Mountain West: Sanders vs. Norvell hikes rivalry hype

Colorado State University

Deion Sanders simply didn’t want to lose to Jay Norvell on Saturday.

“Truthfully, at one point in the game, I said, ‘We can’t let this dude (Norvell) win. There’s no way we let this dude win,” Sanders said after his Colorado Buffaloes rallied to beat Norvell’s Colorado State Rams, 43-35, in double overtime at Boulder, Colo.

Norvell, whose Rams are ranked No. 6 in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West rankings, criticized Sanders last week for wearing sunglasses and a cowboy hat during press conferences. Sanders responded by telling everyone that the rivalry game was now “personal.”

The two met briefly on the field after Saturday’s game.

“You can ask him,” said Norvell when asked what was said between the two head coaches after the game.

Norvell’s Rams took a 28-17 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Brayden Nicolosi-Fowler to Dallin Holker. The Rams finished with more total yards (499-418) and had the ball longer (34:37) than the heavily-favored (24 points) Buffaloes.

Nicolosi-Fowler, a former Nevada Wolf Pack recruit, was making just his second start. He was 34-of-47 for 367 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.

“Every loss hurts,” said Nicolosi-Fowler, whose first college start came in a 17-14 win over Nevada last season. “But this one hurts a little more. This game means so much to so many people in Colorado. It’s hard. It’s brutal.”

Norvell and Sanders have clearly intensified the rivalry.

“I’m happy for the brother,” Sanders said of Norvell. “I’m happy they thought they played a good game. I’m happy he’s a head coach. I’m truly happy for any brother that’s doing it in a successful manner. I truly am.

“I mean, I don’t know him. But I wish the best for him. My success has nothing to do with his so why wouldn’t I want him to succeed?”

Norvell publicly avoided his issues with Sanders after the game.

“We can take this performance and move forward,” said Norvell, now 3-11 as Rams’ coach the last two seasons. “We can build on this.”

No. 1 Fresno State (3-0) dominated Arizona State, 29-0, to extend its winning streak to 12. The visiting Bulldogs held the Sun Devils to 15 first downs and just 230 yards and also forced eight turnovers.

Fresno State also controlled the ball for 37 minutes in one of the most impressive performances by a Mountain West team on the road against a Power Five opponent in recent memory.

“There’s nothing like, at the end of the game, to have more fans in the stadium than they do,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said. “That’s really cool for our fans to be here for us.”

Fresno State quarterback Mikey Keene, who played high school football at nearby Chandler (Arizona) High, was 32-of-49 for 281 yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s super surreal,” Keene said.

Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham was stunned by his team’s lackluster performance. “I’ve never in my career been involved in a game like that,” said the 33-year-old Dillingham, who was an assistant coach at Memphis, Auburn, Florida State and Oregon before taking over the Sun Devils this fall. “I literally don’t even know how that’s possible.”

No. 2 Air Force (3-0) ran over No. 9 Utah State, 39-21, in the first Mountain West league game of the year. Air Force rushed for 344 yards and five touchdowns and had five sacks on defense.

Air Force linebacker Alec Mock had 11 tackles, two sacks and forced a fumble.

No. 3 Boise State (1-2) earned its first victory of the year by whipping North Dakota 42-18. The Broncos had more than twice (394-183) the total yardage and also had six sacks.

“I’m excited about the way a lot of guys performed,” Boise coach Andy Avalos said. “But we have plenty of room to grow. It’s a work in progress.”

No. 4 Wyoming lost at Texas, 31-10, to fall to 2-1. The Cowboys, though, had more first downs (17-13) and controlled the ball for nearly 39 minutes.

No. 5 San Diego State (2-2) lost to Oregon State, 26-9, at Corvallis, Ore. The Aztecs ran for just 70 yards on 34 carries.

San Diego State quarterback Jalen Mayden was 20-of-32 for 256 yards and an interception and was sacked six times.

