Despite 2-12 record, WAC remains optimistic about bowls
Appeal Sports Writer
Two weeks and two wins. So, what’s up with the Western Athletic Conference football teams?
The WAC is 2-12 after the first two nonconference weeks, and perennial powerhouses Boise State and Hawai’i are each 0-2 after opening with tough opponents each week.
Karl Benson, WAC commissioner, was asked if he thought the poor showing over the first two weeks would affect the WAC’s bowl possibilities.
“Our average over the last four years has been about four bowl-eligible teams,” he said. “I still think we’re going to have three or four bowl-eligible teams (by the end of the season). Fresno State is still on everybody’s radar screen.”
If Fresno State can stay in the top 25 and Boise State can rebound and win some games, Benson hopes one of the bowls that extend at-large bids would take one of the WAC schools, thereby opening a spot for a third-place WAC team to get a bowl bid.
Currently, the WAC is tied to the MPC Computers Bowl and the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl.
Starting next year, the NCAA will allow schools to play 12 games (13 if you have a game in Hawai’i). Hawai’i would get to play 13 every year.
The WAC has been promoting its “Play Up” theme, but Benson said with the addition of the extra game, he wouldn’t be opposed to seeing schools schedule a 1-AA opponent. In the past, you could only use one Division I-AA win every four years. Starting next season, those games will count every year.
“San Jose State and Fresno State used it (scheduling 1-AA) for their opener,” Benson said. “One thing I’ve been emphasizing is trying to maximize the number of home games we play. Statistics show the more home games you play, the better chance you have of winning. The balance of home games and away games is critical.”
Benson said he isn’t opposed to 1-AA games to fill out a schedule. He doesn’t want to see any more than that, however.
The big news around the Boise State campus is that senior safety Cam Hall, who was involved in a traffic incident during the off-season that saw three people die, has rejoined the team after three vehicular manslaughter charges were dismissed.
According to published and law enforcement reports, Hall was attempting to pass a vehicle driven by Mark Lazinka on May 7. Lazinka refused to let Hall pass, and it turned into road rage with both vehicles reaching speeds of up to 100 mph. A car was attempting to turn onto the highway. Hall managed to miss the car, but Lazinka’s truck plowed into the car, killing all three occupants, including a 5-month-old infant.
Reports say the driver of the vehicle that was hit was under the influence of meth and over Idaho’s limit. Hall did not turn himself into police until he had talked to coach Dan Hawkins. Reports say that Hall fled the scene. The BSU star said he stopped, looked back and then left the scene.
Prosecutors dropped the charges against Hall last week, and he was allowed to come back to the football team. He was arraigned Monday and pleaded not guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, which is a felony.
Hall would be allowed to play until the court case is decided. If he’s convicted of the felony charge, he would be off the team.
Hawkins expects Hall to play in the Broncos’ next game against Bowling Green, which is a week from Wednesday night.
The Louisiana Tech and Tulane University football teams will be sharing facilities in Ruston for the remainder of the season.
Tulane, located in New Orleans and displaced because of Hurricane Katrina, accepted Louisiana Tech’s offer last Tuesday. The Green Wave football players are enrolled in classes at Louisiana Tech, and presently coaches and players from Tulane are being housed in one of the college dorms. School started Monday at Louisiana Tech.
“Louisiana Tech is more than happy to have Tulane’s football players, coaches and support staff call Ruston home for as long as is needed,” said Jim Oakes, Louisiana Tech athletic director, who made the offer to both Tulane and Southern Mississippi. “It’s in times like these that it’s so important to reach out to your neighbors.
“I’m just hoping the practice fields hang in there,” he said. “We don’t have the greatest fields here. Grass has a tendency to disappear after a while.”
The Bulldogs’ quarterbacks, Matt Kubik and Donald Allen, had a rough game against Florida last weekend and Bicknell said no decision has been made in determining a starter. The duo completed 11 of 32 for 117 yards.
“Kubik made a couple of poor throws, and so did Donald,” Bicknell admitted. “They will both play this week and we’ll see what happens. I’m not down on them either. It’s difficult to go against that defense.”
