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Mountain West football round-up Week 13 — West Division

Published November 20, 2013 6:35 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Taking a look at the West Division, Fresno State, even on a week off, has lost ground in the BCS. And the Bulldogs aren't happy about it.

But there's more going on down in the conference. San Diego State, resurgent, is looking to finish off its season right, and UNLV will try to battle Air Force and cold weather this weekend. San Jose State finds itself suddenly on the brink, and Nevada has a bit of confidence after breaking a losing streak. Hawaii's season comes down to this: It's best player has been its punter - not in the way you think, though.

Check out what's going on in the West Division from the conference's beat writers. The Mountain Division notes, leading off with upcoming USU opponent Colorado State, can be read here.

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Fresno State

Fresno State dropped one spot to No.15 in the BCS standings coming off its bye week, which did not sit too well with receiver Davante Adams.

"I don't want to make bold statements that'd be seen as disrespect to other teams, but we feel we could compete and beat anybody," he said. "We know we have guys that can match up with those guys (from big-name schools).

"When you know what you're capable of and the things that you can do and who you can play with, it kind of gets frustrating a little bit. They got a lot of talent over there, sure. But when you're one of only six undefeated teams left, that should be something more.

"A 'W' is a 'W' and you can't apologize for victories. Being from a big-name school or whatever, but you've got two or three losses and you're ranked ahead of us? I don't get it sometimes."

Adams, who on Monday was selected as a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, said his frustration has been building.

"I feel like if there was some way to even play those teams ... I know that's what the bowl game is for,'' he said. "It's just kind of lingering with me for a while. I try not to think about it too much or harp on that stuff too much since we can't control it. We've done as much as we can do."

Next game: vs. New Mexico, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNews)

Notable: Fresno State used its bye week to use up most of the NCAA evaluation days it had remaining. The staff has a pretty humorous history on the recruiting trail.

Offensive line coach Cameron Norcross was an assistant at Nevada in 2008 when Kevin Hart from Fernley, Nev., held the infamous press conference to make an oral commitment to Cal, a school that was not recruiting him.

That, Norcross said, had him scrambling for a bit.

"I went back and watched his tape two more times to make sure I didn't miss anything, because he's an O-lineman and he's right up the road,'' said Norcross, who had recruited Hart to walk on at Nevada. "It was a frantic couple of hours because there's a kid in our backyard that's committing to Cal that we hadn't offered, so I'm thinking I have to go and try to justify it to Coach (Chris) Ault ... why haven't we offered this kid? I scrambled for a few hours.''

Coach Tim DeRuyter and defensive coordinator Nick Toth were at Texas A&M in 2011 when defensive back Floyd Raven, who had gone back and forth between Mississippi and Texas A&M, found out his mother had forged his signature on his letter of intent and faxed it to Mississippi.

Raven had preferred Texas A&M. His mother, obviously, wanted him to go to Mississippi.

He ended up at A&M. ...

Quarterback Derek Carr gets to take on New Mexico on Saturday - the Lobos are ranked 115th in the bowl subdivision in passing efficiency defense and 117th in scoring defense. In five home games this season, Carr has averaged 404.0 passing yards and has 19 touchdown passes to only one interception. He has thrown 249 consecutive passes at Bulldog Stadium without an interception.

- Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee

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Hawaii

Despite the 0-10 record, Hawaii coach Norm Chow said he plans to keep playing the best available players. Asked if UH should look ahead and play developing players, Chow said: "That's not fair to the seniors. We're not giving up on this season. We're going to keep fighting and working. We'll worry about next year next year."

That means Sean Schroeder will remain as the No. 1 quarterback for the final two games. Schroeder is a fifth-year senior who transferred to UH last year after earning a bachelor's degree at Duke. Schroeder started 11 of 12 games in 2012, but ceded the No. 1 job after undergoing back surgery. Taylor Graham, a transfer from Ohio State, started the first three games this year before suffering a dislocation of his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Ikaika Woolsey started UH's fourth game, against Nevada, and Schroeder has been the No. 1 quarterback the past six games.

Joey Iosefa, a 6-foot, 233-pound running back, has been the most prolific Warrior the past two games. After being limited to two carries in the first eight games because of a fractured left foot, Iosefa rushed 35 times for 191 yards against Navy and a school-record 37 times for 150 yards against San Diego State. Iosefa, who was raised in American Samoa, was a soccer and volleyball standout before playing football in high school. He said he gained strength - he can bench press 445 pounds - by working on his family's taro farm.

