Mountain West rankings: San Diego State discovers the forward pass
For the Nevada Appeal
Rocky Long finally got the offense he has been waiting for from his San Diego State Aztecs.
“Our offense finally showed the dividends of being in the spread formation,” the Aztecs coach said after the Aztecs passed for 323 yards in a pivotal 17-7 victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs Friday night in San Diego.
“I was hoping it (the production through the air) would happen before this but now’s as good a time as any,” said Long whose Aztecs (8-2, 5-2) jumped up two spots to No. 4 in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West Football rankings.
The Aztecs will now travel to Hawaii to face the Rainbow Warriors this Saturday night with the West Division title on the line. The winner will represent the West in the Dec. 7 title game against either Boise State, Utah State or Air Force of the Mountain Division.
Aztec quarterback Ryan Agnew was 33-of-47 through the air for 323 yards and a touchdown. He is the first San Diego State quarterback since Quinn Kaehler in 2014 to pass for 300 or more yards in a game.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do that if we were in the old formations we used to run,” said Long of the Aztecs’ run-based offense in recent years.
The most passes Agnew had completed in a game this season before last Friday was 23 against UCLA on Sept. 7. His most attempts before last Friday was 37 against Utah State on Sept. 21 and his most yards was 293 against UCLA.
“We’ve been known as a team that likes to run the rock but when teams stack the box to stop the run we have to throw it,” Agnew said.
Fresno State held the Aztecs to just 102 yards on the ground on 37 carries.
“We had trouble running the ball because they had so many guys in there, that we couldn’t block them all,” Long said.
The Aztecs led just 10-7 at halftime.
“We threw it more on normal downs and distance rather than waiting for third down,” Long said. “That’s a little more aggressive for us. We threw it on first down and we threw it on second-and-three, when in the past we would run the ball. That is more aggressive for us.”
Fresno State (4-6, 2-4), which hosts No. 7 Nevada (6-4, 3-3) this Saturday night, remained at No. 9 with the loss to the Aztecs. The Bulldogs, which won the West Division the past two seasons, had just 13 first downs and 206 total yards against the Aztecs and had the ball for just under 24 minutes.
“We got beat by a better team,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said. “It was a struggle.”
Fresno State has lost three of its last four games and is now eliminated from the West Division race. The Bulldogs have already lost twice as many conference games this season (four) than they lost the past two seasons combined (7-1 both years).
“I’m sure to some of the critics out there it (the 17-7 win over Fresno State) wasn’t by enough or it wasn’t good enough,” Long said. “But guess what? We’re 8-2 and we still have a chance to be in the (Mountain West) championship game.”
Boise State (9-1, 6-0) stayed at No. 1 after whipping No. 12 New Mexico, 42-7. Boise State started its third quarterback this year as senior Jaylen Henderson passed for 292 yards and three touchdowns. It’s the first time Boise State has had as many as three starting quarterbacks in a season since 1992.
Boise State defensive tackle Sonatane Lui, a 6-foot-1, 283-pound senior, returned a fumble recovery 24 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage for a 7-0 lead.
“It was a great tone setter for us,” Lui said. “Having one of the fat guys score a touchdown really picked the energy up for everybody.”
“It was a tough night,” said New Mexico coach Bob Davie, whose Lobos fell to 2-8, 0-6.
Air Force (8-2, 5-1) stayed at No. 2 with a 38-21 come-from-behind victory over No. 8 Colorado State (4-6, 3-3).
Colorado State jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but Air Force scored the next 24 points. Air Force quarterback Donald Hammond threw three touchdown passes (two to Ben Waters) and also ran for one. Zane Lewis capped the Falcons’ victory with a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:22 to play.
Air Force ran for 227 yards and held Colorado State to just 39 yards on the ground on 31 carries.
Utah State (6-4, 5-1), which hosts Boise State in a key Mountain Division matchup this Saturday, jumped up one spot to No. 3 after beating No. 5 Wyoming 26-21.
Utah State quarterback Jordan Love passed for 282 yards and two touchdowns, 80 yards to Siaosi Mariner and 55 yards to Gerold Bright. Dominik Eberle kicked four field goals for Utah State (47, 44, 26, 23 yards).
Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay had 114 yards on 25 carries for his fourth consecutive game with 100 or more yards.
Hawaii (7-4, 4-3) stayed at No. 6 after a 21-7 victory over No. 11 UNLV (2-8, 0-6). Quarterback Cole McDonald came off the bench in relief of Chevan Cordeiro (4-of-9, 46 yards, two interceptions) to pass for 211 yards and run for two touchdowns.
Hawaii’s Cortez Davis also returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
UNLV took a 7-0 lead on a 31-yard touchdown from freshman Kenyon Oblad to senior Darren Lewis. Oblad was just 10-of-22 for 118 yards and two interceptions.
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings for the week of Nov. 18:
1. BOISE STATE (9-1, 6-0). This week: at Utah State, Saturday.
2. AIR FORCE (8-2, 5-1). This week: at New Mexico, Saturday.
3. UTAH STATE (6-4, 5-1). This week: vs. Boise State, Saturday.
4. SAN DIEGO STATE (8-2, 5-2). This week: at Hawaii, Saturday.
5. WYOMING (6-4, 3-3). This week: vs. Colorado State, Friday.
6. HAWAII (7-4, 4-3). This week: vs. San Diego State, Saturday.
7. NEVADA (6-4, 3-3). This week: at Fresno State, Saturday.
8. COLORADO STATE (4-6, 3-3). This week: at Wyoming, Friday.
9. FRESNO STATE (4-6, 2-4). This week: vs. Nevada, Saturday.
10. SAN JOSE STATE (4-6, 1-5). This week: at UNLV, Saturday.
11. UNLV (2-8, 0-6). This week: vs. San Jose State, Saturday.
12. NEW MEXICO (2-8, 0-6). This week: vs. Air Force, Saturday.