Mountain West football round-up Final Edition West Division
In the West Division, Fresno State still has an unblemished record. Only two more games stand between the Bulldogs, a perfect regular season and a potential BCS bowl bid.
Although Utah State hopes to be that second team, Fresno State has more pressing concerns: The Bulldogs will have to face a desperate San Jose State team to get to its goals, which also include pushing Derek Carr as a Heisman candidate. In other West Division news, San Diego State is riding high after topping the Broncos, while UNLV is looking to ensure its bowl future. Nevada is facing an opponent that should be familiar to Aggie fans. Meanwhile, in Hawaii, coaches are starting to think about their job security facing a must-win game against Army.
Read all that and more in the final edition of the Mountain West notebook. Mountain Division notes, featuring USU's upcoming opponent Wyoming, are available by clicking here.
The Heisman Trophy polls are now open, voting running through Dec. 9. And with a field of candidates with a lot of question marks, Fresno State is again pushing quarterback Derek Carr, sending out an email blast to national media, producing another highlight video and lining up radio and TV interviews.
And on Monday, during his weekly press conference, coach Tim DeRuyter provided a long-winded but pointed answer when asked why the Bulldogs' record-setting quarterback deserves the award.
Inadvertently or not, he set Carr apart from other quarterback candidates in terms of how he conducts himself off the field, his leadership, his winning percentage - all without ever mentioning another player.
"I think when you look at that award it's who impacts their team the most?'' DeRuyter said. "I've said this before, the No. 1 stat for a quarterback is leading a team to wins and the way he's led us, especially in those close games, to find ways to win games when we're tied or down at the end of the game ... To put up the numbers that he's put up - I think he's set just about every Fresno State record as well as Mountain West record - and I think part of what he does off the field, who he is as a person in the community should give people some (comfort) in voting for a guy like Derek Carr.
"He's a guy who's a poster child. He's a National Football Foundation Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete. He's a guy that any time there's a request from anyone in the community to meet with any group, he's out there doing it. He's a father and a husband. He went through a bit of a trauma early during training camp, it didn't ever affect him. He just leads our team the way you want him to lead and he outworks probably everybody on our team. There's not much more I can say about him. I don't know how many other players in the country, let alone quarterbacks, can match those things.''
Carr later said he actually had a dream that he was invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony in New York, which he chuckled about.
"It was crazy, I had a dream last night that everything like opened up and we got to go and stuff like that,'' he said. "I woke up and I was telling Heather about it and she was laughing and stuff because she knows I don't think about those things. We were laughing about it. Again, that's another thing, I can only control what I can do and that's just preparing and trying to work hard, work through the soreness of the end of the season, all those good things.
"It would be so cool. I tell everybody, I would just love to see the community's faces if we could bring that thing here. I would love to see my teammates to bring it the locker room and take pictures with it. That's the kind of things that fire me up.''
Fresno State was passed in the BCS standings by Northern Illinois, the Huskies getting a huge bump from the computer ratings to move up two spots to No. 14.
DeRuyter said he was surprised - with both teams winning last week, he thought the standings would remain close to what they were the previous week.
"It's the same as every week,'' he said. "We don't worry about things we don't control and that's clearly something we don't control. Things we do have control over is going 1-0 this week. We have our last regular-season game, we're excited that we clinched the West, but we have a chance to finish this thing the way we're supposed to. We have a great rivalry with San Jose State and our guys are excited about the challenge this week. That's all we worry about.
"I think it will all work itself out. The people that I've heard from, the computers at the end of the year kind of even out and we'll see. If at the end of the year things don't work out maybe I'll have an opinion on it, but right now we're still in that mix where we had that off week two weeks ago and we move up, we play a game and we win big we go down. It's nothing we can control.''