“He’s fighting his butt off,” San Diego State coach Brady Hoke said of Mayden. “We’ve got to protect him better. We’ve got to have guys catching the ball. Everybody gets a piece of it (the loss). He gets a piece of it also. He has to have a better feel in the pocket.”

No. 7 UNLV (2-1) beat Vanderbilt, 40-37, on a 36-yard field goal by Joe Pizano with five seconds to play. The Rebels fell behind 17-0 in the first half before rallying to score 30 unanswered points.

Redshirt freshman Jayden Maiava replaced injured starting quarterback Doug Brumfield in the first quarter and engineered the victory.

Maiava, from Liberty High in Las Vegas, was 19-of-33 for 261 yards with a touchdown and an interception. UNLV’s Ricky White caught 12 passes for 165 yards.

“Our fans were so into it tonight,” said UNLV cornerback Jerrae Williams, who returned a fumble 53 yards for a touchdown. “That’s the best feeling.”

UNLV blocked a Vanderbilt field goal with 44 seconds to go and then drove from its own 20 to Vanderbilt’s 35 to  set up its game-winning kick. A 48-yard Maiava-to-White pass keyed the drive.

A crowd of 22,582 witnessed the Rebel victory at Allegiant Stadium.

“The energy in the building, I’m so thankful for that,” first-year UNLV coach Barry Odom said. “We can turn this into a huge home field advantage for us, for our team, for our city. That’s our mission.”

No. 8 San Jose State fell at Toledo, 21-17. San Jose State quarterback Chevan Cordeiro was 24-of-41 for 228 yards and a touchdown and was sacked five times.

The Spartans rushed for just 40 yards on 29 carries.

“We just didn’t make enough plays and that’s devastating,” San Jose State coach Brent Brennan said.

The Spartans punted with 1:55 to play from their own 45-yard line on 4th-and-18 and never got the ball back. “We had three timeouts and our defense was playing well,” Brennan said.

No. 10 Nevada (31-24 to Kansas), No. 11 New Mexico (17-7 to New Mexico State) and No. 12 Hawaii (55-10 to Oregon) all lost last week.

The Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings for the week of Sept. 18:

1. FRESNO STATE (3-0, 0-0). Last week: Fresno State 29, Arizona State 0. This week: Kent State (1-2) at Fresno State, Saturday.

2. AIR FORCE (3-0, 1-0). Last week: Air Force 39, Utah State 21. This week: Air Force at San Jose State, Friday.

3. BOISE STATE (1-2, 0-0). Last week: Boise State 42, North Dakota 18. This week: Boise State at San Diego State, Friday.

4. WYOMING (2-1, 0-0). Last week: Texas 31, Wyoming 10. This week: Appalachian State (2-1) at Wyoming, Saturday.

5. SAN DIEGO STATE (2-2, 0-0). Last week: Oregon State 26, San Diego State 9. This week: Boise State at San Diego State, Friday.

6. COLORADO STATE (0-2, 0-0). Last week: Colorado 43, Colorado State 35 (2 OT). This week: Colorado State at Middle Tennessee State (1-2), Saturday.

7. UNLV (2-1, 0-0). Last week: UNLV 40, Vanderbilt 37. This week: UNLV at UTEP (1-3), Saturday.

8. SAN JOSE STATE (1-3, 0-0). Last week: Toledo 21, San Jose State 17. This week: Air Force at San Jose State, Friday.

9. UTAH STATE (1-2, 0-1). Last week: Air Force 39, Utah State 21. This week: James Madison (3-0) at Utah State, Saturday.

10. NEVADA (0-3, 0-0): Last week: Kansas 31, Nevada 24. This week: Nevada at Texas State (2-1), Saturday.

11. NEW MEXICO (1-2, 0-0). Last week: New Mexico State 27, New Mexico 17. This week: New Mexico at Massachusetts (1-2), Saturday.

12. HAWAII (1-3, 0-0). Last week: Oregon 55, Hawaii 10. This week: New Mexico State (2-2) at Hawaii, Saturday.


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