The San Diego State Aztecs are getting healthy for the Mountain West stretch run.
The Aztecs, coming off a 28-24 loss at Nevada two weeks ago, got quarterback Christian Chapman and running back Juwan Washington back from injuries this past week and held on to beat the New Mexico Lobos, 31-23, on Saturday.
The Aztecs remained at No. 5 with the victory in the latest Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings behind, in order, Fresno State, Utah State, Boise State and Nevada.
Chapman had missed six games and Washington missed four because of injuries. The two starters were each playing their first Mountain West game of the season against New Mexico. Chapman completed 13-of-19 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown while Washington ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
“About the second or third drive I was more comfortable and got used to the speed again,” Washington said.
Washington’s 50-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter put the game away. The Aztecs, though, trailed 10-7 at halftime and 16-14 after three quarters to the No. 9 Lobos. A 32-yard field goal by John Baron gave the Aztecs a 24-23 lead with just under three minutes to play.
“When you don’t play very well and you win the game you feel very fortunate,” Aztecs coach Rocky Long said.
San Diego State has now played seven consecutive games decided by eight points or less, winning seven of them.
“That’s who we are,” Long said. “We’re not going to change it. That’s the way our whole season has been. So we’ll have to just keep playing that way and see if we can pull it out at the end.”
The Aztecs, now 7-2, 4-1, are just a game behind Fresno State (8-1, 5-0) for first place in the West Division. Nevada is third at 5-4, 3-2.
“Every game has been a fight,” said Chapman, who entered Saturday’s game in the second quarter after fill-in starter Ryan Agnew was 4-of-6 for 58 yards. Agnew, though, also coughed up a critical fumble on the first drive that New Mexico’s Adebayo Soremekun returned for a 44-yard touchdown.
Fresno State remained at No. 1 after a convincing 48-3 victory over No. 12 UNLV. The Bulldogs, which led just 17-0 at halftime, won for the first time since 1996 at UNLV. Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford is now 7-0 in Mountain West road games after taking over the program last season.
Fresno State, which will put Tedford’s perfect road record to the test this Friday night at Boise State, has now won seven games in a row. UNLV has lost six in a row.
No. 2 Utah State, now 8-1, 5-0, rolled over Hawaii 56-17 for its eighth victory in a row. The Aggies have now scored 50 or more points five times this season.
Hawaii, which started the season 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West, fell to 6-5, 3-3. The Rainbow Warriors, which dropped two spots in the rankings to No. 10, have lost four games in a row and are still one victory short of becoming bowl eligible.
“I don’t think any side of the ball should feel good about themselves,” Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich said. “I don’t think any coach should feel good about themselves starting with myself.”
No. 3 Boise State needed to make a goal line stand on the final play to beat BYU 21-16. Broncos’ junior linebacker Tyson Maeva and freshman nose tackle Scale Ingiehon combined for a sack on a play that began at the 2-yard line with seven seconds to play.
“Winning close games builds team chemistry more so than when we’re blowing people out,” Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien said.
BYU, which left the Mountain West after the 2011 season, has lost two of three games to Mountain West teams this season. The Cougars also lost to Utah State (45-20) and beat Hawaii (49-23). BYU is now 17-11 against Mountain West teams since leaving the conference.
No. 4 Nevada and No. 8 Colorado State each had a bye last weekend and will meet this Saturday night (7:30 p.m.) at Mackay Stadium. Colorado State won a 44-41 shootout against the Wolf Pack last season in Colorado Springs. The Pack, which beat the Rams 28-23 in the 2015 Arizona Bowl in Tucson, hasn’t beaten Colorado State at Mackay Stadium since 2010 when Nevada was in the Western Athletic Conference.
No. 6 Wyoming stopped No. 11 San Jose State 24-9 last Saturday night. The Cowboys held the Spartans to just 244 total yards and 15 first downs.
Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers was just 4-of-8 through the air for 51 yards but did rush for 129 yards. The game against San Jose State was played in windy, snowy and cold conditions prompting the Cowboys to run the ball 64 times and throw it just eight times.
Air Force dropped a spot to No. 7 in the rankings after a 17-14 loss at Army. The Falcons, though, did have more first downs (17-16) and total yards (322-286) in the battle of the two service academies. Army, however, did outgain Air Force 242-125 on the ground and won for the 11th consecutive time at home in West Point, N.Y.
Just three weeks remain in the Mountain West regular season. Fresno State (5-0), San Diego State (4-1) and Nevada (3-2) all remain alive in the race for the West Division title. Utah State (5-0), Boise State (4-1) and Colorado State (2-3) are all still in the running for the Mountain Division title.
The key conference matchups over the next three weeks will be Fresno State at Boise State this week, San Diego State at Fresno State next week and Utah State at Boise State on Nov. 24.
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings for the week of Nov. 5 . . .
1. FRESNO STATE (8-1,5-0): Quarterback Marcus McMaryion remains a strong candidate for conference Offensive Player of the Year after passing for 274 yards and two touchdowns against UNLV. Last week: Fresno State 48, UNLV 3. This week: Fresno State at Boise State, Friday.
2. UTAH STATE (8-1, 5-0): Quarterback Jordan Love left the Hawaii game in the first half after completing 10-of-13 passes for 127 yards with an undisclosed injury but is expected to play this week against San Jose State. Last week: Utah State 56, Hawaii 17. This week: San Jose State at Utah State, Saturday.
3. BOISE STATE (7-2, 4-1): Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien passed for 214 yards and a touchdown against BYU. Last week: Boise State 21, BYU 16. This week: Fresno State at Boise State, Friday.
4. NEVADA (5-4, 3-2): A victory over Colorado State will give the Wolf Pack its first three-game winning streak since the middle of the 2015 season. Last week: Bye. This Week: Colorado State at Nevada, Saturday.
5. SAN DIEGO STATE (7-2, 4-1): The Aztecs lost three fumbles against New Mexico. Last week: San Diego State 31, New Mexico 23. This week: UNLV at San Diego State, Saturday.
6. WYOMING (4-6, 2-4): Quarterback Sean Chambers (129 yards) and running back Nico Evans (187) each went over 100 yards rushing against San Jose State. It is the third consecutive game the quarterback and running back have each gone over 100 yards. Last week: Wyoming 24, San Jose State 9. This week: Bye.
7. AIR FORCE (3-6, 1-4): Quarterback Donald Hammond passed for 120 yards and ran for 30 against Army. Last week: Army 17, Air Force 14. This week: New Mexico at Air Force, Saturday.
8. COLORADO STATE (3-6, 2-3): The Rams have allowed 30 or more points in seven of nine games this year. Last week: Bye. This week: Colorado State at Nevada, Saturday.
9. NEW MEXICO (3-6, 1-4): Lobos quarterback Coltin Gerhart was just 9-of-20 for 41 yards against San Diego State. Last week: San Diego State 31, New Mexico 23. This week: New Mexico at Air Force, Saturday.
10. HAWAII (6-5, 3-3): Hawaii rushed for just 43 yards on 20 carries against Utah State. Last week: Utah State 56, Hawaii 17. This week: Bye.
11. SAN JOSE STATE (1-8, 1-4): The Spartans had the ball for just 23:39 against Wyoming. Last week: Wyoming 24, San Jose State 9. This week: San Jose State at Utah State, Saturday.
12. UNLV (2-7, 0-5): The Rebels’ three points against Fresno State are its fewest in a Mountain West game since a 41-0 loss to TCU in 2009. Last week: Fresno State 48, UNLV 3. This week: UNLV at San Diego State, Saturday.