The Rainbows have the week off before visiting Idaho in their WAC opener, and it appears that Colt Brennan has won the starting quarterback job for now.
Brennan completed 23 of 31 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns in Hawai’i’s 42-14 road loss at Michigan State.
“He’s definitely getting better every week,” coach June Jones said. “He’s starting to understand a little more. He’s only been here five weeks, and he’s done very well I think. He’s got a little head start right now.”
Brennan did injure his throwing shoulder, but he’s expected to be ready for the Idaho game.
Coach Nick Holt was impressed with the performance of JC transfer Steven Wichman, who threw for 391 yards in a 35-31 loss to UNLV last weekend.
“He’s got a helluva arm,” Holt said. “He throws the ball, he’s competitive and he’s a leader. He’s everything you want (in that position).”
Idaho could have won the game, but missed two field goals and had a pass dropped by Wendell Octave in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Idaho lost running back Jayson Bird to a broken collarbone, and he’ll miss at least six weeks. Holt said there is a god chance that he would redshirt.
“We won’t change anything as far as our running game goes,” Holt said. “Antwaun Sherman had a nice game.”
Coach Brent Guy was impressed with the play of quarterback Leon Jackson, who ran for 87 yards in the loss to Utah last weekend.
Guy said part of Jackson’s effectiveness stemmed from the Utes’ decision to put one of their linebackers on the perimeter to help defend wide receiver Kevin Robinson, who caught just two balls.
Guy benched star receiver Tony Pennyman for violating team policy, adding that Pennyman would be back for the next game.
“We’ve got to get the ball more to him,” Guy said. “He can play much better. We have to find more ways to get the ball in his (Robinson) and Pennyman’s hands.”
The Bulldogs opened with an easy win over Division 1-AA Weber State, and coach Pat Hill admitted that he would have preferred to play a tougher opponent to start the season.
“I’d rather get right after it,” said Hill, who takes his team to Oregon for a showdown with the Ducks on Saturday. “We had a good start. We have a lot to build on. We need to be a better football team.”
Garrett McIntyre, the Bulldogs’ All-American defensive end from South Tahoe Lake Tahoe, suffered a high ankle sprain and probably will miss the Oregon game. Hill wasn’t sure when he would be cleared to play.
SAN JOSE STATE
It’s no secret that San Jose State students haven’t supported the athletic programs in recent years and first-year SJSU coach Dick Tomey is trying to remedy that by hosting training tables for students, faculty and staff.
Every Monday at 5:30 p.m., Tomey will go to the Dining Commons on the SJSU campus and take questions from students. Today, he will be at the Student Union from noon to 1 p.m. and spend 60 minutes with faculty, staff and students who are interested in the team.
“We’re reaching out to the faculty, students and staff,” Tomey said. “I have no expectations of numbers. I’ve done it in front of one person and I’ve done it in front of 200. I’m going to do it no matter how many show up.”
NEW MEXICO STATE
The Aggies lost their second straight game, falling to Colorado on Saturday. New Mexico State plays in-state rival New Mexico this weekend.
“Colorado was obviously better physically,” coach Hal Mumme said. “I thought we battled. The defense played well enough to keep us in the game.”
Mumme was disappointed with the offense, but he is using a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the offensive side of the ball, and that group is struggling right now.
WAC HONORS TRIO
Idaho quarterback Steven Wichman, New Mexico State linebacker Jimmy Cottrell and Fresno State punt returner Clifton Smith were named the WAC’s offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week.
Wichman, a transfer from Delta College in Stockton, Calif., completed 19 of 30 passes for 390 yards and three scores in Idaho’s 35-31 loss to UNLV. He threw TD passes of 51, 20 and 15 yards to three different receivers.
It’s the second straight honor for Cottrell, who had 19 tackles (16 solo) in a loss to Colorado. Cottrell leads the nation in tackles at 18.5 per game.
Smith had TD returns of 92 and 84 yards in Fresno State’s 55-17 win over Weber State. He had a school record 189 yards in returns and his 63-yard average set a new NCAA record for an individual with three or more returns.
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