Next game: at San Jose State, 1:30 p.m. MT Friday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Carr and Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith tied the Mountain West Conference record for touchdown passes in a game last week - Carr in a blowout victory over New Mexico and Smith in an overtime victory over Hawaii. Max Hall of Brigham Young set the record in 2008 against UCLA. So, which one had the most productive game? It'd be tough to do more damage with 27 completions than Carr did against the Lobos. Carr: 27 of 37 (73%) for 522 yards with seven TDs, no interceptions and an efficiency rating of 255.0 Hall: 27 of 35 (77.1%) for 271 yards with seven TDs, one interception and a rating of 202.5. Smith: 29 of 48 (60.4%) for 498 yards with seven TDs, no interceptions and a rating of 195.7. The NCAA record for touchdown passes in a game is 11, set by David Klingler of Houston in a 1990 game against Eastern Washington. The Cougars won 84-21. ... With Davante Adams already past the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards, Josh Harper within 16 yards of joining him with three more games to play and Isaiah Burse 236 yards from also hitting that milestone, the Bulldogs have a chance to become only the fifth team in Division I history with three 1,000-yard receivers. The first was Texas Tech in 2003, then Hawaii and Tulsa in 2007 and Houston in 2009. Adams has 1,213 yards on 100 receptions. Harper has 984 yards on 78 catches. Burse has 764 yards on 67 receptions.
- Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
Despite the worst start since going 0-12 in 1998 - Hawaii is 0-11 entering Saturday's regular-season finale against Army - Norm Chow is all but guaranteed to return for the third season of a five-year contract. Athletic Director Ben Jay has endorsed Chow publicly and in meetings with Na Koa, the football program's booster club. Chow, meanwhile, said the focus is solely on Army this week. "It takes every bit of every day of every hour to get ready for a game, and that's what we're going to do," Chow said.
The UH policy is that every assistant coach is on a one-year contract. Defensive coordinator Thom Kaumeyer, who earns more than $200,000 annually, has accepted blame for his unit's poor play in a 59-56 loss to Wyoming this past Saturday. The Cowboys amassed 793 yards. Asked if any of his coaches were on the hot seat, Chow said: "We can't worry about that right now. We have to prepare for Army."
Chow added: "Obviously, we're all concerned about job security, if you will, but you can't (dwell on) that. As a coach, all you can do is go to work, and coach your team, and that's what we do every week."
Hawaii's offense, which had struggled earlier in the season, was at its best against Wyoming, rolling up a season-high 624 yards. Sean Schroeder passed for 499 yards and six touchdowns. Joey Iosefa rushed for 91 yards, increasing his total to 432 yards in the three games since recovering from a foot injury.
Scott Harding continues to be the Warriors' most valuable player. Not only is Harding the team's most prolific receiver, he also punts and returns punts. Against Wyoming, Harding averaged 44.1 yards on seven punts. Two of his rugby-style squib kicks struck Cowboys and were recovered by UH. This season, five punts have resulted in lost fumbles. Opponents are averaging 0.75 yards in returns on Harding's punts. Only 10 of Harding's 53 punts have been returned; none of his punts resulted in touchbacks.
Next: vs. Army, 9 p.m. MT (MW Digital Network)
Noteworthy: The Rainbow Warriors traveled the world, and more, this season. For six road games, the Warriors traveled 27,387 miles. (The circumference around Earth's equator is 24,901 miles. They have played games in the Hawaiian, Pacific, Mountain and Eastern time zones. They have played at sea level and at Laramie's 7,220-foot elevation.
- Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
The Wolf Pack had a bye, but at least it got some good news for its future when it learned that running back James Butler of St. Francis High in Wheaton, Ill., had given Nevada a verbal commitment. The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder might be the impact type of running back that coach Brian Polian has said he needed moving forward.
Butler sat out his junior season after transferring, and his high school coach said that if he had junior film Big Ten schools would have been on him. He was on the Wolf Pack's radar because running backs coach Lester Erb recruited Butler when Erb was at Iowa last season.
Nevada is coming off its most complete effort of the season in a 38-16 victory over San Jose State at Mackay Stadium on Nov. 16. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak, and it was exactly what the team needed going into a two-week break.
