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Nevada Wolf Pack stays No. 1 in Mountain West rankings

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal
Nevada wide receiver Romeo Doubs (7) makes a touchdown catch over New Mexico cornerback Donte Martin (8)during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Las Vegas.
AP Photo/John Locher

The Boise State Broncos aren’t going away.

The Broncos, coming off an eye-opening 51-17 loss to BYU the previous week, dismantled the Colorado State Rams 52-21 last Thursday to hold onto the No. 2 spot in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings.

The Nevada Wolf Pack (4-0 overall, 4-0 in league play) remained on top of the rankings with a 27-20 victory over the New Mexico Lobos. There were no changes to the top five spots in the rankings as San Jose State San Diego State and Fresno State, all winners last weekend, remain ranked No. 3 through 5.

Boise State (3-1, 3-0) blocked three Colorado State kicks and returned all three for touchdowns. Avery Williams blocked two punts and fell on one of them for a touchdown.

“Every time he’s on the field you know a play is always going to be made,” Boise State linebacker Riley Whimpey said. “He’s just got a blue-collar mindset.”

Williams’ block (and touchdown) of a Rams’ punt gave Boise State a 7-0 lead.

“Special teams play has always been my thing,” Williams said. “We knew with the scheme (Colorado State) had, I could come off the edge, use my speed and go get one.”

“We needed to be aggressive,” Boise State coach Brian Harsin said.

The Broncos’ Kekaula Kaniho also returned a blocked field goal 91 yards for a touchdown. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier returned from a two-game absence and completed 16-of-28 passes for 202 yards and a five-yard touchdown pass to Riley Smith. Bachmeier is 36-of-56 for 470 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in just two games this year.

The Broncos had 14 players unavailable against Colorado State because of COVID-19 protocols. Nine players have tested positive while five more had to sit out the game because of contact tracing.

The Wolf Pack rallied from an early 10-0 deficit to beat No. 10 New Mexico (0-3, 0-3) at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

Nevada’s path to victory was a familiar one as quarterback Carson Strong tossed three touchdown passes to wide receiver Romeo Doubs of 33, 61 and 59 yards.

Doubs, who also caught three touchdown passes the week before against Utah State, became just the second Wolf Pack player in history to catch three touchdowns passes in consecutive games after Alex Van Dyke against UNLV and Louisiana Tech in 1995.

Strong was 24-of-38 for 336 yards and was intercepted for the first time this season. The sophomore went 299 passes in a row without being intercepted, falling just short of the Mountain West record of 306 set by Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr in 2013.

Strong, though, did set a Mountain West record by throwing for 300 or more yards in his sixth game in a row.

“It’s cool, I guess,” the Wolf Pack quarterback said of his record. “But I was disappointed in the way I played. I was disappointed in the way the offense in general functioned. It was definitely not our best effort.”

No. 3 San Jose State whipped UNLV 34-17 as quarterback Nick Starkel completed 19-of-28 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns. UNLV fell to 0-4 and remained at the bottom (No. 12) of the rankings.

San Jose State sacked UNLV quarterbacks Justin Rogers and Max Gilliam seven times and held Rebel running back Charles Williams to just 55 yards on 19 carries.

“We ran into a very good football team,” UNLV first-year head coach Marcus Arroyo said.

Arroyo used Gilliam in the first and fourth quarters and used Rogers in the second and third quarters. Rogers was 12-of-18 for 162 yards and a touchdown while Gilliam was 7-of-10 for 62 yards without a score. The Rebels also ran for just 70 yards on 36 carries.

“The quarterback rotation was planned,” said Arroyo, who coached current Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert last season as Oregon’s offensive coordinator. “There are some flashes there of good and some flashes of things we need to get better at.”

San Jose State is now 4-0 for the first time since 1955. The Spartans are also 4-0 in league play for the first time since 1991 in the Big West. Both of Starkel’s touchdown passes went to Bailey Gaither.

San Diego State (3-1, 3-1) pounded Hawaii 34-10 in Hawaii to remain at No. 4. The Aztecs rushed for 326 yards on 51 carries as Greg Bell picked up 145 yards on 19 carries. Jordan Byrd had a 51-yard touchdown run for the Aztecs.

“We (the Aztec running backs) are chasing each other,” Bell said. “When Jordan breaks a long one I go to him on the sideline and tell him, ‘I am going to get mine now.’ We try to match each other’s intensity.”