The Warriors' MVP this year has been Scott Harding, a 27-year-old junior who is the No. 1 punter, punt returner and slot receiver. He leads the Warriors in receptions (44) and fourth-quarter catches (22). Relying on a rollout, rugby-styled technique, Harding has punted 46 times, with only 10 returned for 40 yards. Three of those returns resulted in lost fumbles. None of his punts has been a touchback. Harding played Australian rules football for six years before joining the Warriors in August 2011. He was supposed to grayshirt and join UH in January 2012. But he did not want to wait, and instead paid for his first semester at UH.

Next game: at Wyoming, noon MT Saturday (MW Digital Network)

Notable: This will be the Warriors' third cold-weather game this month. They played Utah State on Nov. 2 and Navy on Nov. 9. The teams will be battling for the Paniolo Trophy, sort of. A replica of the original trophy recently was made. Paniolo is the Hawaiian word for cowboy. ... Noting that Wyoming has lost to Boise State, Utah State, Colorado State, Fresno State, etc., Chow jokingly said UH will be known as "Hawaii State" this week.

- Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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Nevada

The Nevada football team appears to have dodged a bullet with the news Monday that offensive guard Jeremy Macauley has a sprained knee and sprained ankle.

Macauley, a redshirt freshman from Reed High in Sparks, Nev., was carted off the field during the third quarter of the Wolf Pack's 38-16 victory over San Jose State at Mackay Stadium in Reno on Saturday. The win snapped a five-game losing streak.

The Wolf Pack, who have a bye this week, close the season at home against BYU on Nov. 30.

"There's no major damage, a sprained knee and a sprained ankle," coach Brian Polian said at his weekly luncheon. "... He came in a walking boot yesterday for the (team) picture, but at least he's putting pressure on it."

Macauley, a walk-on whom Polian plans to put on scholarship when he has the opportunity, has been pressed into a starter's role because of the team's lack of returning experienced players in the front. Polian has praised his effort all season.

Polian said it is too early to tell if Macauley, who against Colorado State on Nov. 9 moved over to center because of an injury to starter Matt Galas, will be able to play in the finale. If he can't go, senior Fred Lavulo, who converted from defensive tackle in fall camp, or sophomore Zach Brickell likely would start.

Next game: Nov. 30 vs. BYU

Notable: Senior offensive tackle Joel Bitonio has been selected to play in the Reese's Senior Bowl, Jan. 25 in Mobile, Ala. ... Two Wolf Pack players were named Mountain West players of the week this week, linebacker Jonathan McNeal (15 tackles, one sack) and punter Chase Tenpenny (51.2-yard average, zero return yards allowed on four punts). ... The coaches hand out four weekly team awards but only after a victory, so there have been none for five weeks until this week. "It's been a while since we had something to celebrate so we named a lot of players of the week," Polian said. Two players were named Basalite Big Blockers of the Week (offensive linemen who graded out the best), sophomore guard Connor Talbott and freshman tight end Patrick Clifford. Both running backs, Don Jackson and Kendall Brock, were named offensive players of the week. Three players were named defensive players of the week - McNeal and defensive ends Brock Hekking and Ian Seau. And two players were named special teams players of the week, Tenpenny and Chris Solomon. ... Polian said he's optimistic that linebacker Jordan Dobrich (concussion) and receiver Aaron Bradley (hamstring) will play in the finale. Neither played in the SJSU game.

- Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal

***

San Diego State

San Diego State's offensive line woes continue.

The Aztecs have had inconsistent play from the offensive line for most of the year, and the line play looked rough again at Hawaii - especially in the first half.

SDSU allowed two sacks before halftime and quarterback Quinn Kaehler struggled with the constant pressure as Hawaii recorded eight quarterback hurries, and kept Kaehler dodging and ducking from defenders for most of the night.

As a result, the Aztecs offense suffered in the first half.

The SDSU running backs managed only 65 total yards in the first half. Kaehler was 9 of 21 for 144 yards and a touchdown at halftime, and 56 of those yards came on one big play - when he hit Colin Lockett for a touchdown after the defense literally stood frozen thinking that a Hawaii offside penalty had ended the play.

"The offensive line didn't play particularly well in the first half," SDSU coach Rocky Long said.

Things got a little better in the second half when the offensive line made some adjustments, and as a result the quarterback play improved.

"He played OK," Long said of Kaehler's performance. "He managed the game, but it wasn't his best game by far. He got pressured early.

"In the second half the offensive line was much better and we were able to run the ball and then he threw OK."

Kaehler finished 17 of 34 for 265 yards and a touchdown.

But despite the Aztecs' offensive line struggles, Long said he's going to keep the same configuration on the line for this weekend's Senior Night matchup against Boise State.

"I'm not going to change anything. I thought our two tackles played well," Long said, adding that the two guards, Zach Dilley and Darrell Greene, did not play well.

SDSU has started the same three guys at center and at the two tackle spots all year, but the guard spots have been more in flux.

