Mountain West Rankings: When a win feels more like a loss to the San Diego State Aztecs
For the Nevada Appeal
The San Diego State Aztecs did not feel like winners on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
“We ought to be celebrating but we’re not,” Aztecs coach Rocky Long said after a 20-17 win over the UNLV Rebels. “I don’t know if that’s right or wrong. It’s probably not right.”
The Aztecs, 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain West, dropped a spot to No. 4 in the latest Nevada Appeal Mountain West Football rankings despite the victory over a Rebel team that is still winless in the conference at 0-4 (2-6 overall). UNLV, now ranked No. 11 in the 12-team conference, also missed a 42-yard field goal with 37 seconds to play that would have tied the game.
“I thought we were going to overtime,” said Long, whose Aztecs built a 17-0 lead and then had to hang on for the victory. “But their kicker misses a field goal so we got lucky.”
UNLV outgained the Aztecs 376-335 and both teams had 18 first downs.
“Our offense was terrible,” Long said. “Absolutely terrible.”
“We were fortunate to come out with a win,” said San Diego State quarterback Ryan Agnew, who completed just 14-of-23 passes for 185 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
UNLV quarterback Kenyon Oblad, who completed 21-of-39 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns, connected with Randal Grimes for a 42-yard completion on a 3rd-and-24 play to help set up the possible game-tying field goal. Oblad, from Liberty High in Las Vegas, also found Grimes five times for 121 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown in the game.
“He’s got a lot of courage and toughness,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said of Oblad. “He’s growing right in front of everybody’s eyes. He’s at the point now where he’s confident.”
Ryan Gutierrez’s field goal attempt with 37 seconds left bounced off the right post.
“He’s in the locker room and he’s got tears in his eyes,” Sanchez said Saturday night. “Nobody’s hurting more than him.”
Also hurting are the Rebels’ bowl game chances this year. The Rebels will have to sweep their last four opponents (Colorado State, Hawaii, San Jose State, Nevada) to get a bowl invitation and possibly save Sanchez’s job.
Boise State (6-1, 3-0) had a bye this past weekend and remained atop the rankings. Air Force, though, jumped up two spots to No. 2 after an impressive 31-7 victory at home over Utah State. Utah State, now 4-3, 3-1, fell three spots to No. 5 with the loss.
“We got beat by a better team,” Utah State coach Gary Andersen said. “No question about it. Air Force dominated on both sides of the ball.”
The Falcons just might be playing better than any team in the conference right now. Air Force has won three games in a row over Fresno State, Hawaii and Utah State by a combined score of 130-57.
Timothy Jackson rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown as Air Force piled up a season-high 448 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The Falcons also controlled the ball for a season-high 45:43 and had a season-best 30 first downs.
“Our offense is built for that, to hold onto the ball because all we do is run,” Jackson said. “I just want to keep it going. It’s a testament to our offensive line and our coaches, trusting me to keep moving the rock.”
Air Force’s defense also held Utah State quarterback Jordan Love to just 114 yards on 14-of-23 passing.
“Everything kind of went according to play,” Jackson said.
Wyoming (6-2, 3-1) jumped up two places to No. 3 with a 31-3 victory over Nevada. The Wolf Pack, now 4-4, 1-3, dropped two spots to No. 10.
Wyoming outgained Nevada 479-335 and led 24-3 at halftime. Cowboys running back Xazavian Vallady ran for a career-high 206 yards on 26 carries.
Wyoming also sacked Nevada quarterbacks Carson Strong and Cristian Solano four times and ran the ball 44 times for 258 yards.
“We’re just getting in a groove,” Wyoming wide receiver Rocket Ismail Jr. said. “We just keep climbing.”
Nevada has now lost three of its last four games with the three losses coming by 26 or more points.
Hawaii (5-3, 2-2) whipped New Mexico 45-31 at Albuquerque, N.M., to remain at No. 6. New Mexico (2-6, 0-4) also stayed at No. 12.
Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald passed for 237 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. Miles Reed also picked up 97 yards on 16 carries for Hawaii, which ran for 255 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries as a team.
“It (McDonald’s running ability) is an added element we haven’t used a whole lot this year but you saw his speed,” Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich said. “Their plan early on was not to let us throw it. I had a hunch we might have to run the ball a little more.”
McDonald, who had just 196 yards rushing on the season going into the game, ran 76 yards for a touchdown on Hawaii’s second play from scrimmage.
“We got shocked right off the bat,” New Mexico coach Bob Davie said. “In some way he was the biggest, fastest guy on the field. Wow.”
New Mexico quarterback Tevaka Tuioti passed for 293 yards and two touchdowns and Lobos running back Ahmari Davis ran for 200 yards and two more touchdowns. Hawaii led 35-3 at the half and then saw New Mexico score 21 points in the fourth quarter.
“That’s my fault for taking the starters out too soon,” Rolovich said, “but I felt those guys (the backups) earned the right to play.”
Colorado State (3-5, 2-2) pulled off the biggest shocker of the weekend with a 41-31 victory at Fresno State. The Rams outgained Fresno State 500-388 and rallied from a 28-24 deficit entering the fourth quarter. Colorado State jumps four places to No. 7 with the win and Fresno State (3-4, 1-2) falls two spots to No. 9.
Colorado State quarterback Patrick O’Brien torched Fresno State for 322 yards and two touchdowns, completing nine passes to Warren Jackson for 178 yards and one score.
San Jose State (4-4, 1-3), ranked at No. 8, traveled across the country to West Point, N.Y. and beat Army 34-29. Josh Love passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns for San Jose State, which had the ball for just 20:58.
Army ran for 326 yards and three touchdowns and outgained San Jose State 429-409 and had more first downs (28-19).
“This is an incredible win for our team,” said San Jose State coach Brent Brennan, whose Spartans lost 52-3 at home to Army last October. “We woke our kids up at 4 a.m. west coast time for the pre-game meal and they handled it incredibly well. For us any win is a big thing. We’re trying to build this program.”
Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings, Oct. 28-Nov. 3 . . .
1. BOISE STATE (6-1, 3-0): This week: at San Jose State, Saturday.
2. AIR FORCE (6-2, 4-1): This week: vs. Army, Saturday.
3. WYOMING (6-2, 3-1): This week: Bye.
4. SAN DIEGO STATE (7-1, 4-1): This week: Bye.
5. UTAH STATE (4-3, 3-1): This week: vs. BYU, Saturday.
6. HAWAII (5-3, 2-2): This week: vs. Fresno State, Saturday.
7. COLORADO STATE (3-5, 2-2): This week: vs. UNLV, Saturday.
8. SAN JOSE STATE (4-4, 1-3): This week: vs. Boise State, Saturday.
9. FRESNO STATE (3-4, 1-2): This week: at Hawaii, Saturday.
10. NEVADA (4-4, 1-3): This week: vs. New Mexico, Saturday.
11. UNLV (2-6, 0-4): This week: at Colorado State, Saturday.
12. NEW MEXICO (2-6, 0-4): This week: at Nevada, Saturday.