Mountain West rankings: Boise State takes hard road to No. 1
Nothing has come easy for the Boise State Broncos this college football season.
The Broncos, affected by COVID-19 as much as any Mountain West team this season, went to Wyoming on Saturday night without 10 players and numerous assistant coaches and still won a game they didn’t need to win.
The Broncos, ranked No. 1 in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings, held off the Cowboys, 17-9, despite already being guaranteed a spot in this Saturday’s Mountain West championship game in Las Vegas (1:15 p.m., Fox TV) against No. 2 San Jose State.
The Broncos are now 5-1 overall this season and 5-0 in Mountain West play despite playing the majority of their games this year missing 10 or more players because of COVID-19.
“It’s happening all over the country,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “It is what it is.”
Boise State dominated Wyoming on defense, holding the Cowboys to nine first downs and 146 total yards. Wyoming also was just 2-of-17 on third down and had to punt the ball nine times. The game was played in 19-degree weather.
The Broncos played the game with just two (Hank Bachmeier and Chase Cord) of their five quarterbacks dressed for the game. And Cord, who has not played all season long because of an injury, could only be used in an emergency situation. Bachmeier played the entire game, completing 19-of-28 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown. Nearly half (eight) of his completions went to Khalil Shakir (for 105 yards).
“That (just two available quarterbacks with one limited because of an injury) is a situation I hope we’ll never be in again,” Harsin said.
The Broncos also were without a significant portion of their coaching staff against Wyoming.
“It’s tough,” Harsin said. “I can tell you that. We had some of our players doing things coaches normally do.”
No. 9 Wyoming (2-4) got three field goals (42 yards and two from 36) from John Hoyland. Wyoming quarterbacks Levi Williams and Gavin Beerup, two freshmen, were a combined 4-of-21 for 64 yards and five sacks.
No. 2 San Jose State (6-0) outscored No. 3 Nevada 23-0 in the second half to beat the Wolf Pack 30-20 in Las Vegas on Friday. It is the first time the Wolf Pack has been shut out in the second half since a 31-3 loss at Wyoming last season, a span of 12 games.
San Jose State freshman Shamar Garrett returned the second half kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to turn the momentum. Spartans running back Tyler Nevens also had a 69-yard touchdown run in the second half and picked up 184 yards on just 12 carries.
“We didn’t respond when we needed to,” said Nevada (6-2) coach Jay Norvell, whose Wolf Pack will play Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22 in Boise. “We just had a number of things not go right when we need them to.”
Wolf Pack running back Toa Taua lost the ball twice on fumbles and San Jose State sacked Nevada quarterback Carson Strong four times.
“We’ve got to be better,” said Norvell, whose Wolf Pack has lost two of its last three games after a 5-0 start.
No. 4 San Diego State (4-4) lost to BYU 28-14 and was outscored 21-0 after the first quarter. San Diego State quarterback Jordan Brookshire was 21-of-31 for 230 yards and a touchdown. The Aztecs, which controlled the ball for 37 minutes, came up short on three fourth down plays inside the BYU 10-yard line in the fourth quarter.
No. 5 Hawaii (4-4) whipped UNLV 38-21 as quarterback Chevan Cordeiro passed for 252 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
Hawaii will face Houston in the New Mexico Bowl (played at Frisco, Texas) on Dec. 24. UNLV ends its first season under new head coach Marcus Arroyo at 0-6. The No. 12 Rebels lost all six games by 13 or more points. UNLV also never led at halftime or took a lead in the second half all season long.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed we didn’t get a chance to send the guys off on the right note,” Arroyo said.
UNLV running back Charles Williams, though, ran for a career-high 148 yards and finished the season in fourth place on the Rebels’ all-time rushing list with 2,940 yards. Williams, like all seniors this season because of COVID-19, will have the option of returning for one more year in 2021. He is just 793 yards behind UNLV’s all-time leading rusher Tim Cornett.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to be around him as long as I can,” Arroyo said.
Max Gilliam started all six games this season, becoming the first UNLV quarterback to start every game of a season since Jon Denton in 1996. Denton, though, started 12 games in 1996 (the Rebels went 1-11) while Gilliam had to start just six in this season’s COVID-shortened year.
No. 7 New Mexico outscored No. 8 Fresno State 49-39 in yet another game in Las Vegas. New Mexico sacked Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener eight times, despite coming into the game with just six sacks all season long.
Bobby Cole ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns for New Mexico. Isaiah Chavez, the first true freshman walk-on to ever start a game for the Lobos, was 14-of-18 for 196 yards and a touchdown. Chavez also ran for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers, injured against Nevada the previous week, had just one carry. Jalen Cropper, though, caught 12 passes for Fresno State for 134 yards and a touchdown.
“We need to be tough, unified and accountable,” Fresno State rookie head coach Kalen DeBoer said. “And we need to stress fundamentals. You have to have belief and a trust in each other and we are still trying to find that.”
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings:
1. BOISE STATE (5-1, 5-0): Last week: Boise State 17, Wyoming 9. This week: San Jose State vs. Boise State, Mountain West championship, (Las Vegas).
2. SAN JOSE STATE (6-0, 6-0): Last week: San Jose State 30, Nevada 20. This week: San Diego State vs. Boise State, Mountain West championship, (Las Vegas).
3. NEVADA (6-2, 6-2): Last week: San Jose State 30, Nevada 20. Next game: Nevada vs. Tulane, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, Idaho), Dec. 22.
4. SAN DIEGO STATE (4-4, 4-2): Last week: BYU 28, San Diego State 14. Next game: Season over.
5. HAWAII (4-4, 4-4): Last week: Hawaii 38, UNLV 21. Next game: Hawaii vs. Houston, New Mexico Bowl (Frisco, Texas), Dec. 24.
6. AIR FORCE (3-2, 2-2). Last week: Idle. This week: Air Force at Army, Saturday.
7. NEW MEXICO (2-5, 2-5): Last week: New Mexico 49, Fresno State 39. Next game: Season over.
8. FRESNO STATE (3-3, 3-3): Last week: New Mexico 49, Fresno State 39. Next game: Season over.
9. WYOMING (2-4, 2-4): Last week: Boise State 17, Wyoming 9. Next game: Season over.
10. COLORADO STATE (1-3, 1-3): Last week: Utah State at Colorado State, canceled. Next game: Season over.
11. UTAH STATE (1-5, 1-5). Last week: Utah State at Colorado State, canceled. Next game: Season over.
12. UNLV (0-6, 0-6): Last week: Hawaii 38, UNLV 21. Next game: Season over.