BYU opened as a 14-point favorite against Nevada and comes into Saturday's game following a 23-13 loss at Notre Dame. The Cougars have played a strong schedule. The other three losses were against Virginia, Utah and Wisconsin. They also have victories over Texas and Georgia Tech, as well as Boise State and Utah State before USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton was lost for the season with a knee injury. BYU is very likely one of the best four-loss teams in the country.
The Cougars are known for their defense, led by McQueen High (Reno) product Kyle Van Noy, a linebacker who is considered one of the top defensive players in the nation and a likely high NFL draft pick next May. BYU has allowed more than 23 points only twice, in a 47-46 win at Houston and in a 27-17 loss at Wisconsin. The Cougars have struggled offensively in recent years, but sophomore dual-threat QB Taysom Hill has brought stability to the offense. His passing numbers are average (53 percent, 17 TDs, 13 interceptions), but he's third in the nation in rushing among quarterbacks (1,057 yards, 5.6 yards per carry, eight TDs).
Next game: vs. BYU, 1:05 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Freshman starting guard Jeremy Macauley is questionable after suffering a sprained ankle and knee in the San Jose State game on Nov. 16. Two other starters who sat out the SJSU game, linebacker Jordan Dobrich (concussion) and Aaron Bradley (hamstring), are probable. ... Wolf Pack coaches spent a good part of the bye week out recruiting.
Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal
San Diego State
At the start of the year, the biggest area of concern for SDSU on defense centered on whether its inexperienced cornerbacks would hold up in the pass-heavy, offensive-oriented Mountain West.
Juniors J.J. Whittaker and King Holder, and backups David Lamar and Damontae Kazee, had one start among them.
No one knew how they would perform, and the Aztecs' early losses to Eastern Illinois and Ohio State didn't do much for anyone's confidence.
But the Aztecs' cornerbacks have matured as the season has progressed, and last week's 34-31 OT win over Boise State exemplified their development from rookies to seasoned veterans.
Whittaker finished with two tackles, two pass breakups and two picks, and he now leads the Aztecs with three interceptions this season.
On the right side of the field, King Holder was second on the team with eight tackles. Backup cornerback Damontae Kazee continued his streak of good play with a clutch pass breakup in the third quarter.
Put together, the body of evidence suggests that SDSU no longer has a problem at the cornerback position.
"I thought the corners have improved dramatically from our first three to four games," Aztecs coach Rocky Long said. "I think both corners are doing a good job covering and getting their hands on the football some.
"We've had faith in their athletic ability. It was just a matter of how soon they would get the experience to play well."
But the cornerbacks say they never doubted themselves.
"We've had confidence all year long," Whittaker said. "Being a young group, we have to have confidence. That's what we pride ourselves on."
Next game: at UNLV, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU)
Notable: LG Zach Dilley is out with a strained PCL ligament, senior Japheth Gordon will start in his place; PK Seamus McMorrow is out with a low ankle sprain, senior Wes Feer will kick field goals and handle kickoffs.
- Stefanie Loh, U-T San Diego
San Jose State
It all comes down to this for San Jose State. The Spartans must beat rival and undefeated No. 16 Fresno State on Friday to have any hopes of returning to a second straight bowl game,
It's a position SJSU (5-6, 4-3 Mountain West) could have and should have avoided. The Spartans at one time were riding a four-game winning streak and had an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter on San Diego State.
A blocked field goal turned the tide and now SJSU is facing a three-game losing streak, the last loss in that slide coming in triple overtime to Navy. That was after quarterback David Fales, in perhaps his finest moment as a Spartan, directed a perfect two-minute drive with no timeouts that led to a touchdown pass to Kyle Nunn with no time left. He followed that with a two-point conversion pass to Chandler Jones to tie the game.
But that's unlikely the memory Fales will carry with him from that game. On his final pass, in the third overtime, he was intercepted and Navy scored a touchdown on the next play to win it.
So now it's up to SJSU to knock off Fresno State and effectively end the Bulldogs' BCS hopes, which are already in question after they fell behind Northern Illinois in the latest BCS standings. A victory would make the Spartans 6-6 and at least place them in the bowl conversation.
With five Mountain West teams already eligible and two others - Colorado State and Wyoming - in position to get there with wins this weekend, nothing is guaranteed. But Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier likes SJSU's chances if it beats Fresno State.
