii (0-10 overall, 0-7 MW) at noon Saturday at home.
Wyoming (4-6, 2-4) has lost four straight by a combined score of 199-83, but if it wins its last two games it will be bowl eligible for the third time in coach Dave Christensen's five seasons. That has become the top goal in the program right now.
"You have to go hard or go home," senior receiver Robert Herron said. "There's no more talking we can do, or no more motivating. Players have to motivate themselves. Some have embraced this, but I think we have to get others to get into it, too."
No matter the outcome Saturday, the Cowboys end the regular season a week from Saturday at Utah State (6-4, 5-1). UW has not defeated a team with a winning record this season. Utah State has the league's best scoring defense (19.4 points per game), rushing defense (127.3 yards per game) and passing defense (220.9 ypg).
But the Cowboys' emphasis is on Hawaii, which despite being winless has had some close games.
The Rainbow Warriors lost at home 28-21 in overtime to San Diego State last Saturday. They also lost by a combined 22 points to No. 15 Fresno State, San Jose State and Colorado State at home, and by two at UNLV. All those teams have .500 or better records.
Christensen said Hawaii "isn't that far away" from picking up its first win.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys have been in their last two games against the top two teams in the MW.
UW lost to Fresno State 48-10 in Laramie and 48-7 last Saturday at Boise State. The Cowboys led Fresno State 10-0 early in the second quarter and 7-0 at Boise State in the first.
But there were few positives after that.
"We're not at their caliber in any way, shape or form," Christensen said. "We're trying to get there. They are very established programs with great depth and a lot of big-time playmakers. We're working to get there."
Next game: vs. Hawaii, noon MT (MW Digital Network)
Notable: The left side of Wyoming's offensive line was missing for most of the Boise State game. Senior guard Tyler Strong was out with an injury and junior tackle Walker Madden left early in the game with an injury and didn't return. Madden, who had a walking boot on after the game, is probable this week. Strong is expected to play. ... Junior strong safety Jesse Sampson is out for the rest of the season with an injury. Sampson started one game and played in four games and missed the first five games recovering from an Achilles injury in the spring.
- Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle