Mountain West Conference Preview Week 7

Biggest MWC to this point goes down on Saturday as Air Force takes on TCU. Get the inside slant on all things Mountain West here...

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AIR FORCE
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INSIDE SLANT

Injuries are starting to take a toll on Air Force.

Two weeks ago against Colorado State, the Falcons lost two defensive starters. In a 27-25 loss to San Diego State on Saturday, the offense took two major hits.

Fullback Jared Tew injured the fibula in his right leg and will miss at least six weeks, coach Troy Calhoun said, which would put him out through the regular season. Receiver Zack Kauth also was injured, hurting his ankle. Kauth could miss three weeks, Calhoun said. Kauth was replacing injured starter Kevin Fogler, who is out until mid-November with a knee injury.

The biggest loss so far is Tew, who was on pace to become the first Air Force tailback in 21 years to rush for 1,000 yards.

"(The offense) does suffer, and I would lie if I said it didn't," quarterback Tim Jefferson said. "But Nathan Walker is a good fullback himself."

Walker will replace Tew in the starting lineup. As a senior, Walker brings experience, and he is a hard runner. But Tew, a preseason first-team All-Mountain West selection, will be tough to replace.

Tew's strengths fit the position very well. He is elusive on dives and triple-option handoffs, so he could often find a small crease and turn it into significant yardage. And although he isn't very big, he could usually keep his legs moving and pick up extra yards, especially in short-yardage situations.

Kauth is also a big loss, because now the Falcons are getting thin at receiver. Kauth had done a nice job replacing Fogler, who is second in school history in yards per reception. Brandon Hirneise might be the starter at that spot; he had just one catch for 9 yards coming into the San Diego State game.

The previous week against Colorado State, Air Force lost starting nose guard Ryan Gardner for a few weeks to a groin injury, and safety Brian Lindsay, perhaps for the rest of the season, with a broken clavicle.

NOTES, QUOTES

--In Air Force's 27-25 loss to San Diego State, there was one call the Falcons disagreed with, and the call might have cost them the game.

On a two-point conversion attempt with 2:08 left, Asher Clark caught a pass, turned and seemed to carry a defender with him into the end zone to tie the game. Upon replay review, officials ruled that Clark's knee touched the ground before he got into the end zone.

"I don't feel it was (down)," Clark said. "But that's not how they saw it; that's not how it was called."

--Against the Aztecs, coach Troy Calhoun went for a two-point conversion with 18 minutes left in the game. The Falcons didn't get the conversion, which would have cut San Diego State's lead to 17-14.

That missed point was important later in the game, when the Falcons had to go for two points to tie after a late touchdown. The attempt failed.

"We hadn't scored a lot of touchdowns," Calhoun said about going for two in the third quarter. "You thought it perhaps could come down to hitting a field goal."

--Air Force's defense couldn't get a stop when it needed one Saturday. In a third-quarter touchdown drive, San Diego State converted a third-and-10, a third-and-19 and a third-and-goal. "We had some third downs where we need to get off the field," Calhoun said.

GAME BALL GOES TO: CB Reggie Rembert -- Rembert helped hold San Diego State's Vincent Brown without a catch in the first half, while coming up with an interception. The Aztecs tried Brown deep early in the game, but Rembert had great coverage and came down with an interception in the end zone despite Brown being called for pass interference.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Brandon Hirneise -- Even though Hirneise has almost no experience, he is going to have to learn in a hurry. Kevin Fogler and Zack Kauth could both be out for a few more weeks with injuries, putting Hirneise in a possible starting role. Even if he doesn't start, he'll play a lot more. He has just two career catches but does have some athleticism. He showed the ability to get open against San Diego State.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have a tough path. We're going to have to find a way to win a game." -- QB Tim Jefferson, on Air Force's next two games, against TCU and Utah.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: If the Falcons can take anything out of the San Diego State loss, it's that they did get the offense rolling near the end of the game. For most of the first three and a half quarters, the Aztecs did a good job swarming to the ball and not giving up many yards. The Falcons put together two long scoring drives in the fourth quarter and might have had a chance to win had they recovered either of their two onside kicks.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Air Force's run defense had another tough game. SDSU's Ronnie Hillman had 191 yards against the Falcons, breaking 65- and 44-yard touchdowns. On many plays, Air Force missed chances to tackle Hillman. The Falcons' run defense has not been great all season and is vulnerable going into a tough matchup against TCU.

ROSTER REPORT:

--S P.J. Adeji-Paul started in place of injured strong safety Brian Lindsay, a spot Paul could keep for the rest of the regular season as Lindsay heals.