"A win over Fresno State would go a long way," Bleymaier said. "I'm optimistic."
Bleymaier's optimism also comes from the fact that SJSU is fresh off playing an entertaining game vs. Navy on national television that was the only college football game of the night. The Fresno State game is also on national TV, so a win there would create a buzz. Plus, there's the star power of Fales and, if it comes down to it, Bleymaier's 30 years at Boise State could be enough to sway folks at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to offer an invitation.
But before the Spartans can worry about that, they have the tall, tall task of beating Fresno State. SJSU hasn't beaten a ranked team since No. 9 TCU in 2000, but is 2-0 all-time at Spartan Stadium against ranked Fresno State teams. That won't be much help Friday, but it's something for the Spartans to cling to in hopes that history repeats.
Next game: vs. No. 16 Fresno State, 1:30 p.m. MT Friday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: The Spartans used No. 3 quarterback Joe Gray on their scout team to better simulate the arm strength and quick release of Fresno State's Derek Carr. Gray, who has the strongest arm on the SJSU roster, normally rotates in with the regular offense but volunteered to run the scout team so he could help the team. ... Wide receivers Tim Crawley and Hansell Wilson, both of whom should play Friday, also spent time with the scout team to give a better look at the speed of the receivers SJSU expects to see against the Bulldogs. K.C. Pearce, a reserve who normally works in with the second-team offense, also joined scout team work. The Spartans have been short on scout team receivers all year after Tyler Winston and Thomas Tucker were pulled from their redshirt seasons and activated, and in Tucker's case switched from receiver to running back. ... Fales became the school's all-time leader in career passing yards and touchdowns with his performance vs. Navy. He now has 7,835 yards and 60 touchdowns in two years with SJSU. Jones became the all-time leader in receptions with 240, passing good friend and injured teammate Noel Grigsby, who hasn't played since the second game of the season with a torn meniscus and likely won't suit up again for the Spartans.
Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
UNLV once again must show whether it can handle success.
The last time the Rebels recorded a major victory, 27-22 at Nevada on Oct. 26, they returned home and fell behind 24-3 at halftime to San Jose State. UNLV nearly came back in the second half before losing 34-24.
Now the Rebels come off a 41-21 victory at Air Force to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2000. But that game was on Thursday, giving the Rebels an extra two days to come down from their high.
"I think extra time this time of year helps for sure, if nothing else to get freshened up," coach Bobby Hauck said. "We've played a lot of games, and just to get an extra couple of days rest and freshened up to play the game, I think, is productive. It's really got to be about our approach this week and getting ourselves ready to go play our best game of the season because that's probably what it'll take to get a win."
UNLV (6-5, 4-3 MW) certainly has a challenge Saturday in facing San Diego State (7-4, 6-1), which has won seven of its past eight games.
This week also will involve some scoreboard watching.
To ensure a spot in a Mountain West-affiliated bowl, the Rebels need Fresno State to beat San Jose State on Friday and for Utah State to defeat Wyoming on Saturday. Fresno State and Utah State are significant favorites, so the odds are in the Rebels' favor.
As for facing San Diego State, expect a focused Rebels team from the moment the ball is kicked off.
"We all enjoyed our win after the game Thursday and Friday, but we came back and gathered the team Saturday," linebacker Tim Hasson said. "We've got to let that one go and get ready for next week."
Next: vs. San Diego State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU)
Notable: Tim Cornett rushed for 220 yards at Air Force, giving him 3,639 career yards and moving him three spots to second on the Mountain West's list. New Mexico's DonTrell Moore rushed for 4,973 yards in 2002-05. Also, Cornett's four touchdowns rushing against the Falcons tied the school record, and his 36 carries were one off the UNLV mark. ... Cornett and wide receiver Devante Davis are the only players in UNLV history to record a 1,000-yard rushing and receiving season at the same time. They also were high school teammates at Houston's North Shore. ... UNLV appears for the third week in a row on ESPNU after having appeared on the network just twice before.
- Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal