Mountain West rankings: Parity strikes back
Special to the Appeal
Parity has taken over Mountain West football.
After a wild weekend that saw four Mountain West teams win league games on the road and three backup quarterbacks start a game for the first time, the Nevada Appeal Mountain West Football Rankings have a new No. 1.
San Diego State, playing without injured starting tailback Juwan Washington, moved into the top spot in the rankings with a stunning 19-13 victory on the road at Boise State, which had won eight Mountain West games at home in a row. Boise State fell from No. 1 to No. 3 with the eye-opening loss.
San Diego State has been playing with its backup quarterback (Ryan Agnew) since the middle of the second game of the season after starter Christian Chapman went down with a knee injury. The Aztecs also had to give the ball this past week to backup running back Chase Jasmin after Washington suffered an injured collarbone two weeks ago (the Aztecs were coming off a bye this past week).
The always-stingy Aztecs’ defense, though, simply went out and beat Boise State, holding the Broncos to just 229 total yards. Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien, the conference’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year, suffered through one of his worst career games, completing just 21-of-41 passes without a touchdown for 170 yards and two interceptions.
A rash of quarterback injuries forced three more Mountain West teams to start backup quarterbacks this past weekend. The three backup quarterbacks (Nevada’s Cristian Solano, UNLV’s Max Gilliam, Hawaii’s Chevan Cordeiro) combined to score just 34 points but one of them (Cordeiro) did emerge with a dramatic victory as Hawaii somehow survived a scare from Wyoming, 17-13.
The victory allowed Hawaii to jump over Nevada (No. 6), a 21-3 loser to No. 2 Fresno State, and into fifth place in the rankings. Cordeiro, a true freshman, did what Solano and Gilliam could not. He rallied his team and made a play to win the game. The Honolulu native tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to JoJo Ward with just 1:26 to play to keep the Rainbow Warriors unbeaten (3-0) in conference play. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Cordeiro, a backup to current Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa while at Honolulu’s Saint Louis School, completed 19-of-26 passes for 148 yards and two scores as Hawaii improved to 6-1 overall.
Cordeiro, Solano and Gilliam were replacing three of the most productive quarterbacks in the conference in Ty Gangi (Nevada), Armani Rogers (UNLV) and Cole McDonald (Hawaii). McDonald and Gangi could return to the field this week (according to their coaches) but Rogers is expected to miss at least the next month because of a toe injury.
“There are a lot of teams in our league that are disappointed like we are right now,” Nevada coach Jay Norvell said Saturday night. “There are a lot of teams in the same situation as we are.”
UNLV suffered the biggest drop in the rankings this week, falling from No. 7 to No. 11 with a disastrous 50-14 loss at home to New Mexico. New Mexico, which moved from No. 11 to No. 8, scored 29 points in the second quarter after a scoreless first quarter. The Lobos led UNLV 29-0 at the half and 36-0 after three quarters. UNLV, thanks in large part to Rogers’ (488 rushing yards) absence, was averaging 336 yards a game on the ground going into Saturday night but was held to just 43 yards on 27 carries by New Mexico.
UNLV coach Tony Sanchez expected a better effort out of his Rebels, even with Rogers out. Gilliam, a talented 6-foot-3 sophomore, red-shirted at California in 2016 before playing at Saddleback College last season. He was 13-of-35 for 123 yards against New Mexico.
“We got our tails kicked,” Sanchez said. “We’ve got to figure out who wants to be here and who wants to roll. We had two weeks off (the Rebels were coming off a bye week) and it looks like we were still on vacation.”
Utah State stayed at No. 4 after an impressive 45-20 victory at BYU. The Aggies held BYU, a former Mountain West school, to just 39 yards on the ground on 16 carries and simply dominated the intrastate rivalry for the second consecutive year. Utah State whipped BYU last year at home 40-24.
Air Force jumped one spot to No. 7 after beating Navy 35-7 at home. The Falcons outgained Navy 257-129 on the ground .
Colorado State outscored San Jose State 42-30 to remain in the No. 9 spot. The Rams jumped out to a 28-0 lead at the half but allowed winless San Jose State to score 30 unanswered points in the third quarter. Wyoming remained ranked No. 10 after its narrow loss at Hawaii. The Cowboys did take a 10-3 lead after defensive end Carl Granderson picked off a Cordeiro pass and carried it 61 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings . . .
1. SAN DIEGO STATE (4-1, 1-0): The Aztecs got nearly half of their 154 yards rushing last Saturday against Boise State on Jordan Byrd’s 72-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. Last week: San Diego State 19, Boise State 13. This week: Air Force at San Diego State, Friday.
2. FRESNO STATE (4-1, 1-0): Fresno State rushed for just 30 yards on 24 carries against Nevada. Last week: Fresno State 21, Nevada 3. This week: Wyoming at Fresno State, Saturday.
3. BOISE STATE (3-2, 1-1): The Boise State offense allowed San Diego State to sack Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien four times. Last week: San Diego State 19, Boise State 13. This week: Boise State at Nevada, Saturday.
4. UTAH STATE (4-1, 1-0): Utah State quarterback Jordan Love passed for four touchdowns and also rushed for one against BYU. Last week: Utah State 45, BYU 20. This week: UNLV at Utah State, Saturday.
5. HAWAII (6-1, 3-0): Hawaii had five sacks and held Wyoming quarterback Tyler Vander Waal to just 87 yards. Last week: Hawaii 17, Wyoming 13. This week: Hawaii at BYU, Saturday.
6. NEVADA (3-3, 1-1): Wide receiver Kaleb Fossum caught 12 passes against Fresno State for 97 yards and no touchdowns. Last week: Fresno State 21, Nevada 3. This week: Boise State at Nevada, Saturday.
7. AIR FORCE (2-3, 0-2): D.J. Hammond ran for three touchdowns and 60 yards and passed for one touchdown and 142 yards against Navy. Last week: Air Force 35, Navy 7. This week: Air Force at San Diego State, Friday.
8. NEW MEXICO (3-2, 1-0): Quarterback Sheriron Jones tossed four touchdown passes to four different receivers against UNLV and also rushed for 72 yards. Last week: New Mexico 50, UNLV 14. This week: New Mexico at Colorado State, Saturday.
9. COLORADO STATE (2-4, 1-1): Defensive lineman Jan-Phillip Bombek, who is from Germany, had three sacks against San Jose State. Last week: Colorado State 42, San Jose State 30. This week: New Mexico at Colorado State, Saturday.
10. WYOMING (2-4, 0-2): Nico Evans rushed for 192 yards on 24 carries against Hawaii. Last week: Hawaii 17, Wyoming 13. This week: Wyoming at Fresno State, Saturday.
11. UNLV (2-3, 0-1): Rebels quarterback Armani Rogers is expected to return to the lineup (he has an injured toe) in time for the Rebels’ game against Nevada on Nov. 24 in Las Vegas. Last week: New Mexico 50, UNLV 14. This week: UNLV at Utah State, Saturday.
12. SAN JOSE STATE (0-5, 0-2): Quarterback Josh Love was 17-of-40 for 232 yards and three touchdowns against Colorado State but also tossed two interceptions in the fourth quarter. Last week: Colorado State 42, San Jose State 30. This week: Army vs. San Jose State at Santa Clara, Calif. (Levi Stadium), Saturday.