Nevada’s Toa Taua runs down the sideline against Boise State on Oct. 2, 2021, in Boise, Idaho. Nevada won 41-31. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)
The Mountain West has a definite silver and blue tint to it this week.
The Nevada Wolf Pack have climbed atop the Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings with a statement-making 41-31 victory over the Boise State Broncos in Boise on Saturday.
“We made a huge step,” said Nevada coach Jay Norvell, who guided the program to its first victory in Boise over the Broncos since 1997. “This was a big test for us and we answered the test.”
The Wolf Pack, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 in league play, sacked Broncos quarterback Hank Bachmeier six times. The Wolf Pack also used a strong running game (Toa Taua had 124 yards and two touchdowns) and four field goals by Brandon Talton to beat the Broncos. Boise, now No. 4 in the Appeal’s rankings, fell to 2-3 overall (1-1 in league) for the first time since 2001.
“We all know what the standard is at Boise State and that is not it,” said first-year Broncos coach Andy Avalos.
Nevada scored 21 of the first 24 points in the second half to take a 41-24 lead.
“This is the first time we (the offense and defense) really complemented each other,” Norvell said. “When the defense would make big plays the offense would score. When we play like that we’re very tough to beat.”
Boise State had more first downs (24-18) and yards (410-393) and Nevada was called for 11 penalties but the Broncos could not overcome three turnovers.
“We did feel like it would come down to mistakes,” Norvell said.
“Sometimes you have to go through some things to reestablish the foundation,” Avalos said. “We’re going to reestablish the things that are important.”
The Wolf Pack, which has seven Mountain West games left, now has the confidence to capture the program’s first Mountain West championship.
“I don’t think it should faze us now to have to go on the road and win big games,” said Norvell’s whose Wolf Pack has already beaten California and Boise State on the road and must still play at Fresno State and San Diego State this season.
“This is going to boost our confidence going into conference play,” Wolf Pack defensive back Jordan Lee said. “It’s like, ‘Nobody can beat us.’ We just have to keep rolling.”
San Diego State (4-0, 0-0) had a bye last week and dropped a spot to No. 2. The Aztecs will play their first Mountain West game this week by hosting New Mexico.
Air Force (4-1, 1-1) made a huge jump in the rankings from No. 7 to No. 3 with a convincing 38-10 victory over No. 11 New Mexico (2-3, 0-1). Air Force, which has outscored Florida Atlantic and New Mexico 69-17 combined the last two weeks, ran the ball 73 times for 408 yards and five touchdowns and controlled the clock for nearly 42 minutes against New Mexico.
Hawaii (3-3, 1-1) also made a big leap in the rankings, jumping from No. 10 to No. 5 with a stunning 27-24 victory over No. 6 Fresno State. Fresno State (4-2, 1-1) led 24-10 before Hawaii scored the final 17 points behind freshman quarterback Brayden Schager. Fresno State had 31 first downs and 505 yards but turned the ball over six times.
“What an incredible team win,” Hawaii coach Todd Graham said. “You know, we grind them, we train them and we strain them and I don’t know if I’ve ever had a better win than that one.”
Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener completed 28-of-50 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns but was intercepted four times, two by Khoury Bethley.
“He played as good a defensive football game as I’ve ever seen,” Graham said of Bethley.
“Coach Graham does a great job of getting me around the football to make plays,” said Bethley, whose sack of Haener set up the game-winning field goal by Matthew Shipley from 33 yards out with 3:33 to play.
No. 7 San Jose State (3-2, 1-0) survived an upset scare by beating New Mexico State 37-31 at home. Starting quarterback Nick Starkel missed the game with an arm injury but Nick Nash filled in and passed for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Almost half (seven) of Nash’s 15 completions and nearly 70 percent (130) of his yards went to Derrick Deese.
No. 8 Wyoming, one of two remaining unbeaten (4-0) teams in the Mountain West with San Diego State, had a bye last week. The Cowboys will be at Air Force this week.
No. 9 Utah State (3-2, 1-1) lost at home to BYU, 34-20. Deven Thompkins caught nine passes for 125 yards from quarterbacks Logan Bonner and Andrew Peasley but the Aggies could muster just 22 rushing yards on 35 carries.
No. 10 Colorado State (1-3, 0-0) had a bye last week. No. 12 UNLV remained winless in the Marcus Arroyo era (the head coach is now 0-11) with a 24-17 loss at Texas-San Antonio. Cameron Friel, though, did pass for 307 yards and a touchdown for the Rebels, who still have not won a game since beating Nevada at Mackay Stadium, 33-30, on Nov. 30, 2019.
Four teams (Fresno State, Utah State, Hawaii and UNLV) have byes this week in the Mountain West.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West football rankings for the week of Oct. 4:
1. NEVADA (3-1, 1-0). Last week: Nevada 41, Boise State 31. This week: New Mexico State at Nevada, Saturday.
2. SAN DIEGO STATE (4-0, 0-0). Last week: Bye. This week: New Mexico at San Diego State.
3. AIR FORCE (4-1, 1-1). Last week: Air Force 38, New Mexico 10. This week: Wyoming at Air Force, Saturday.
4. BOISE STATE (2-3, 1-1). Last week: Nevada 41, Boise State 31. This week: Boise State at BYU, Saturday.
5. HAWAII (3-3, 1-1). Last week: Hawaii 27, Fresno State 24. This week: Bye.
6. FRESNO STATE (4-2, 1-1). Last week: Hawaii 27, Fresno State 24. This week: Bye.
7. SAN JOSE STATE (3-2, 1-0). Last week: San Jose State 37, New Mexico State 31. This week: San Jose State at Colorado State, Saturday.
8. WYOMING (4-0, 0-0). Last week: Bye. This week: Wyoming at Air Force, Saturday.
9. UTAH STATE (3-2, 1-1). Last week: BYU 34, Utah State 20. This week: Bye.
10. COLORADO STATE (1-3, 0-0). Last week: Bye. This week: San Jose State at Colorado State, Saturday.
11. NEW MEXICO (2-3, 0-1). Last week: Air Force 38, New Mexico 10. This week: New Mexico at San Diego State, Saturday.
12. UNLV (0-5, 0-1). Last week: Texas-San Antonio 24, UNLV 17. This week: Bye.