BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
Karl Benson, the Western Athletic Conference commissioner, has ruled that Fresno State linebacker Marcus Riley's hit on Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan Saturday night was legal.
Benson said he and referee Bill Athan reviewed the tape. Benson told the Honolulu Advertiser that "the Fresno State player did make contact with his shoulder pads prior to the helmet hit, thus it was not an illegal hit."
Brennan suffered a concussion on the play, and he is day-to-day, according to Hawaii officials. Brennan didn't practice Monday or Tuesday, but coach June Jones is hopeful he will be able to play.
"I don't have any bad symptoms - no headaches and no dizziness," Brennan said in a teleconference Monday morning. "It was a clean shot and I got the worst of it."
According to reports, there were three alleged helmet-to-helmet hits over the weekend, including the one to Brennan, yet none were flagged. The NFL recently told it's officials that they could eject players for helmet-to-helmet hits.
All coaches questioned during the weekly teleconference said that protecting the players was critical, but a few felt the same rule should extend to the defensive side of the ball. Some said that the issue needs to be studied.
"I go back and forth on it," Utah State's Brent Guy said. "It has to go both ways. A wide receiver cracking down on a safety (is the same). There is always talk about protecting the quarterback. Defensive players have to be protected."
"It does need to be studied, not only when it pertains to offensive players but to all players," San Jose State coach Dick Tomey said.
THREE IN THE MIX
All a coach or team can ask is to have control of their own destiny, and with three weeks left in WAC play, Nevada, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech will decide their fates on the field.
The three schools are battling for fourth place in the WAC and the possible bowl bid that may come with it, and all three face each other in the next three weeks. Nevada is 3-2 in conference and 5-4 overall, while San Jose State and Tech are 3-3 in conference and 4-6 overall.
A team needs six wins to be bowl eligible in a 12-game schedule, meaning that the Spartans and Bulldogs both need to win out to finish 6-6, and one of those teams will be eliminated Saturday when SJSU visits Tech. Nevada, meanwhile, needs one win in the last three to be bowl eligible. Even if Nevada wins out and goes 8-4, the Pack is not assured a berth in the bowl game.
Much depends on whether a WAC team reaches a Bowl Championship Series game or if another conference is unable to fill all of its bowl games. The Pac-10 could get two BCS teams, which could leave that conference one team short of filling all of its spots.
"It's always good going down the stretch to be playing for something," Tech coach Derek Dooley said. "We're all playing each other. It's exciting for the conference and fans down the stretch."
"What's happened is that we're playing for one of our preseason goals late in the season," Tomey said. "We've beaten the same teams they have beaten and we've lost to the same teams."
Considering the injury problems the Spartans have endured (losing their top two running backs for the season), to be close to a possible bowl bid is a coup.
HONORED BY THE WAC
San Jose State's Kevin Jurovich, Boise State's Dallas Dobbs and Fresno State's A.J. Jefferson were named the conference's offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week for their efforts over the weekend.
Jurovich caught 10 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns (36 and 45 yards) in the Spartans' 51-17 victory over New Mexico State. The 233 yards was a WAC-best and tied for seventh-best in the nation.
Jefferson returned seven kickoffs for 245 yards, including a 98-yarder against Hawaii. He leads the nation with a 35.8 average, and became the first FSU player to return kicks for scores in consecutive weeks.
Dobbs had four tackles and an interception in the Broncos' 52-0 win over Utah State. Dobbs' 29-yard interception return set up a BSU touchdown.
THE HARRIS OUTLOOK
The voting in these things never ceases to amaze me, and it's been tough this year to get a read on teams because of all the upsets.
I'm a little puzzled that Hawaii continues to struggle for respect in both the human and computer polls. The Warriors are 16th, and need to stay unbeaten and move up four spots to get a BCS bid.
My top 10 for the week was Oregon, LSU, Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia, Missouri, Arizona State, Hawaii, Ohio State and Georgia.
Voters need to remember, that had it not been for a last-second fumble by the Ducks against California, they would be unbeaten. Oregon is No. 2 and as long as the Ducks avoid an upset, they should be in the BCS championship game. If the Ducks get into the title game, it frees up the Fiesta Bowl or Rose Bowl to take Arizona State, and that could open up a bowl game for a fourth-place WAC team (Nevada, San Jose State or Louisiana Tech).
• Darrell Moody can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281