Mountain West rankings: Air Force will ‘choke you out’ | NevadaAppeal.com

Mountain West rankings: Air Force will ‘choke you out’

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal
Air Force Falcons sings school song after victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs on Oct. 1, at Air Force Academy, Colo.
David Zalubowski/AP | AP

The Air Force Falcons are suffocating their Mountain West opponents.

“When you get behind against them it is such a frustrating deal,” Hawaii Rainbow Warriors coach Nick Rolovich said on Saturday after a 56-26 loss to Air Force at Honolulu. “They kind of choke you out with what they do.”

The Falcons, now ranked fourth in the Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings, rushed for 353 yards and six touchdowns and outscored Hawaii 28-6 in the second half. Air Force, which is second in the nation with 304.6 rushing yards a game, piled up a season-high 522 total yards on offense.

“They are very good at what they do offensively,” said Rolovich of Air Force’s triple-option run-based offense. “When they are on a roll and they have your number, it is hard to get back in the game.”

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford, whose Bulldogs lost to Air Force 43-24 a week ago, agrees with Rolovich.

“If they get rolling, they are hard to stop,” Tedford said of Air Force.

Air Force, now 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Mountain West, outscored both Fresno State and Hawaii 49-6 combined in the second half.

The Falcons lost starting quarterback Donald Hammond to injury in the first quarter against Hawaii but it didn’t slow them down. Backup quarterback Mike Schmidt came on to complete 5-of-6 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns.

“You hope that every guy realizes that there can be an opportunity,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “There was a pretty good basketball coach at UCLA (John Wooden) and one of his favorite sayings was, ‘If I’m prepared, my chance will come.’ It’s neat to see a guy get an opportunity and make the utmost of it.”

With Schmidt behind center, the Falcons averaged 9.0 yards a play, 6.9 yards for each rush and 28.2 yards for each completion.

“Playing with my buddies is the best feeling in the world,” Schmidt said. “It’s a memorable thing for sure. You don’t think. You just execute. We just did what we do every day. I’d be back there and not even get touched and just execute. I just gave it to my guys and let them do what they do.”

Hawaii (4-3, 1-2) has not won a game since it beat Nevada 54-3 on Sept. 28. The Rainbow Warriors, which dropped three spots to No. 6 in the rankings this week, also lost to Boise State 59-37 last week.

“I don’t think we were at our best today, offensively or defensively,” Rolovich said on Saturday.

Boise State (6-1, 3-0) remained at No. 1 despite a narrow 28-25 loss to BYU. The Broncos were also without their starting quarterback after freshman Hank Bachmeier suffered a hip injury a week ago. Backup quarterback Chase Cord was 18-of-31 against BYU for 185 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“They flat-out beat us,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin of BYU. “It should sting. We have to go back and be honest about where we are.”

Boise State was the last remaining unbeaten team in the Mountain West before Saturday.

Cord tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Akilian Butler with 3:17 to play to cut BYU’s lead to 28-25. BYU, though, kept the ball for the final 3:17 to win the game. The Cougars used a defensive back (Austin Kafentzis) to run the ball on a key 4th-and-1 play from their own 34 with 2:17 to play. Kafentzis picked up two yards to keep the drive going.

Utah State (4-2, 3-0) moved up two spots to No. 2 with a one-sided 36-10 victory over Nevada. Utah State rushed for 244 yards, led by Gerold Bright’s 126 yards and two scores.

Utah State and Boise State, both 3-0 in conference games, are the last two unbeaten teams in the Mountain West without a conference loss.

Utah State quarterback Jordan Love was just 13-of-31 for 169 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Nevada quarterback Malik Henry was 17-of-38 for 213 yards and two interceptions without a touchdown. The Aggies’ Savon Scarver returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The only Nevada touchdown came on a 20-yard run by Toa Taua after the game was out of reach.

Nevada, now 4-3, 1-2, fell a spot to No. 8.

San Diego State dropped one spot to No. 3 after a 27-17 win over San Jose State. The Aztecs rushed for 260 yards and two touchdowns and controlled the ball for 40:22.

San Diego State, though, was called for 12 penalties while San Jose State was called for just one. The Aztecs’ Kaegun Williams returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. San Diego State has the most (11) kickoff returns for a touchdown in the FBS since 2015.

San Jose State (3-4, 1-3) fell a spot to No. 9 with the loss. San Jose State quarterback Josh Love passed for 218 yards and two touchdowns but the Spartans rushed for just 54 yards on 17 carries and had the ball for just 19:38.

Wyoming, which hosts Nevada this Saturday, jumped up one spot to No. 5 after a 23-10 win over New Mexico. Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown and Cowboys running back Xazavian Valladay had 127 yards and a touchdown.

Wyoming controlled the ball for 35:13 and was 11-of-18 on third down. New Mexico (2-5, 0-3) remained at No. 12 with the loss.

Fresno State (3-3, 1-1) jumped up two spots to No. 7 with a 56-27 win at home over UNLV. The Bulldogs’ Josh Hokit scored three rushing touchdowns (on seven total carries). Fresno State kicker Cesar Silva, however, missed three field goals (46, 50, 20 yards).

“It was nice for the kids to be able to bounce back (after the loss to Air Force last week),” Tedford said. “It’s been a long week for us. It wasn’t our week last week. We did a lot of soul searching coming off a game like that.”

UNLV (2-5, 0-3) remained at No. 10. The Rebels allowed 21 points to Fresno State in both the second and fourth quarters. Rebel quarterback Kenyan Oblad passed for 257 yards and three touchdowns but was also intercepted three times.

Colorado State (2-5, 1-2) stayed at No. 11 after a bye week.

Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings for the week of Oct. 21:

1. BOISE STATE (6-1, 3-0). This week: Bye

2. UTAH STATE (4-2, 3-0). This week: at Air Force, Saturday

3. SAN DIEGO STATE (6-1, 3-1). This week: at UNLV, Saturday

4. AIR FORCE (5-2, 3-1). This week: vs. Utah State, Saturday

5. WYOMING (5-2, 2-1). This week: vs. Nevada, Saturday

6. HAWAII (4-3, 1-2). This week: at New Mexico, Saturday

7. FRESNO STATE (3-3, 1-1). This week: vs. Colorado State, Saturday

8. NEVADA (4-3, 1-2). This week: at Wyoming, Saturday

9. SAN JOSE STATE (3-4, 1-3). This week: at Army, Saturday

10. UNLV (2-5, 0-3). This week: vs. San Diego State, Saturday

11. COLORADO STATE (2-5, 1-2). This week: at Fresno State, Saturday

12. NEW MEXICO (2-5, 0-3). This week: vs. Hawaii, Saturday