MWC Wrap: Week #5

The Mountain West Conference had another disappointing weekend. Conference teams went 3-6 overall, 1-4 in non-conference games, and 1-3 against the WAC. TCU — the team anointed by the conference to bring home big BCS bucks — also suffered its first loss of the season and dropped out of the top 25. At least BYU, Air Force and Colorado State fans left the weekend with something to be happy about.

BYU 31, TCU 17.

It was not necessarily a long shot, they said, merely unlikely. BYU still cannot beat the good teams, especially on the road. Too much lateral speed for the Cougars, they said. Defensive backs too quick for BYU receivers. Too little rest, too little time to prepare, while TCU had a full two weeks. Gary Patterson, the "mad scientist," would never again let the BYU offense march up and down the field, no sir. Not after last year. Jeff Ballard is undefeated as a starter. He destroyed BYU last year, even with no experience under his belt.

The Cougars forgot to listen to the naysayers. They never trailed on their way to tallying the biggest BYU win since New Year's Day, 1997. BYU controlled the momentum on both sides of the ball all night long. John Beck, practically wearing walking casts on both injured ankles, showed great courage, standing in the pocket until the last second time after time, completing the long balls, the check downs, and the third-and-longs.

Did someone say third and long? No problem. The Cougars converted 9 of 18 third downs, and were one for one on fourth down. Consider this: BYU converted third and long eight times, including third downs of nine and seven yards on their first scoring drive, eight yards on their second, six, nine and ten yards on their third, nine yards on their fourth, and sixteen yards on their final scoring drive.

The defense was outstanding, in particular the secondary, which repeatedly forced Ballard to throw the ball away, and even forced him into a grounding call. David Nixon laid the lumber on Ballard on the Frogs' first trip to the blue zone, causing a game-changing fumble, which BYU promptly took on an 82-yard drive for the game's first touchdown.

The win marked a major advance for Coach Mendenhall's defense as a whole and for Coach Jaime Hill's secondary in particular. BYU is in the thick of the early race for the conference title, with major showdowns with Air Force and Utah looming, barring further upsets.

Next up: SDSU.

Utah 3, Boise State 36.

The Utes, having renewed their confidence after the UCLA loss by dominating three weak opponents by a combined score of 131 to 14, promptly threw up all over themselves and the conference, getting dominated at home by an overrated Boise State squad. How bad was it? Utah managed only 127 rushing yards – and 52 passing yards. Starter Brett Ratliff completed just two more passes to his teammates than he did to opponents, playing just two and a half quarters before giving way to much-ballyhooed Oklahoma transfer Tommy Grady, who distinguished himself by completing three of six passes for 22 yards and one interception.

This one was ugly, folks, with the home fans booing coveted Coach Kyle Whittingham's defense before the half was over and quarterback Brett Ratliff in the second half. It was ugly as well for the Mountain West Conference, which strives in vain to demonstrate its superiority to other BCS wannabe conferences.

Next up: TCU.

Air Force 24, New Mexico 7.

The Falcons maintained sole possession of first place in the MWC and never trailed the visiting Lobos. New Mexico, trailing 14-7 late in the third, elected to run the ball on fourth and inches at the Air Force 41 yard line, but got stuffed, leading to the drive that put the game away. New Mexico helped the Falcons out with three turnovers.

Next up: for Air Force, versus Navy. For New Mexico, versus Wyoming.

Wyoming 34, Syracuse 40.

The Cowboys traveled to New York and outplayed Syracuse in every way except on the scoreboard. 29 first downs to 15, 339 passing yards to 124, 183 rushing yards to 152. Unfortunately, the ‘Pokes were also whistled for 10 penalties, gave up four turnovers and have now lost four straight games by a total of 21 points. The feeling lingers, however, that Wyoming will make some noise in the conference, beginning next week.

Next up: at New Mexico.

Colorado State 35, Fresno State 23.

CSU showed its mettle, traveling to Fresno and coming back from a 17-14 halftime deficit to win going away. The Rams scored three unanswered second half touchdowns to salt the game away before giving up a late Bulldog score on a blocked punt that was returned 15 yards for a score. Are the Rams a contender? Having beaten only I-AA Weber State, hapless Colorado and a now 1-3 FSU squad, it is too early to say. They will not be tested until they travel to Air Force in two weeks.

Next up: UNLV.

UNLV 3, Nevada 31.

The Rebels finally made a statement – for the WAC, that is. If a game can look worse than getting blown out 31-3 at home, this one did. UNLV did not score until Sergio Aguayo hit a 21-yard field goal with 4:49 remaining in the game, a field goal which was attempted solely to avert the added embarrassment of being shut out by an in-state rival. The Rebels managed only 74 rushing yards and turned the ball over four times.

Next up: at Colorado State.

SDSU 10, San Jose State 31.

The Spartans had no problem with the Aztecs, doubling their first downs and nearly doubling their total offense. The season is now officially over for winless San Diego State.

Next up: at BYU.

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