WAC commissioner likes bowl prospects
Appeal Sports Writer
Karl Benson, the Western Athletic Conference commissioner, said he had discussions over the weekend with bowl directors from the newly created Poinsettia Bowl and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl over the weekend.
Both bowl games have at-large slots, and Benson said that both executive directors were tracking the progress of WAC teams. Boise State lost a thriller to Louisville last year in the Liberty Bowl.
The WAC has just two bowl games this year because the Silicon Valley Football Classic was decertified. The WAC has tie-ins with the MPC Computer Bowl and the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl. The winner will gets its choice of games.
“I’m confident that we will have three or four bowl-eligible teams,” Benson said during the WAC weekly teleconference on Monday.
When asked for a percentage of how sure he was that all eligible bowl teams would be placed, Benson said it was too early to say, but that the next two or three weeks would be critical.
Hawai’i (1-4 overall, 1-2 WAC) has seven games left and must win six of those to become bowl eligible. Included in its remaining schedule are home games with Fresno State and Wisconsin. Simply put, Hawai’i is in severe danger of not making its own bowl game for the first time in many years.
Benson said previously that the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl would “have to stand on its own.”
Louisiana Tech’s Moqut Ruffins and Utah State’s Kevin Robinson were named the WAC’s XBox Live defensive and special teams players of the week.
Nevada’s J.J. Mitchell was named the top offensive player (see related story).
Robinson returned a punt 87 yards for the game’s first score in Utah State’s 24-17 win over San Jose State. He finished the day with six punt returns for 105 yards and he caught five passes for 91 yards and two scores.
Ruffins had two sacks for minus-21 yards in Fresno State’s 46-14 thrashing of Hawai’i. Ruffins and the rest of the Bulldogs defense held Hawai’i to 280 yards, nearly 160 yards below the Rainbows’ average. Ruffins also recovered a fumble, leading to a Tech first-half field goal.
Here’s a team-by-team look around the WAC:
HAWAII (1-4, 1-2)
Coach June Jones admitted that his team, particularly the defense, may have taken a step backwards last weekend in a 46-14 loss against Louisiana Tech.
“We had played better defense until last weekend,” Jones said. “We had showed a lot of emotion and energy. We lost Mel Purcell (down lineman) and we were banged up in a couple of other spots. They had some big bodies that leaned on you. We didn’t do a good job of stopping the run. We made their backs (Mark Dillard, Freddie Franklin and Patrick Jackson) better than they are.”
Jones said the offense continues to have growing pains, but has improved every game, particularly quarterback Colt Brennan.
LOUISIANA TECH (2-2, 2-0)
After season-opening losses to Florida and Kansas, coach Jack Bicknell said it was too early to evaluate his team’s running game.
With two WAC games under his belt, Bicknell likes what he sees from sophomore Mark Dillard (48-276-3), sophomore Freddie Franklin (36-174-2) and true freshman Patrick Jackson (30-139-1).
“I’m very impressed with all of them,” Bicknell said. “They are all getting better. The true freshman (Jackson) hasn’t had a chance for a whole lot of carries. It’s hard to separate them. All of them deserve to play. I’m not worried about having to rotate all three of them in.”
So, who decides how the playing time is split up?
“I leave it to the running backs coach,” Bicknell said. “Freddie and Mark are the two older guys and they get more reps. Last week it ended up 15 (Dillard), 15 (Franklin) and 14 (Jackson). Mark hurt his back in the second half. He’ll be OK. It wasn’t a big deal.”
NEW MEXICO STATE (0-6, 0-2)
The Aggies lost 37-7 to Fresno State last weekend, as rain made it tough to throw the ball effectively.
“We just had too many turnovers,” New Mexico State first-year coach Hal Mumme said.
The rain was the first the football Aggies had to deal with since 1993. Jimmy Cottrell became the sixth all-time leading tackler in school history. The Aggies went scoreless in the first quarter for the fifth time in six weeks.
UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY (2-2, 1-1)
Aggies’ first-year head coach Brent Guy was waiting for a breakout game from Kevin Robinson, and he finally got one with his three-touchdown performance this weekend.
And Guy expects the Fresno, Calif., native to be fired up when the Aggies visit Fresno State. Robinson went to Hoover High School, which is about a half-mile from the university campus.
“I sure hope so,” said Guy, who said all his California players were excited about playing in front of family and friends. “He (Robinson) made his reputation a year ago as a kick returner. We’re trying to find more ways to get him more into the offense. We have to find more ways to get Robinson and Tony Pennyman the ball.”
Guy has number problems in Logan. He has only 70 scholarship players, and he had to rebuild the depth with his first recruiting class, which included 24 freshmen out of 26 signees.
“We have 18 freshmen which is good for the future, but tough for the coaches,” Guy said. “The two classes in front of me had a lot of JC kids in it. Some have left because they don’t want to be associated with a losing program or for academics.”
IDAHO (1-5, 1-2)
The Vandals have a bye week, and Holt intimated after last weekend’s 62-14 loss to Nevada, that he might practice every day.
“We didn’t play very well from the beginning,” Holt said. “We were really inconsistent. We dropped some balls (five in the first half) and didn’t do a good job defensively on third down.
“We had good practices through Thursday. Something happened the last 48 hours before the game. That’s our fault as coaches. The kids have to take some responsibility, but we are the adults.
Holt was ticked at the missed tackles, especially on Mitchell’s two long runs.
“We had a fifth-year senior run around a block,” Holt said. “On the other long run, one of our linebackers fell down in the hole and missed the tackle.”
SAN JOSE STATE (1-4, 0-2)
The Spartans are a team that has gotten off to slow starts most of the season, scoring just 28 first-quarter points while allowing 69. In the first halves of games, San Jose State has been outscored 113-59.
“Obviously we’re not as productive,” coach Dick Tomey admitted. “Against San Diego State we started well offensively, but didn’t play well defensively. The Nevada game we didn’t do well either way (trailed 20-0 at half). We just need to start out faster.”
Also, Tomey said they are still searching for a productive running back.
‘We’re still searching (for a productive guy),” Tomey said. “Some of that has to come from the offensive line.”
BOISE STATE (3-2, 2-0)
Coach Dan Hawkins said the Broncos need to clean up their act after the Broncos barely squeezed by Division I-AA Portland State last week.
“We have too much water in our gas tank,” Hawkins said. “We have to do a better job of executing.
“Portland State ran the ball well and was very efficient. They did a good job on defense and special teams. We have to be ready to play. We have to play better to win this week.”
Hawkins said San Jose State has improved on both sides of the ball, and he said that Tomey’s defensive scheme could cause some problems.
FRESNO STATE (3-1, 1-0)
The Bulldogs , who host Utah State this week, barely missed cracking the top 25 in a couple of the polls, and they have their sights set on a WAC championship.
Coach Pat Hill liked the way his team handled the last road trip in a 37-7 win at New Mexico State.
“We had a lot of down time in El Paso before we bussed to Las Cruces,” said Hill, who thought his players handled the late start (8 p.m.) well. “The biggest thing is our maturity. We’ve started to grow as a program.”
For you trivia buffs, the Bulldogs are 20-4 since the Hawai’i game in 2003, and they have done it against good competition. Hill, who plays three or four BCS opponents every year, is still willing to take on all-comers, but admittedly he’s having a tougher time getting quality home games.
n Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or (775) 881-1281