MWC Wrap-up Week #10

The race for second place in the Mountain West officially began on Saturday after TCU knocked off Colorado State to clinch its first MWC title. The conference bowl picture will also come into focus over the next two weeks with four teams just one win away from bowl eligibility.

BYU 55, UNLV 14.

It took a while to get it going, but when the Cougars got in gear, the offensive results were nearly as prodigious as last week. The 29 first downs and 503 yards of total offense were far too much for the Rebels to overcome. UNLV coaches had vowed to shut down BYU's running game, turning the visitors into a one-dimensional threat, but three Cougar backs averaged over 4.3 yards per carry each, with Wayne Latu leading the way with 93 yards on 15 carries. Fahu Tahi added 62 yards on just 11 carries and Curtis Brown had 43 yards on 10 tries.

Quarterback John Beck completed 23 of 34 passes for 267 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Nine receivers shared the catches, with Todd Watkins leading the way with seven balls.

The defense looked better, limiting the Rebels to 331 total yards and sacking UNLV quarterback Jarrod Jackson three times. In a subtle but telling improvement, penalties were way down, only six for 50 yards, and BYU committed no turnovers. With that kind of discipline the Cougars will be tough to beat the rest of the year.

With the win, and Colorado State's loss to TCU, BYU moved into a tie for second place with the Rams. With one more win BYU can qualify for post-season play.

The win also gave head coach Bronco Mendenhall another first, a career win-loss record above .500.

Next up: for BYU, at Wyoming, then Utah at home. For UNLV, at TCU.

TCU 33, Colorado State 6.

It was billed as a slugfest for a share of the conference title, but the Horned Frogs did all the slugging, piling up 302 yards of offense by halftime and holding the Rams to 253 yards for the entire game. TCU, which this year made a living on close games and controversial calls in league play, left no doubt in this one, clinching the league title outright and improving to 9-1 with only UNLV left to play.

Next up: for TCU, versus UNLV. For CSU, SDSU at home, followed by a trip to Las Vegas.

Utah 43, Wyoming 13.

The Utes got their act together against the Cowboys, but it was a little more iffy than the final score indicated. After 25 minutes of play, the combined scoring consisted of four field goals and a 6-6 tie. Utah finally put together a drive to go up 13-6 with just over four minutes in the half. A shanked Cowboy punt gave the Utes the ball at their own 40, and six plays later Utah was up 20-6. Three second half turnovers by Wyoming handed the game to Utah. Only 39,000 showed up to watch the festivities.

Next up: for Utah, versus New Mexico. For Wyoming, versus BYU.

Army 27, Air Force 23.

The season of misery continued in Colorado Springs as the Falcons lost at home to an Army team that was 1-6 coming in. An Air Force fumble at the Army 48 with 55 seconds left cost the Falcons a chance to pull it out at the end.

New Mexico did not play. Next up: at Utah.

San Diego State did not play. Next up: at Colorado State.

Bowl Watch

In order of likelihood:

TCU improved to 9-1. A likely victory over UNLV next week would get the Horned Frogs to double digits in wins, and preserve a top-20 ranking. That would make TCU very attractive to the Liberty Bowl. Ft. Worth is less than nine hours by car from Memphis.

Colorado State fell to 5-4 but its last two games are against two of the three worst teams in the league, SDSU and UNLV, both at home. A 7-4 finish looks likely, and with it a trip to a bowl.

BYU is at 5-4 with two remaining. A win next week over free-falling Wyoming would mean a bowl trip. Should both Utah and BYU lose this week, however, the two bitter rivals would meet in Provo with each team's hopes for a winning year and a bowl trip riding on the outcome.

Utah breathed a sigh of relief after beating Wyoming to improve to 5-4. If the Utes can beat New Mexico at home this week – no simple feat – they are probably in, even if they should lose at Provo to finish the regular season.

New Mexico remains at 5-4 after a bye week with a trip to Salt Lake City this Saturday. It is a must-win for the Lobos, because 6-5 will not be enough to get them to the post-season. They must beat Utah this week, then Air Force at home to close the season, to have a serious shot at the post season.

At 4-5, Wyoming is quickly sliding off the bubble. They have lost any realistic shot at a bowl and can now say only that they are playing to salvage a winning season. Even that will not be easy as they host surging BYU this week and playing at mercurial SDSU to finish the year.

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