The Cougars handed the Falcons a dose of reality. After opening with an easy win over a I-AA foe, Air Force caught Utah after the Utes' own tough opening loss, and while they were still reeling from the loss of quarterback Brian Johnson and running back Matt Asiata. Air Force came away from Salt Lake City with a narrow upset win. The following week the Falcons capitalized on late mistakes by TCU to upset the Horned Frogs in overtime. Suddenly, surprising Air Force was not only 3-0, but also led the conference after beating two of the supposed contenders.
Despite missing Austin Collie due to a high ankle sprain and Fui Vakapuna to a broken hand, it was nearly a complete game for the Cougars, as they rushed for 159 yards and passed for 293, posting 17 points in the first half while shutting out the Falcons. The defense came home, playing disciplined assignment football to hold Air Force to only 133 rushing yards and 12 first downs. The downside was still penalties (eight) and turnovers (two). A fumble caused by a blindside hit on Max Hall is getting to be a staple. This weakness alone could cost BYU much more than a turnover. It could end Hall's season, or even his career. It must be fixed.
Particular bright spots were Hall and Harvey Unga. It's hard to remember that Hall hadn't played a down of real football since high school until three weeks ago, and is still on the beginning slope of the learning curve. His first three games produced the most passing yards from any three consecutive games for any BYU quarterback. Unga became only the third freshman in BYU history to rush for multiple 100 yard games.
Special teams were improved, blocking an Air Force field goal and producing a rare touchback on a kickoff, but they still need work. In general, kickoff tackling was erratic, allowing several nice returns by the Falcons.
Utah 0, UNLV 27
Early in the second quarter, the Rebels uncharacteristically embarked on a 17-play, 83-yard drive that consumed 7:04 and put UNLV up 13-0. Utah answered by putting together a decent drive that could have drawn them to within one score, but killed themselves with a major penalty. It was to be a prototype of the Utes' night. After a scoreless third quarter, the Rebels tallied two fourth quarter touchdowns for the final margin.
Tommy Grady, who finally showed promise against UCLA last week, reverted to his old form, going 11 for 21 for only 117 yards and one interception before he was yanked in favor of Brian Johnson to start the second half. Johnson, who could have used another week or two of rest for his separated shoulder, was hardly better, going 12 for 19 for only 78 yards.
The Utes put together several long drives, only to see them snuffed by turnovers, penalties, or an inability to convert on fourth down. Utah took the second-half kickoff and, aided by two UNLV personal fouls, marched to a first-and-goal at the UNLV five. After a gain of two, a loss of two and an incomplete pass, Utah stood at the crossroads. Coach Kyle Whittingham opted to try for the touchdown instead of getting on the board, and Johnson was dropped for a loss of three. The Ute defense forced a three-and-out, but after taking possession at the UNLV 39, Utah again turned it over on downs and the game was effectively over.
TCU 21, SMU 7
In the battle for the Iron Skillet, the Mustangs scored first, but TCU followed with two non-offensive touchdowns – one off a blocked punt and the other of an interception - and a 16-play drive to take a 21-7 lead at halftime, and that was the game. Punters dominated the second half, kicking it away nine times, and SMU gave the ball up twice on turnovers and twice on downs in the second half.
Next up: Colorado State.
It's not often a team can turn the ball over seven times and win. Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Bobcats gave four of them back. Ohio led 10-6 after one quarter, 20-6 at the half, and 23-6 early in the third quarter, but Wyoming woke up and put four touchdowns on the board in the next 25 minutes, with the winning touchdown coming with 2:02 remaining. Karsten Sween completed 30 of 36 attempts, if you count the four he threw to the Bobcats.
Next up: a bye, followed by a visit from TCU.
Colorado State 27, Houston 38
The Rams looked likely to break a nine-game skid when they led 24-10 late in the third quarter, but Houston scored four touchdowns in the last 18 minutes.
Next up: at TCU.
New Mexico 58, Sacramento State 0
New Mexico prepped for a visit from BYU by tuning up with a I-AA opponent. The Lobos, now at 3-1, are for real and could easily be undefeated after losing only a close opener at UTEP, 10-6. Coach Rocky Long will be looking for his first win over former assistant Bronco Mendenhall, and you can bet all of New Mexico will be sky high. This is the biggest game on New Mexico's schedule this year, and they'll be after the Cougars with as much intensity as Tulsa was.
Next up: versus BYU.
San Diego State 52, Portland State 17
The I-AA Vikings traveled down the coast and kept it close until midway through the second quarter. Kevin O'Connell threw for 443 yards and five touchdowns. Kicker Garrett Palmer hit his 64th consecutive PAT.
Next up: versus Cincinnati.