WAC coaches debate playing D I-AA teams
WAC coaches debate playing D I-AA teams
BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
When the NCAA allowed teams to play 12 regular-season games and to count one of them as a win every year, it was like opening Pandora’s Box.
There are approximately 70 Division I-A teams playing Division I-AA opponents this season, and Western Athletic Conference teams are involved in several of those match-ups this week.
New Mexico State hosts Southeastern Louisiana (Thursday), Boise State hosts Weber State (Thursday), Hawai’i hosts Northern Colorado (Saturday), Central Arkansas visits Louisiana Tech (Saturday) and Fresno State hosts Sacramento State (Saturday).
Much of the decision to play the games stems from scheduling issues. Teams like Boise State, Fresno, Hawai’i and Nevada have trouble getting nonconference games against Division I-A teams on a home-and-home basis. There are other programs that like to play Division I-AA teams in the first or second week of the season to get the kinks out.
“No question about it, with 12 games (allowed) that opened the door,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. Ault said it’s a good way to ensure an extra home game.
“I don’t even know why they have Division I-AA,” New Mexico State coach Hal Mumme said. “It’s not even called that anymore. At Southeastern Louisiana, we needed to play those games to pay for our program. I think they ought to quit paying attention to it.”
Fresno State coach Pat Hill has always tried to play the toughest schedule possible. Prior to this season, the only Division I-AA foes his teams have played were Weber State and Portland State.
“I’d rather play Division I-A schools,” Hill said. “We have a hard time getting teams to come here. It was great to get Sac State.”
Derek Dooley, the new Louisiana Tech coach, said he sees the issue from both sides.
“I can’t speak for everybody,” he said. “It’s good for I-AA teams. They can use it to see how they measure up. I think it’s good for college football. Other times there might be a good regional matchup. Central Arkansas has won eight games or more five of the last six seasons.”
Several teams have been hit hard with injuries within the last couple of weeks.
San Jose State lost back-up tailback Patrick Perry – who gained 454 yards and scored seven touchdowns last season – to a season-ending knee injury.
“It was a freak thing,” SJSU coach Dick Tomey said. “He twisted and then planted. I feel bad for Pat because he worked so hard. We have a number of backs that can play.”
Included in that group backing up Yonus Davis are sophomore Cameron Island, senior Dante Collins and Jacob French, who can also play wide receiver.
Meanwhile, Fresno State lost two starters recently – leading returning receiver Chastin West (33 catches, 365 yards, three TDs) and middle linebacker Ahijah Lane, who had 64 tackles last season.
Ben Jacobs, a redshirt freshman, will replace Lane, who ruptured both patellar tendons. Hill said he has three sophomores and three freshman competing for West’s position. West suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament.
Dooley reported that linebacker Brannon Jackson, who missed spring ball, still hasn’t returned. Starting guard David Accardo is week-to-week with a medial collateral ligament injury.
Nevada’s most serious injury was a broken foot suffered by center Dominic Green, who is expected to miss this week’s game at Nebraska and the second game at Northwestern.
Idaho linebacker David Vybora, one of the top defenders in the WAC, sprained his shoulder. Coach Robb Akey has held him out of contact so he can be ready for this week’s opener against USC.
IT’S LEON’S JOB AGAIN
Utah State’s Leon Jackson III, who lost his starting job to true freshman Riley Nelson last season, is back under center.
Jackson beat out junior JC transfer Sean Setzer, who was slowed by a tendon injury to his throwing arm.
“Leon had a good camp,” USU coach Brent Guy said. “He always pressed trying to make a big play. Sean missed a scrimmage and an entire week of practice. Jase McCormick is the best quarterback we have in terms of the run game (making reads), but doesn’t quite have the arm.”
Guy said that Darrell Dickey, the Aggies’ new offensive coordinator, has worked hard with Jackson, and the results have been positive
Guy said that he doesn’t plan on redshirting Setzer.
THE FIESTA BOWL?
Brent Pease, Boise State’s assistant head coach, said the team has done a good job of putting last year’s historic Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma behind it.
“We even had a ceremony that ended it,” Pease said. “The players were glad to participate. This team wants their own identity.”
Pease was asked if anything was burned.
“Maybe a Fiesta Bowl shirt,” Pease said.
Mumme took his team to Gallup for several days of practice.
“We get more work done,” Mumme said. “Gallup is 7,000 feet (elevation). The temperature is in the 80s .”
Mumme said it was 105 and 107 degrees in Las Cruces on two of the days that the squad practiced in Gallup, and that is the main reason he takes his team away.
“I like the camaraderie of it,” Mumme said.
The coach also said he likes the fact that his player’s minds are on football 24/7.
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Thursday: Southeastern Louisiana at New Mexico State; UNLV at Utah State; Weber State at Boise State.
Saturday: Nevada at Nebraska; Central Arkansas at Louisiana Tech; San Jose at Arizona State; Sacramento State at Fresno State; Idaho at USC; Northern Colorado at Hawai’i