Mountain West rankings: Air Force ‘had something special going on’
For the Nevada Appeal
The second best team in the Mountain West will not take part in the conference title game on Dec. 7.
The Air Force Falcons, ranked second in the Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings, will have to be content now with a regular-season ending seven-game winning streak and a 10-2, 7-1 record after a convincing 20-6 victory over No. 6 Wyoming (7-5, 4-4) this past Saturday.
“We knew going into the season that we had something special going on,” said Air Force safety Jeremy Fejedelem, who had two interceptions and 10 tackles against Wyoming.
Air Force has lost just two games all season, 30-19 to the eventual Mountain Division champion Boise State Broncos, and 34-25 to Navy. The Falcons have outscored their opponents by an average of 36-17 during their seven-game winning streak.
Air Force went 3-0 against the West Division, including a dominating 56-26 win at Hawaii, the team that will meet Boise State in the conference title game. Those 26 points Hawaii scored are the most Air Force has allowed in a game all season.
The Falcons, which finished 10-14 combined the last two seasons, allowed just 225 total yards of offense and 12 first downs by Wyoming.
“For us to be physical and keep teams out of the end zone and give our offense a chance to win the game, it means the world,” said Air Force defensive back Garrett Kauppila, who had nine tackles and recovered a fumble against Wyoming.
“We knew they (Wyoming) were one of the most physical teams in the Mountain West,” Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond said. “We knew we had to grind it out and nothing would be easy.”
Hammond hooked up with Ben Waters for a 75-yard touchdown pass with two minutes to play to secure the victory.
“We both (Waters and Hammond) came to the sidelines kind of begging for it (the long pass play) to happen,” said Waters, who has four touchdown catches longer than 50 yards this year. “It’s (the season) been a blast. It’s been awesome.”
Boise State (11-1, 8-0) remained at No. 1 after a 31-24 win over No. 8 Colorado State. Boise State backup quarterback Jaylon Henderson started and passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns. The Broncos have now won six games in a row after starting the year with five consecutive wins.
Colorado State (4-8, 3-5) ends its season with three consecutive losses. Rams’ quarterback Patrick O’Brien passed for 289 yards and two touchdowns against Boise, finding Warren Jackson eight times for 84 yards and a touchdown and Trey McBride nine times for 101 yards and a score.
“I hope I’m back,” said Colorado State coach Mike Bobo, when asked about his job security after the game.
No. 3 Hawaii (9-4, 5-3) whipped Army 52-31 this weekend behind five touchdown passes combined from quarterbacks Cole McDonald (three) and Chevan Cordeiro (two).
Wide receivers Jared Smart (eight catches, 123 yards, one touchdown) and Cedric Byrd (8-122-1) had almost identical statistics for the Rainbow Warriors, who have now won four games in a row and five of their last six.
Utah State (7-5, 6-2) moved up one spot to No. 4 after a 38-25 win over No. 12 New Mexico (2-10, 0-8). Utah State led 31-6 at one point and cruised to the easy victory as Jordan Love tossed three scoring passes.
Freshman quarterback Trae Hall, though, did pass for 107 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 115 yards and two more touchdowns for New Mexico. The Lobos also controlled the ball for just over 36 minutes.
No. 5 San Diego State, which lost two of its final three conference games to lose the West Division title to Hawaii, rebounded this past weekend with a 13-3 win over BYU. Matt Araiza kicked field goals of 44 and 27 yards for the only scoring in the game in the second half. BYU dominated the Aztecs everywhere but on the scoreboard with more first downs (23-12) and more yards (416-269) and well as more possession time (31:39).
UNLV (4-8, 2-6) jumped up one spot to No. 9 with a 33-30 upset victory on the road in overtime at No. 7 Nevada (7-5, 4-4). Freshman Kenyon Oblad completed 16-of-22 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns for the Rebels in a game that was marred by a brawl moments after the game ended.
UNLV’s Steve Jenkins caught five passes for 140 yards and two scores, including the 19-yard game-winner in overtime. Rebels running back Charles Williams ran for 138 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown. The game was also the last for Tony Sanchez as UNLV’s head coach. Sanchez finished 20-40 at UNLV, going 3-2 against Nevada.
No. 10 San Jose State (5-7, 2-6) knocked off No. 11 Fresno State 17-16 on a 10-yard touchdown run by DeJon Packer with 2:11 to play to win the rivalry’s Valley Trophy. Fresno State (4-8, 2-6), which lost its last four games this season, led 16-3 at halftime. The Bulldogs also led Nevada 28-14 the week before in a 35-28 loss.
“I can’t imagine how I would feel if we lost this game,” said San Jose State quarterback Josh Love, who passed for 290 yards and scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run in the third quarter. “This is a day I will remember for the rest of my life.”
The Spartans’ defense stopped the Fresno State offense on 11-of-12 third-down plays. San Jose State won almost twice as many games this year (five) as it did the past two seasons (three) combined.
“We’ve been through a lot the past couple years,” Spartans’ linebacker Ethan Aguayo said. “To end it like we did, I couldn’t have imagined a better ending.”
San Jose State coach Brent Brennan now has a record of 8-29 since taking over the program before the 2017 season. The Spartans this year, though, lost three Mountain West games (against Nevada, Hawaii and UNLV) by three points or less, all on the road. The Spartans also only lost 52-42 to Mountain Division champion Boise State.
“It’s so good to see that joy on their face after three weeks of crushing losses that were so close and so hard fought,” Brennan said.
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings for the week of Dec. 2:
1. BOISE STATE (11-1, 8-0) . . . Broncos whipped Hawaii 59-37 at Boise on Oct. 12. The rematch will be Dec. 7 at Boise for the Mountain West title.
2. AIR FORCE (10-2, 7-1) . . . Falcons have won 10-plus games in three of last six years.
3. HAWAII (9-4, 5-3) . . . Nick Rolovich is 27-26 as the Rainbow Warriors head coach since 2016.
4. UTAH STATE (7-5, 6-2) . . . Aggies were 11-2 last season.
5. SAN DIEGO STATE (9-3, 5-3) . . . Aztecs have scored 54 points combined in last four games.
6. WYOMING (7-5, 4-4) . . . Cowboys have scored 61 points combined in last four games.
7. NEVADA (7-5, 4-4) . . . The Fremont cannon is still red.
8. COLORADO STATE (4-8, 3-5) . . . Rams have not won more than seven games in a year since 2014 (10-3).
9. UNLV (4-8, 2-6) . . . Rebels lost coach Tony Sanchez and two-thirds of their games but kept the Fremont cannon.
10. SAN JOSE STATE (5-7, 2-6) . . . Spartans improved by four victories this year over last year.
11. FRESNO STATE (4-8, 2-6) . . . Bulldogs were 22-6, 14-2 combined last two years.
12. NEW MEXICO (2-10, 0-8) . . . Coach Bob Davie leaves Lobos after this year after winning 35 games in eight seasons.