MWC Week Wrap: Week #9

Nine weeks into the season, the Mountain West Conference has its first bowl eligible team and three teams within one win of qualifying for postseason play. There is also a clear-cut leader in the conference standings with BYU two games ahead of the rest of the pack.

BYU 33, Air Force 14.

The Cougars, playing with increasing confidence, put together a complete game, dominating their hosts and making it look like just another day at the office. The defense held Air Force to just 190 rushing yards, 229 total yards and 16 first downs. After an impressive 14-play drive to open the game, Air Force seemed ready to answer, driving to the BYU 31 where they faced a fourth and three. Fullback Jacobe Kendrick was stuffed after a yard then fumbled and the drive was over.

The Cougars picked up 31 yards before being forced to punt, but five plays later Falcon quarterback Shaun Carney was hit by Bryan Kehl and the ball fluttered downfield where Aaron Wagner made a diving interception. The turnover lead to BYU's second touchdown. Air Force was never in the game again, as BYU opened a 24-0 lead in the third quarter before the Falcons could get on the board. Even then, Beck answered by leading a 94-yard drive that extinguished all hope.

The senior quarterback had another superb outing, completing 23 of 31 passes for three touchdowns, the last coming on a heady play in which he scrambled to his left and, while in the grasp of an Air Force defender, shot-putted the ball to Fui Vakapana. Ten Cougars caught passes, while Vakapuna rushed 12 times for 52 yards, Curtis Brown 10 times for 42, and the team picked up 153 to close with 411 total yards.

The win leaves BYU alone atop the conference, while the Falcons' hope of staying in the conference race all but ended.

Next up: For BYU, a Saturday evening game at Colorado State. For Air Force, at Army.

New Mexico 20, Colorado State 19.

In a major loss for the Cougars' next opponent, New Mexico scored ten unanswered fourth quarter points – the last coming on a 33-yard Kenny Byrd field goal with no time remaining – to pull a mild upset over the Rams in Fort Collins. In reality, neither team is particularly good this year, but Lobo fans have cause to be excited by redshirt freshman quarterback Donovan Porterie, who has now delivered three straight come-from-behind wins.

Ram quarterback Kaleb Hanie threw a critical interception as time expired in the third quarter, giving the Lobos the spark they needed after squandering an early 10-0 lead. Trailing 19-10, New Mexico threw the ball into the end zone on the next play. The Rams missed a field goal attempt on their next drive. A 63-yard Lobo drive clinched the win.

The loss ended all practical hopes of the Rams sharing the conference crown, and with BYU, Utah and TCU still on their schedule, it will be an uphill climb just for CSU to avoid a losing season.

Coupled with the Wyoming and Air Force losses, New Mexico is suddenly in a four-way tie for second. At 5-4 the Lobos can dream of a bowl game, and ending the season at San Diego State is a probable sixth win, but to make that bowl the Lobos will likely have to beat either TCU at home in two weeks or BYU in Provo the following week. Neither win is likely. The silver lining for the Lobos is that the brand new New Mexico Bowl may want to take a bowl eligible Lobo team over another MWC team with a better record.

Next up: For New Mexico, a bye, followed by TCU. For Colorado State, BYU.

Utah 45, UNLV 23.

It was not even that close as the Utes took a 45-6 lead into the fourth quarter. Two quick scores brought the Rebels to 45-15 with nearly ten minutes to play, before their final score came with 2:21 left.

Utah kept its slim title hopes alive while UNLV fell to 1-7. More realistically, can Kyle Whittingham pull a Ron McBride by salvaging a year with late season wins? A relatively weak Colorado State team comes to town in two weeks, after which the Utes must travel to Air Force before hosting BYU. Winning one of three will be enough to make them bowl eligible, but if that one win is not over BYU, Whittingham will be on the hot seat, having gone 12-11 in two regular seasons at the helm.

Next up: For Utah, a bye, followed by a trip to Colorado State. For UNLV, TCU.

TCU 26, Wyoming 3.

Wyoming's resurgence came to a screeching halt in Fort Worth, where the Horned Frogs, despite three turnovers, easily handled the visitors. Although their defense gave up 422 yards, the Cowboys did not break, holding the Frogs to 12 points through nearly three quarters, but could muster only a field goal themselves. Wyoming will likely pick up two more conference wins versus San Diego State and UNLV, but a likely loss at BYU would leave them at 6-6 and out of the bowl picture.

TCU is 5-2 and will likely win at least four of its last five games and will see post-season play. Any share of the conference crown, however, would require the Frogs to win them all and BYU to stumble not once, but twice.

Next up: For Wyoming, San Diego State. For TCU, at UNLV.

San Diego State 14, Cal Poly 16.

In another embarrassment for the MWC, the Aztecs managed to lose at home to a Division I-AA opponent. One who, by the way, lost last week to South Dakota State. It is also worth mentioning that South Dakota State put up more first downs and more total offense on the Mustangs than the Aztecs.

On the bright side for SDSU, the game was at home, so no one saw it.

Next up: at TCU.

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