--Backup FB Nathan Walker will start for the next few weeks, and possibly the rest of the season, with Jared Tew out. Walker is a tough inside runner, and has done well around the goal line this year.

--Starting K Erik Soderberg missed his first field-goal attempts against San Diego State, his fourth miss in six attempts. He did come back to hit his final two kicks in the game.

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BYU
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INSIDE SLANT

BYU looked like two different teams in a 31-3 loss at TCU.

Break it down to offense and defense, bad and decent. The Cougars' blowout defeat against the country's No. 4-ranked team could have been closer if BYU could have moved the ball.

"There's no consistency or continuity right now," said quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman, adding that the Cougars have to find ways to make things happen. "We need to find out who those (playmakers) are going to be."

BYU held TCU to 100 yards under its season average, but the Cougars were held to 147 yards -- 91 through the air -- and it wasn't until five minutes remained in the third quarter that Bronco Mendenhall's unit finally advanced past midfield.

Now, BYU (2-5) essentially has four weeks when it has to be good enough to win. The Cougars will end the season at current unbeaten Utah, which even the most ardent fan would have to consider an unlikely place for a BYU upset at this point.

That means wins must come against Wyoming, UNLV, Colorado State and New Mexico for BYU to guarantee a .500 record and bowl eligibility.

Those should be good shots at wins, but just ask BYU's usually proud and effective offense: Nothing comes easy these days.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The defense put BYU in a position to trail just 3-0 with about three minutes left in the first half. But an interception and another quick possession allowed TCU to have a 17-0 cushion.

"It has a long ways to go still. From just a production standpoint, and use of our resources, and execution, and confidence," coach Bronco Mendenhall said of his team's offense. "It is a good defense we played against today, so I don't want to only say it was about us, because TCU, every year they are a good defense, and statistically they are a good defense."

--The defense succeeded in getting fourth-year TCU starting quarterback Andy Dalton to have some miscues. He threw 12 incomplete passes, more than in his past three home games combined. Dalton was still 24 of 36, however.

--QB Jake Heaps completed just 14 passes, and all but two went to running backs. The coaching staff doesn't seem to be trusting the freshman to throw down field. And his receivers and tight ends aren't doing enough to get open. That wasn't just against TCU, it has been a season-long trend.

GAME BALL GOES TO: FB Bryan Kariya -- The junior had 86 yards through the first five games, but he has 142 in the last two. "I'm just trying to run hard, take advantage of any opportunity presented to me," Kariya said. For the most part, he's lowering his shoulder, running hard and confidently.

KEEP AN EYE ON: BYU's offense -- The buzz word these days is "glimpses." It was used often after the TCU loss by players and head coach Bronco Mendenhall. Consistency is hardly there. BYU took until late in the third quarter to get past midfield. A field goal on that drive kept the Cougars from getting shut out for the first time since 2003.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You saw glimpses, I think, in that third quarter, with Bryan Kariya running the ball hard, and then we had some play actions coming off of it. To me, that is kind of going to be the identity of where we need to go. So I saw glimpses, still, against a good defense in the third quarter. And that would be what I will hang my hat on for what will be our identity from here." -- BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, on a 70-yard drive, over 14 plays, that set up his team's only points at TCU.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: Head coach Bronco Mendenhall's defense has been much more stout since he was reinstalled as the coordinator following the Oct. 1 loss at Utah State.

STILL NEEDS WORK: QB Jake Heaps has just one touchdown pass -- and six interceptions -- this season. He threw a crucial pick late in the second quarter that helped spark a quick 14-point burst that allowed the Horned Frogs to take a 17-0 margin to halftime. Afterward, the BYU freshman several times used the word "frustrated" to describe the experience.

ROSTER REPORT:

--S Carter Mees left the game in the first half with an arm injury.

--S Steven Thomas is still in the process of getting cleared to play after missing his third straight game because of a concussion. He did not make the TCU trip.

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COLORADO STATE
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INSIDE SLANT

The fourth quarter against Air Force two weeks ago might have been a sign that Colorado State was ready to break out on offense.

Against UNLV on Saturday, the Rams' frustrations erupted into a stunning offensive output. Colorado State had 34 points in the first half against the Rebels on its way to a 43-10 victory. Keep in mind, this team didn't score its first touchdown of the season until its 12th quarter of play.

"All week we talked about starting fast, and we haven't started a game fast yet, and we obviously did that today," quarterback Pete Thomas said. "We kept the pressure on them in the first half, and it was a great feeling overall."

