MWC Week #2 Wrap

In addition to there being several notable out-of-conference matchups, four different Mountain West Conference teams opened up conference play during the second week of the 2008 college football season.

#15 BYU 28, Washington 27

The Dream lives, but barely. For the second straight game against a Pac-10 opponent, the Cougars preserved a win with a blocked kick. Last time it was Eathyn Manumaleuna getting half a hand on Kai Forbath's field goal attempt on the final play of the Las Vegas Bowl against UCLA. This week Jan Jorgensen blocked a Husky PAT that would have forced overtime.

College football is largely about eliminating mistakes and the team that best does so greatly enhances its chances of winning. In the first week of the season, numerous mistakes weren't enough to derail the Cougar Express against an FCS foe. The mistakes were down this week, but by barely enough to win. Eight penalties dropped to seven, and only six that really mattered. Four turnovers declined to two. Although the defense gave up more points, it was against a far better opponent. Total yardage was also down, but still impressive at 475 yards. Even better, the running game showed up, as the Cougars outgained the Huskies on the ground 137 to 133, despite seven fewer attempts. How was Washington able to stay in the game? Easy as one, two, three. First, the Huskies had no turnovers all afternoon. Second, they had only one penalty until the last two minutes of the game. Third, they have a punter who can actually punt. He averaged more than 47 yards per attempt.

Despite the improvement, there were still too many errors for this team to beat UCLA. The punting game was woeful, averaging only 27.5 yards. Both Washington's first-half touchdowns came after poor punts of 31 and 24 yards. UCLA has a better defense than Washington, ergo, it's likely BYU will have to punt more than twice. Is Santiago up to it?

Ball security was better, but still a problem. Although BYU lost only one fumble and one interception, both cost the Cougars points. Penalties were down slightly, but were still too numerous to beat good teams. The defense was better than last week but needs more work, especially after losing converted linebacker Vic So'oto. Kevin Craft is a more accurate passer than Jake Locker, albeit one who won't beat you with his legs. Locker missed several open receivers, especially on deep balls. Craft won't. Better coverage is absolutely critical.

Max Hall shone again, completing nearly 75 percent of his attempts for 338 yards and three touchdowns, but threw his first interception of the season. Aided by Fui Vakapuna's blocking, Harvey Unga picked up 136 rushing yards in only 23 attempts for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. Dennis Pitta had another stellar game, catching 10 balls for 148 yards and one score.

BYU jumped out to a lead, driving the field on its first possession, but the next two ended in bad BYU punts, enabling Washington to score twice to take a 14-7 lead. The Cougars answered in a long drive that was notable for three Austin Collie drops, which the offense overcame when Hall found Andrew George. The half ended after BYU stopped a Husky drive with 2:25 left, but couldn't mount one of their own when Hall underthrew Pitta, resulting in an interception at the Washington 30.

Washington received to open the second half and put together an impressive drive, chewing up half the quarter in the process to take their second – and last – lead of the game. The Cougars answered when Vakapuna fought his way into the end zone from 11 yards out. The defense held the Huskies and BYU was on the verge of retaking the lead when Unga fumbled at the Husky 4. Despite the setback the defense held again, the offense regrouped, and the Cougars took the lead for good when Hall found Pitta in the end zone with 3:31 left.

Now the Cougars needed only one stop to seal the win, but Washington converted fourth-and-10, then second-and-19, to get within a point. Locker was flagged for tossing the ball in the air after the score, and the 15-yard penalty resulted in line of scrimmage being the 18 instead of the 3-yard line on the PAT.

Next up: versus UCLA, in Norm Chow's homecoming.

#22 Utah 42, UNLV 21

The hottest team in the Mountain West hosted UNLV for their home opener and gave the home crowd something to cheer about, exploding for 21 third-quarter points to break a halftime tie. Lots of mistakes by UNLV made the likely outcome guaranteed. Twelve Rebel penalties helped the Utah case.

In a bit of role reversal, Utah running back Matt Asiata, injured in Utah's opener last year, lined up at quarterback and threw a perfect 32-yard scoring strike to Jereme Brooks. Earlier, quarterback Brian Johnson turned a broken play into a 56-yard scoring run.

Utah piled up 440 yards of offense while holding UNLV to 288.

Next up: for Utah, at Utah State. For UNLV, at Arizona State.

Texas A&M 28, New Mexico 22

Donovan Porterie staked the Aggies to a 14-0 lead with two first-quarter interceptions, and the Lobos further hurt their cause with two fumbles. Although they outgained A&M 370 to 236, they were unable to overcome their own mistakes.

Next up: versus Arizona.

TCU 67, Stephen F. Austin 7

TCU had no problem with an FCS foe, rolling up 525 yards of offense and 29 first downs while scooping up four Lumberjack turnovers.

Next up: versus Stanford.

Air Force 23, Wyoming 3

In Laramie the Cowboys relived last year's nightmare losses as they turned the ball over five times. Quarterback Dax Crum put it down twice in the first half, snuffing drives both times, and the second time setting up the only score of the first half, a 40-yard Ryan Harrison field goal. Things went from bad to worse in the second half, as Air Force had two scoring drives of less than 30 yards thanks to Wyoming's generosity.

Next up: for Air Force, at Houston. For Wyoming, versus FCS North Dakota State.

Colorado State 23, Sacramento State 20

The Rams needed two field goals from true freshman Ben DeLine in the last 89 seconds – the second as time expired – to defeat the FCS Hornets. Trailing 17-20, the Rams looked to be in control of their destiny needing only a touchdown to win, and they had a very comfortable 10:03 to do it in. Problem was, they used 8:34 merely to get a tying field goal. Overtime looked certain until Sac State coughed up the ball on the second play of the next possession at their own 25. Three Gartrell Johnson carries led the Rams to the Hornet 3-yard line with two seconds left and DeLine came through for the victory.

Next up: a bye week, followed by a visit from the Houston Cougars on September 20.

Notre Dame 21, San Diego State 13

The Aztecs took a 13-7 lead into the fourth quarter, aided by Notre Dame miscues, but when the Irish got the kinks out they pulled away for the win. SDSU acquitted itself well, picking up 19 first downs to Notre Dame's 20 and outgaining the hosts 345 to 342.

Next up: at San Jose State.


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