MWC Wrap: Week 6

Every Mountain West team was in action this week, with all but one school taking on a conference opponent. Three teams are 2-0 in the MWC and three teams are 0-2. The big surprise so far is that 2005 conference champion TCU falls into the latter group. Also of note is that Colorado State is the only one-loss team remaining in the conference.

BYU 47, San Diego State 17

It was over almost before it started, with the Cougars scoring 20 points in each of the first two quarters. If the win was not already salted away, it was when Dustin Gabriel picked off a Kevin Craft pass and returned it 38 yards for a score with 8: 13 remaining in the first half. BYU ran only 58 plays to crank out 40 offensive points, while the Aztecs ran 70 plays and appeared to dominate time of possession 38:55 to 21:05, but the reality was the Cougars moved the ball with such ease that it took few plays to get the job done.

John Beck was efficient, going 16-21 for 267 yards and four touchdowns before being pulled in the third quarter. Curtis Brown averaged just over four yards per carry on 11 tries, while Fui Vakapuna had 56 yards on just four attempts. It was not all smooth sailing, however, as the kicking game had problems with an extra point being blocked and another was simply missed. Against a good team, that will hurt, as it did twice this year already. The defense, which had its way in the first half, was fits and starts in the third quarter, allowing two Aztec touchdowns even though the Cougar starters were still in place.

Watching the game left the impression that BYU barely broke a sweat. It causes one to wonder whether this time the program is on a solid path eventually leading back to its prime. It feels like the players' confidence is returning. Not merely confidence that their team is superior to this week's opponent, but a deep and abiding confidence in their system, their program, their coaches, and their teammates.

The very best thing about this week's game, however, may be the bye week that follows. Beck, showing increased mobility after ankle injuries, will have two weeks to rest and recuperate, as will others of the walking wounded. If the Cougars can get past UNLV at home in two weeks, it will set up an exciting home stretch: at Air Force, at Colorado State, Wyoming and New Mexico at home, and the clincher at Utah. Stay tuned.

Next up: For BYU a bye, followed UNLV. For SDSU, Air Force.

Utah 20, TCU 3

Last year the loser of the BYU-TCU game was dinged up both physically and mentally, staggering desultorily through a road loss the following week, while the winner swept the conference schedule to capture the crown. This year it was TCU's turn to suffer, in a Thursday night game. Utah rebounded from a blowout loss to Boise State to down a depleted Horned Frog squad. Jeff Ballard, still nursing a sore should from the BYU game, was ineffective, going 4 for 10 before aggravating the injury and being pulled in favor of Marcus Jackson. TCU was also without leading rusher Aaron Brown and it showed, as they gained only 81 yards on 31 attempts. Throw three lost fumbles into the mix and you have an easy win for the home team. The Utes remain tied with BYU and Air Force for the conference lead.

Next up: For Utah, at Wyoming. For TCU, at New Mexico.

Air Force 17, Navy 24

This one wasn't quite as close as the score indicated. Taking a page from the Falcons' book, Navy played ball control and played it well, grinding out 317 yards on the ground and attempting only six passes on their way to rolling up a nearly 10-minute edge in time of possession. Air Force scored twice in the final 10 minute to pull within seven but could come no closer. Even three Navy turnovers were not enough to carry the day for the Falcons.

Next up: Colorado State.

Wyoming 14, New Mexico 10

The Cowboys finally won a close one for a change after losing four straight by a total of 21 points. A nine-play drive that began late in the third quarter proved to be the winner, as New Mexico had three fourth-quarter possessions that netted a total of only 47 yards. When Chris Nelson's pass on fourth and nine at the Wyoming 43 fell incomplete, the ‘Pokes were able to run out the clock and preserve the win. Three Cowboy turnovers kept it interesting, but were not enough to save the Lobos. Wyoming has a dismal record at 2-4 with its only previous win coming against hapless Utah State, but the ‘Pokes were right with Virginia, Boise State, Air Force and Syracuse at the end. A prepared Utah team will prevail, but Wyoming is good enough to beat the Utes if they do not bring their A-game.

Next up: For Wyoming, Utah. For New Mexico, at UNLV.

Colorado State 28, UNLV 7

We are used to seeing the Rebels play bad football, but the Rams matched them blow for blow in the first two quarters as the two teams managed only 14 first half points between them. The Rams snapped out of their funk in the third quarter, scoring two touchdowns and adding another in the fourth. For the game, UNLV eked out only 11 first downs and 170 total yards. Incredibly, this was the conference opener for the Rams, six weeks into the season.

Next up: For CSU, at Air Force Thursday night. For UNLV, New Mexico.

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