MWC Week #3 Wrap

With a number of upsets and surprising outcomes in the Mountain West Conference during the third week of the season, the conference race is starting to appear wide open.

BYU 47, Tulsa 55

Tulsa pulled out all the stops, although it's not clear they would have had to, given all the help they had from BYU. A football team can be many things and still be successful, but undisciplined isn't one of them. A lack of discipline is telling because it's entirely within a team's own control. Physical skills are a gift and can be further developed only within limits, but discipline is a matter of choice. Every player chooses the degree of self-control he will exercise, and there was precious little shown by the Cougars in Tulsa.

Fake punts, end-arounds, passes off the end-around, reverses, throws back to the quarterback, and more all ran the Cougar defense dizzy. Dizzying also were the mistakes made by BYU. Start with14 penalties for 138 yards. Include in that total back-to-back false starts by Travis Bright after the Cougars appeared poised to send the game to overtime with a first down at the Tulsa 12 yard line with just over two minutes remaining. Add four turnovers, three by Max Hall, including an interception returned for a touchdown to open the second half and hand control of the game back to Tulsa. Next come two missed extra points, and a field goal attempt that fell well short, by guest-kicker-of-the-week Brian Smith. Finally, throw in the BYU secondary being constantly embarrassed.

After taking, then losing, the early lead, BYU appeared to have regained control of the game as the first half wound down, coming from behind to take a 34-31 lead and stopping Tulsa's last possession of the half. It quickly unraveled in the third quarter as the Golden Hurricane scored 14 points in the first five minutes of the second half and never trailed again.

In an odd way, it was the good ol' days - and bad ol' days - all over again. A potent Cougar offense had no trouble moving the ball up and down the field, and even putting it in the end zone, but a lack of discipline was plainly evident in the number and type of penalties. The defensive backs were torched by a competent offense. Sound familiar? If last week's loss to UCLA was similar to the 2006 loss to Boston College, this one was painfully reminiscent of the 1993 loss to Utah State, 58-56.

The Golden Hurricane had a bye week after an opening day win, and used it to good effect to prepare for the Cougar defense. Credit goes to their coaches. BYU was mentally unprepared to play at all, and defensively unprepared for Tulsa. That also lies squarely on the Cougar coaches.

Special teams showed partial improvement, as Austin Collie had several nice returns and C.J. Santiago's punting was better. Placekicking was an Achilles' heel again, however. After three games, the Cougars appear doomed to suffer a high school-level kicking game this season. Good showings against Arizona and UCLA now mean nothing, and the defense is back to square one.

Next up: versus undefeated Air Force.

Utah 44, UCLA 6

Game ball to the Utes. What a difference a week makes. Utah made enough adjustments on offense to turn Tommy Grady into an actual quarterback. UCLA, playing outside the comfy confines of Pac-10 officiating for the first time this year, was flagged ten times and also committed five turnovers. The Utes beat UCLA for the first time. Ever.

Next up: at UNLV.

Air Force 20, TCU 17 (OT)

TCU was the better team and led early in the fourth quarter 17-3, but Air Force came to play and the Horned Frogs made enough mistakes to leave the door open, including a crucial turnover late in regulation.

A 50-yard Shaun Carney to Travis Dekker run-pass play brought Air Force to within a touchdown halfway through the fourth quarter. After TCU went three-and-out, Jim Ollis busted a 71-yard run for the tying score. TCU had the win in its grasp with a first down at the Falcon 21 with 54 seconds left, but instead of playing for a safe field goal, the Frogs threw the ball into the end zone on the next play, where it was intercepted.

TCU had first possession in overtime but could pick up only six yards, and Chris Manfredeni missed a 36-yard field goal attempt. On their possession the Falcons picked up 11 yards on their first play, then ran it into the middle of the field to set up a kick and hit the winning field goal on third down.

Next up: for Air Force, at BYU. For TCU, versus SMU.

Wyoming 14, Boise State 24

You know how some games are closer than the score indicates? This was not that game. The Broncos took a 21-0 lead into the fourth quarter and held it until 9:18 remained. The Cowboys managed a touchdown at that point, but Boise State answered with a field goal, and the game was over. Wyoming's final touchdown was meaningless, coming with 53 seconds left.

Next up: at Ohio.

UNLV 14, #24 Hawaii 49

The Rebels had high hopes after winning their opener and nearly upsetting Wisconsin last week. The teams were tied 7-7 at the end of the first quarter, but hope alone does not avail. The Warriors easily outdistanced UNLV the rest of the way.

Next up: versus Utah.

New Mexico 29, Arizona 27

In a cross-desert rivalry, the two teams were evenly matched. New Mexico had 24 first downs and 421 yards of offense. Arizona had 25 first downs and 484 yards of offense. The game-winning margin came, oddly enough, on an intentional grounding call in the end zone against Wildcat quarterback Willie Tuitama, giving the Lobos two points and the ball. When New Mexico took the ensuing possession to the end zone, Arizona was in trouble.

The win comes as welcome news for coach Rocky Long, as the natives were getting restless in Albuquerque. It's also bad news for coach Mike Stoops, whose natives are even more restless. With consecutive losses to Mountain West foes, and the Cats' only win having come against I-AA Northern Arizona, his fate is sealed.

Next up: versus I-AA Sacramento State.

San Diego State 13, Arizona State 34

The Aztecs kept it close until the waning seconds of the first half when they gave up a long pass for a touchdown to move the score to 24-10. When the Sun Devils took the first possession of the second half in for a score, the game was over.

Next up: versus I-AA Portland State.

Colorado State did not play. The Rams travel to Houston next week.

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