Redshirt freshman Nico Siragusa started at right guard in the season opener before he was replaced by Darrell Greene for the rest of the season. And Japheth Gordon, a senior, started seven games at left guard before the cumulative effect of several nagging injuries began affecting his performance, and Dilley took over.

SDSU has also had a bad snap in two consecutive games. Against Hawaii, it appeared as if the snap was high and right, and Kaehler had to leap to try to corral it. The play resulted in a fumble that was recovered by the Rainbow Warriors.

"That is a real concern to have it two weeks in a row," Long said. "We can't have that kind of stuff."

Next game: vs. Boise State, 8:35 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Safety Gabe Lemon has still not been cleared to play. He is suffering from a lingering neck stinger and has missed the last four games. To compound the sudden lack of depth at safety, Marcus Andrews, Lemon's replacement, broke a knuckle in his hand against Hawaii. Lemon is still expected to play against Boise State, but will likely do so with a club-like cast on his hand.... DL Sam Meredith is day to day with a labrum tear. ... LB Derek Largent continues to struggle with knee and ankle issues, but is probable for the Boise State game. - Stefanie Loh, U-T San Diego

***

San Jose State

The season is in danger of slipping away for San Jose State after the Spartans were drilled by Nevada. The 38-16 defeat came just a week after blowing a fourth-quarter lead to San Diego State in another loss — both of which prevented SJSU from becoming bowl eligible.

So what's the cure for the Spartans' ails?

Ice cream. Yes, ice cream.

SJSU coach Ron Caragher looked to boost morale at practice Monday when he had the offensive and defensive linemen participate in a field goal contest.

Both units had five attempts at a 20-yard field goal and the winner would earn ice cream for either the offensive players or defensive players. Fortunately, the contest ended in a tie so everybody got to enjoy a treat.

"You've got to create energy and upbeat attitude," Caragher said. "Renewed energy and enthusiasm goes a long ways towards a good practice."

The Spartans will need much better practices to snap a two-game losing streak and get the elusive sixth win. Navy's triple option presents a lot of challenges, especially after SJSU struggled to contain the running of Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo.

San Jose State is only a season removed from a 12-0 shutout of Navy, but the circumstances have changed so much that it's a distant memory. Only one defensive starter from last year's game — defensive tackle Travis Raciti — is lined up to start this week. Of the 10 tackles for loss the Spartans had in last year's game, none are by players who will start Friday's game.

Anthony Larceval had two tackles for loss and a sack, but he's a backup this year after suffering a serious illness last December that nearly ended his career. Derek Muaava, Vince Buhagiar and Tony Popovich combined for 3.5 tackles for loss but are all out with injuries. The remaining are by four players who either graduated or quit the team.

Next game: vs. Navy, 7:30 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN2)

Notable: The game vs. Navy will take place on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Spartans will have a Military Appreciate Night, giving out two free tickets to any active or former military members with proper ID. They'll also have enlistment ceremonies for the Army and Navy among other special events.

- Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News

***

UNLV

UNLV is expecting to play in some un-Las Vegas-type conditions Thursday at Air Force.

Weather.com forecasts a high of 31 degrees and a low of 12 with a 90 percent chance of snow.

The Rebels played in similar conditions the last time they visited the state of Colorado, and it didn't work out so well for them. They committed four first-half turnovers, three of which led directly to touchdowns, in a 33-11 loss at Colorado State last November.

But coach Bobby Hauck takes the approach of not worrying about what he can't control.

"I lived in Colorado for four years, and if you don't like weather, just wait five minutes," Hauck said. "So we're not going to worry about it too much. We'll dress for it, and I think this football team's mentally tough enough to go and play hard regardless of what the climate is."

This is the third attempt for UNLV (5-5, 3-3 MW) to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2000. The Rebels came up short in their two prior tries, losing 34-24 to San Jose State and 28-24 to Utah State.

They had a week off to prepare for Air Force (2-8, 0-6).

If conditions were clear, the Rebels would figure to have an even better chance to beat the struggling Falcons. As it is, oddsmakers have made UNLV a 1-point underdog.

Not that UNLV is making an issue of the weather.

"I think the way you have to go into a game is weather's not a problem," quarterback Caleb Herring said. "If you let that become a distraction, you're letting it beat you before the game even starts."

Next game: at Air Force, 7:30 p.m. MT Thursday (ESPNU)

Notable: Safety Frank Crawford, who leads UNLV with four interceptions, will not play because of an undisclosed injury. ... Tim Cornett is 30 yards rushing from 1,000 and Devante Davis is 52 yards receiving from the same mark. UNLV has never had a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver in the same season. Cornett also is trying to join Mike Thomas (1973-74) as the school's only two-time 1,000-yard rusher. ... UNLV is 1-7 at Falcon Stadium, the lone win occurring in 2001, a 34-10 victory.

- Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal