Mountain West rankings: Adjust, survive and advance
Special to the Appeal
The Fresno State Bulldogs are going to the Mountain West championship game.
The Bulldogs clinched the West Division title Saturday night with a 23-14 victory over San Diego State in front of a crowd of 36,123 at Fresno.
“That’s what homefield advantage should be,” said Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford, whose Bulldogs remain at No. 3 in the latest Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings behind new No. 1 Boise State and No. 2 Utah State.
Fresno State, now 9-2, 6-1, clinched the West Division title because it beat both No. 4 Nevada and No. 5 San Diego State this season. Nevada, now 7-4, 5-2, also clinched second place because of its victory over San Diego State (7-4, 4-3) earlier this season.
The Bulldogs survived on Saturday night against the Aztecs because of a simple defensive adjustment. San Diego State, which only had the ball for 23:29 against the Bulldogs, led 14-10 at halftime because of a two long touchdown passes to wide receiver Fred Trevillion. Trevillion caught a 75-yard scoring pass from Aztecs’ starting quarterback Christian Chapman to tie the game at 7-7 and later hauled in a 70-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Ryan Agnew for the 14-10 halftime lead.
“We became more disciplined,” Tedford said. “You come into a game like this so focused on stopping the run that sometimes the safeties get over aggressive. He (Trevillion) was able to get behind us.”
“We as a front seven (defensive line, linebackers) told the defensive backs that we would take care of the run game,” Fresno State linebacker James Bailey said. “We told them to cover the deep ball.”
It worked to perfection as Trevillion caught just one pass for 10 yards in the second half as the Bulldogs kept the Aztecs off the scoreboard after halftime. San Diego State also rushed for just 64 yards on 27 carries.
Fresno State, which held San Diego State to just eight first downs, has now won the West Division two years in a row and four of the last six.
Boise State (9-2, 6-1) jumped over Utah State and into the No. 1 spot in the rankings because of an impressive 45-14 win over New Mexico. Utah State (10-1, 7-0) barely survived an upset scare from Colorado State to win 29-24. The two teams will meet in Boise this Saturday to determine the Mountain Division title.
Boise State has now won six games in a row. Brett Rypien passed for 222 yards and three touchdowns to Sean Modster in the win over New Mexico. The Broncos led 24-7 at halftime and held the Lobos to 15 first downs and just 262 total yards.
Utah State, which has won nine games in a row to improve to 10-1, 7-0, nearly lost to Colorado State on the game’s final play. The Aggies thought the game was lost when Colorado State quarterback Collin Hill tossed an apparent 34-yard game-winning touchdown to Preston Williams as time expired. Williams, though, stepped out of bounds before the catch and was the first player to touch the ball, wiping out the touchdown.
“I’ve never seen something like that,” said Utah State defensive back Jontrell Rocquemore. “I went from my all-time low to, ‘Oh, my gosh, I just won.’ Sometimes winning is ugly.”
A loss to Colorado State, though shocking, wouldn’t have destroyed the Utah State season since Saturday’s game at Boise State still would have been for the division title.
“Survive and advance,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said after the game. “Just like the NCAA (basketball) tournament. We have a special season going.”
Utah State, which had been averaging 51.3 points a game, scored just one offensive touchdown against Colorado State (3-8, 2-5) on a 33-yard pass from Jordan Love to Aaron Vaughns with 43 seconds left. Utah State scored two touchdowns on interception returns (32 yards by Rocquemore and 95 yards by Aaron Wade).
Colorado State outgained Utah State 506-310 and allowed the Aggies, which had just 16 first downs, to control the ball for just 17:55.
Colorado State, which moved up a spot to No. 9 despite the loss, also led 20-10 going into the fourth quarter.
“We looked like a football team today, really, for the first time this year,” Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said.
The Wolf Pack also survived an upset scare to beat No. 12 San Jose State (1-10, 1-6). The Pack led just 14-12 after the Spartans scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Michael Carrillo to DeJon Packer late in the third quarter. The Spartans, though, missed the potential game-tying 2-point conversion after the touchdown.
The Wolf Pack, which has now won four games in a row, dominated the game everywhere but on the scoreboard, out-gaining the Spartans 463-200 and controlling the ball for 35:11.
Wyoming (5-6, 3-4) moved up a spot to No. 6 with a come-from-behind 35-27 victory over Air Force (4-7, 2-5). Air Force led 24-14 after three quarters but Wyoming made a quarterback switch and stole the victory on a snowy field.
The Cowboys’ Tyler Vander Waal, who came off the bench in the first quarter after an injury to starter Sean Chambers, led three consecutive scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Vander Waal, who completed 14-of-26 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns, also rushed for 22 yards and two more touchdowns.
Vander Waal connected with Austin Conway for a 22-yard touchdown pass with 1:09 to play to give the Cowboys a 28-27 lead. Wyoming also added a 27-yard scoring run by Xazavian Valladay after an interception by Logan Wilson to complete the scoring with 45 seconds left.
Wyoming has now won three games in a row and would become the seventh and final Mountain West team to be bowl eligible with a victory over New Mexico on Saturday.
Air Force, which dropped two spots to No. 7, dominated the game until late in the fourth quarter. The Falcons (4-7, 2-5) had more yards (415-373) and controlled the ball for 38:35. The Falcons also rushed for 362 yards on 65 carries on the slippery field. All seven of the Falcons’ losses this year have been by 10 points or less.
Hawaii jumped up a spot to No. 8 with a comeback 35-28 victory over UNLV, which dropped two spots to No. 10. UNLV led 21-3 late in the second quarter and 28-13 in the third quarter.
Freshman Chevan Cordeiro came off the bench in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory for Hawaii. Cordeiro, who entered the game with Hawaii trailing 28-13, completed just 4-of-5 passes but those four completions were good for 153 yards and three touchdowns. He connected with JoJo Ward on touchdown passes of 64 and 20 yards and then found John Ursua from 68 yards out for the game-winner.
Hawaii, which gained nearly half (190 of 411) of its total yards in the game in the fourth quarter, became bowl eligible with the victory. The Rainbow Warriors broke a four-game losing streak with the victory.
UNLV helped the Hawaii comeback along in the fourth quarter with an ill-advised decision to go for a first down on fourth down. The Rebels, leading 28-21, went for a 4th-and-1 play at the Hawaii 44 with 8:34 to play but failed as Lexington Thomas was trapped for a 2-yard loss on a running play.
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings for the week of Nov. 19-25:
1. BOISE STATE (9-2, 6-1): Alexander Mattison rushed for 145 yards in just 20 carries against New Mexico and now has 289 yards on 50 carries over his last two games against Fresno State and New Mexico. Last week: Boise State 45, New Mexico 14. This week: Utah State at Boise State, Saturday.
2. UTAH STATE (10-1, 7-0): Quarterback Jordan Love was just 15-of-24 for 169 yards against Colorado State but was not intercepted. Last week: Utah State 29, Colorado State 24. This week: Utah State at Boise State, Saturday.
3. FRESNO STATE (9-2, 6-1): Ronnie Rivers rushed for 78 yards on 22 carries against San Diego State, including a 2-yard touchdown that gave the Bulldogs a 17-14 lead in the third quarter. Last week: Fresno State 23, San Diego State 14. This week: San Jose State at Fresno State, Saturday.
4. NEVADA (7-4, 5-2): Ty Gangi passed for 314 yards and a touchdown against San Jose State but was intercepted once and fumbled the ball away once. Last week: Nevada 21, San Jose State 12. This week: Nevada at UNLV, Saturday.
5. SAN DIEGO STATE (7-4, 4-3): San Diego State had just 14 points and 282 yards against Fresno State with all 14 points and more than half (145) of the yards coming on two long scoring passes to Fred Trevillion in the first half. Last week: Fresno State 23, San Diego State 14. This week: Hawaii at San Diego State, Saturday.
6. WYOMING (5-6, 3-4): The Cowboys rushed for 111 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries in the snow against Air force but were under 100 yards for the game until Xazavian Valladay’s 27-yard scoring run with 45 seconds to play. Last week: Wyoming 35, Air Force 27. This week: Wyoming at New Mexico, Saturday.
7. AIR FORCE (4-7, 2-5): The Falcons nearly had three 100-yard rushers against Wyoming (Kadin Remsberg had 128, Cole Fagan was at 116 and Donald Hammond picked up 90). Last week: Wyoming 35, Air Force 27. This week: Air Force at Colorado State, Thursday.
8. HAWAII (7-5, 4-3): Hawaii rushed for just 83 yards on 31 carries against UNLV. Last week: Hawaii 35, UNLV 28. This week: Hawaii at San Diego State, Saturday.
9. COLORADO STATE (3-8, 2-5): Quarterback Collin Hill completed 24-of-37 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns against Utah State. He completed a 17-yard score to Preston Williams to give the Rams a 24-23 lead with 43 seconds to play. Last week: Utah State 29, Colorado State 24. This week: Air Force at Colorado State, Thursday.
10. UNLV (3-8, 1-6): Quarterback Armani Rogers returned to the field after missing five games with an injury to complete 5-of-15 passes for 60 yards and rush for 31 yards on eight carries against Hawaii. Last week: Hawaii 35, UNLV 28. This week: Nevada at UNLV, Saturday.
11. NEW MEXICO (3-8, 1-6): Marcus Hayes returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown against Boise State for the Lobos’ first punt return score since 2002. Last week: Boise State 45, New Mexico 14. This week: Wyoming at New Mexico, Saturday.
12. SAN JOSE STATE (1-10, 1-6): San Jose State had just 11 first downs and 200 total yards against Nevada. Last week: Nevada 21, San Jose State 12. This week: San Jose State at Fresno State, Saturday.