Mountain West rankings: What’s wrong with Fresno State?
For the Nevada Appeal
The Fresno State Bulldogs are looking in the mirror.
“We need to look inward,” Bulldogs linebacker Mykal Walker said after an eye-opening 43-24 loss at Air Force this past Saturday. “We’ve got to look at ourselves.”
The Bulldogs, winners of the Mountain West’s West Division the past two years and the defending conference champions, fell two spots in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings to No. 9.
Fresno State, which has already enjoyed two bye weeks this season, is just 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs were picked by the Mountain West media this past summer to win the West Division once again this year, earning 17 of the 21 first-place votes.
“This right here,” said Walker of the 19-point loss to Air Force, “it quite frankly was embarrassing. It’s not how we play football here.”
The Bulldogs, which finished a combined 22-6 overall and 14-2 in the Mountain West the past two years, have not played football like this since Jeff Tedford became head coach before the 2017 season. The loss to Air Force, which moved up a spot to No. 5 in the Nevada Appeal rankings, is the first time Tedford has lost a Mountain West game as the Bulldogs’ head coach by more than 10 points.
“Not very good at all,” Tedford said of the loss to Air Force. “They pretty much dominated us. We couldn’t stop them all night.”
Air Force, now 4-2, 2-1, outscored Fresno State 21-0 in the second half. The Falcons held the Bulldogs to a mere 25 yards of total offense after halftime. Air Force, which rushed for 340 yards and four touchdowns, also had more total yards for the game (421-268), more first downs (28-12) and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes (39:29).
“In the second half we couldn’t get off the field defensively,” Tedford said. “How do I think we did against the triple option (Air Force’s run-based offense)? They scored every time they had the ball. So we didn’t do very well.”
The Bulldogs started the year with a pair of close losses to Power Five conference opponents USC (31-23) and Minnesota (38-35 in double overtime). Fresno State then beat Sacramento State, a FCS team, just 34-20 at home and New Mexico State, 30-17, before losing to Air Force in its Mountain West opener.
Boise State (6-0, 3-0) remained perfect on the year with a 59-37 win over Hawaii at home this past Saturday and remains the top-ranked team in the rankings. The Broncos lost starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier to a leg injury in the second quarter against Hawaii and also used Chase Cord and Jaylon Henderson behind center to beat the Rainbow Warriors.
Boise’s three quarterbacks (wide receiver John Hightower also lined up at quarterback for a couple Wildcat plays) combined to complete 21-of-37 passes for 315 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Cord was 12-of-18 for 175 yards and three touchdowns.
Hightower caught seven passes for 141 yards and two scores.
“John is one of the more intelligent players we’ve had here,” Harsin said of Hightower. “He is able to handle things, getting back there and playing quarterback, calling the plays. He can go catch a big play for a touchdown and then go back there and play quarterback.”
A crowd of 36,902 (Boise’s first sellout since 2015 and a school record) witnessed the win over Hawaii.
Hawaii, coming off a 54-3 win at Nevada on Sept. 28, fell behind 31-7 in the second quarter and 45-14 in the third quarter before suffering its second loss (4-2, 1-1) of the year. The Rainbow Warriors dropped a spot to No. 3 in the Nevada Appeal rankings and still have not beaten a team ranked nationally in the Top 25 since it beat Nevada in 2010.
San Diego State (5-1, 2-1) moved up a spot to No. 2 after a 26-22 comeback victory over the No. 6 Wyoming Cowboys.
Quarterback Ryan Agnew tossed a 12-yard pass to Daniel Bellinger for the game-winning score with just 2:09 to play. The Aztecs then put the game away with an interception by Luq Barcoo at their own 13-yard line with 1:20 to go.
“It was two evenly matched teams that play a similar style of football,” San Diego State coach Rocky Long said. “I figured it was going to be close.”
Wyoming (4-2, 1-1), which dropped a spot to No. 6, led 14-6 at halftime. The Cowboys also led 22-19 after a 19-yard touchdown pass from Sean Chambers to Raghib Ismail Jr. with 6:49 to play.
“In the second half we didn’t miss tackles,” Long said. “We did not change one thing (on defense at halftime). We called the same defenses in the second half that we called in the first half. Our players just did a better job of executing in the second half than they did in the first half.”
The Aztecs outgained the Cowboys 329-266 and had more first downs (21-11). Trailing 14-3 in the second half the Aztecs rallied to win for their biggest comeback victory since rallying from 14 down to beat San Jose State in 2013.
Utah State (3-2, 2-0), which hosts Nevada this Saturday night, was idle last week and remains at No. 4.
The Nevada Wolf Pack (4-2, 1-1) jumped up a spot to No. 7 after beating San Jose State 41-38 at home on a last-second 40-yard field goal by Brandon Talton. The Spartans (3-3, 1-2) also moved up a spot to No. 8 after the close loss on the road. Nevada led 31-10 at one point and had to break two ties in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory.
Malik Henry made his first start at quarterback for the Wolf Pack and completed 22-of-37 passes for 352 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Josh Love was 23-of-45 for 405 yards and three touchdowns for San Jose State. Toa Taua also rushed for 160 yards on a career-high 34 carries for the Wolf Pack.
The UNLV Rebels (2-4, 0-2) snapped a four-game losing streak by upsetting Vanderbilt on the road 34-10. It was the Rebels’ first win in school history on the road against a SEC school.
“It was really exciting in that locker room,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said after the victory.
UNLV was a 14-point underdog and earned its first victory over a Power Five conference school since it beat Arizona State and Iowa State in 2008. UNLV dominated the game, controlling the ball for 37:27 and holding Vanderbilt to just 12 first downs (UNLV had 21).
“I can’t even explain the feeling,” said UNLV quarterback Kenyan Oblad, who completed 11-of-16 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns in his second career start. “I want to keep this feeling for the rest of the year.”
Colorado State (2-5, 1-2) fell a spot to No. 11 despite a 35-21 victory at New Mexico this past Friday. New Mexico (2-4, 0-2) dropped one spot and replaced UNLV as the No. 12 team in the Appeal rankings.
The victory over the Lobos broke a 10-game losing streak for Colorado State against FBS teams. The Rams’ last win over a FBS team was a year ago over New Mexico.
Quarterback Patrick O’Brien passed for 420 yards and three touchdowns for Colorado State. The two teams combined for 21 penalties (11 on New Mexico).
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings for Oct. 14-20:
1. BOISE STATE (6-0, 3-0). This week: at BYU, Saturday.
2. SAN DIEGO STATE (5-1, 2-1). This week: at San Jose State, Saturday.
3. HAWAII (4-2, 1-1). This week: vs. Air Force, Saturday.
4. UTAH STATE (3-2, 2-0). This week: vs. Nevada, Saturday.
5. AIR FORCE (4-2, 2-1). This week: at Hawaii, Saturday.
6. WYOMING (4-2, 1-1). This week: vs. New Mexico, Saturday.
7. NEVADA (4-2, 1-1). This week: at Utah State, Saturday.
8. SAN JOSE STATE (3-3, 1-2). This week: vs. San Diego State, Saturday.
9. FRESNO STATE (2-3, 0-1). This week: vs. UNLV, Friday.
10. UNLV (2-4, 0-2). This week: at Fresno State, Friday.
11. COLORADO STATE (2-5, 1-2). This week: Bye
12. NEW MEXICO (2-4, 0-2). This week: at Wyoming, Saturday.