Hawaii (2-2, 2-2) fell to No. 8.

“It was a very poor effort, very poor coaching,” Hawaii coach Todd Graham said. “We just could not do anything well.”

San Diego State sacked Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro seven times and had 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

“Their defense just dominated us on offense,” Graham said. “Their guys on their defensive line are very athletic, very explosive and were very disruptive.”

San Diego State was coming off a 28-17 loss to San Jose State.

“I liked how we came out,” Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said. “We just went about our business.”

Aztecs’ quarterback Carson Baker, a sophomore, was just 4-of-13 for 30 yards and two interceptions.

“We have to go back to the drawing board,” Hoke said of the Aztecs’ passing offense. “We like our quarterbacks (Baker and Lucas Johnson) and trust them.”

Johnson is a junior transfer from Georgia Tech. He attempted just 37 passes in three years at Georgia Tech.

“We have to go back and see what Carson does well and what Lucas does well and continue to evolve,” Hoke said.

Fresno State (3-1, 3-1) stayed at No. 5 with a convincing 35-16 win over No. 11 Utah State (0-4, 0-4). Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers gained 126 yards on 25 carries and also scored a touchdown for the 12th game in a row. Rivers tied Fresno State’s career touchdown record of 44, set by Anthony Daigle from 1991-93.

Jake Haener passed for 422 yards and four touchdowns (Jalen Cropper caught 10 passes for 202 yards and three scores) and became the first Fresno State quarterback to pass for 400 or more yards in a game since Carr in 2013.

Utah State’s Jaylen Warren had an 86-yard touchdown run to give the Aggies a 7-0 lead. Savon Scarver returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and a 13-7 Utah State lead late in the first quarter.

The game was the first for Utah State this season without head coach Gary Andersen, who resigned after a 34-9 loss to the Wolf Pack on Nov. 5. Frank Maile is serving as the Aggies’ interim head coach.

“We have to be better,” Maile said. “We have to be better coaches.”

Utah State offensive coordinator Bodie Reeder and co-defensive coordinator Stacy Collins also missed the Fresno State game because they tested positive for COVID-19.

There will be two key games in the Mountain West on Saturday that could shake up the top half of the league standings: San Diego State will be at Nevada and San Jose State will be at Fresno State. The top two teams (according to league record) will meet in the Mountain West title game on Dec. 19.

The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West football rankings:

1. NEVADA (4-0, 4-0): Last week: Nevada 27, New Mexico 20. This week: San Diego State at Nevada, Saturday.

2. BOISE STATE (3-1, 3-0): Last week: Boise State 52, Colorado State 21. This week: Boise State at Hawaii, Saturday.

3. SAN JOSE STATE (4-0, 4-0): Last week: San Jose State 34, UNLV 17. This week: San Jose State at Fresno State, Saturday.

4. SAN DIEGO STATE (3-1, 3-1): Last week: San Diego State 34, Hawaii 10. This week: San Diego State at Nevada, Saturday.

5. FRESNO STATE (3-1, 3-1): Last week: Fresno State 35, Utah State 16. This week: San Jose State at Fresno State, Saturday.

6. WYOMING (1-2, 1-2): Last week: Air Force at Wyoming, canceled because of a coronavirus outbreak near the Air Force Academy. This week: Utah State at Wyoming, Thursday.

7. COLORADO STATE (1-2, 1-2): Last week: Boise State 52, Colorado State 21. This week: UNLV at Colorado State, Saturday.

8. HAWAII (2-2, 2-2): Last week: San Diego State 34, Hawaii 10. This week: Boise State at Hawaii, Saturday.

9. AIR FORCE (1-2, 0-2). Last week: Air Force at Wyoming, canceled because of a coronavirus outbreak near the Air Force Academy. This week: New Mexico at Air Force, Friday.

10. NEW MEXICO (0-3, 0-3): Last week: Nevada 27, New Mexico 20. This week: New Mexico at Air Force, Friday.

11. UTAH STATE (0-4, 0-4). Last week: Fresno State 35, Utah State 16. This week: Utah State at Wyoming, Thursday.

12. UNLV (0-4, 0-4): Last week: San Jose State 34, UNLV 17. This week: UNLV at Colorado State, Saturday.