The Rams showed signs of life with two fourth-quarter touchdowns in an otherwise disappointing loss to Air Force. That came mostly against Falcons backups, but it gave a young Colorado State team some confidence.

The Rams put up 495 yards against UNLV and have to be encouraged at the balanced attack. The passing game was efficient, as Thomas had 233 yards on 10-of-14 passing. Leonard Mason continued to emerge as a threat at tailback, with 121 yards on 14 carries.

Thomas' big game is the best news for the Rams. Against Air Force, Thomas was reluctant to throw the ball downfield. That isn't unusual for a young quarterback against a good secondary, but it wasn't good for a Rams offense that did very little.

Against the Rebels, Thomas completed four passes of at least 29 yards, including two for 128 yards to Lou Greenwood. Thomas' 73-yard touchdown to Greenwood early in the second quarter gave Colorado State a 21-3 lead and put the Rams in control of the game.

"I'd rather play offense the way we played it today, which is running the ball and then allowing us to take some shots down the field," coach Steve Fairchild said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Defensive tackle Guy Miller had a huge game against UNLV, with 4.5 sacks. That is a CSU record. "When you break Brady Smith's record and Mike Bell's record, those are two CSU Hall of Fame, NFL-type players," Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild said. "For Guy Miller to do that, particularly in an inside spot, is remarkable."

Miller had two sacks coming into the game, so the school record was not expected.

"I never thought I'd have two sacks in a game, let alone four," Miller said. "It's cool. It hasn't really set in. I'm trying to get four tackles in a game; that's good for me."

--After the UNLV game, a popular topic was a huge hit by Colorado State freshman linebacker Mike Orakpo. Orakpo, whose older brother Brian is a standout with the NFL's Washington Redskins, hasn't been a huge factor yet this season, but that could change.

"He's a talented player," Fairchild said. "We have to find a way to get him more snaps. He does that at practice. He has a way of turning the ball over and making plays like that."

GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Pete Thomas -- Many players were key for Colorado State, but Thomas deserves the highest praise. He completed some big passes, and his stat line -- 10 of 14 for 233 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions -- would have been much better had the Rams not held a huge halftime lead. Colorado State has to be pleased that Thomas did not throw an interception, a sign that he is maturing.

KEEP AN EYE ON: TE Eric Peitz -- Peitz, a senior, had been having a quiet season before Saturday. He made both of his catches count against UNLV, getting a pair of touchdowns, his second and third this season. Peitz will never be a huge part of the offense but can be a very good security blanket for a young quarterback like Thomas.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We needed a win, especially going into Utah next week. We really needed to change the momentum back into a winning season and try to get something going this year." -- DT Guy Miller.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: Although Colorado State's offensive explosion against UNLV was impressive, the defense played pretty well too. UNLV averaged just 4.0 yards per play, gaining 274 total yards. The Rams piled up six sacks and recovered two fumbles. The Rams are inexperienced in some areas on defense, and like the offense seem to be improving.

STILL NEEDS WORK: There weren't many complaints from the Rams after the UNLV game, but there will be an issue at tailback when Raymond Carter gets back. Carter was the starter, but Leonard Mason has back-to-back 100-yard games and seems to have earned the right to continue starting. Chris Nwoke has also played well off the bench. Coach Steve Fairchild will have to handle the situation well to keep everyone happy when Carter comes back from a knee injury.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Backup QB Klay Kubiak got in the game for the final drive against UNLV. Steve Fairchild said the battle for the No. 2 quarterback spot between Kubiak and Nico Ranieri will be determined on a week-to-week basis based on who practices better.

--Backup RB Derek Good got a few carries against UNLV, which coach Steve Fairchild said he would do after Good's fantastic game returning kickoffs against Air Force. He finished with 18 yards on seven carries.

--Backup RB Tony Drake played against Air Force after sitting out the previous week for violating team rules, but he did not get his starting kickoff return job back. RB Derek Good handled the kickoff returns, and had a 74-yard gain on his only official return.

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NEW MEXICO
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INSIDE SLANT

Is two weeks enough time?

The desolate University of New Mexico football team entered its bye week with the sobering thought that its best chance for a win this season passed with a 16-14 loss at previously winless New Mexico State.

The Lobos, off to an 0-6 start and two weeks to prepare for San Diego State and the return of former UNM coach Rocky Long to University Stadium as the defensive coordinator for the Aztecs.

For the first time since his arrival last season, current New Mexico coach Mike Locksley talked about making adjustments to his schemes -- that have resulted in one win in his 18 games at the helm.

"The (midseason) self-scout is really important," Locksley told the Albuquerque Journal, "because it tells you what your tendencies are, tells you what's been efficient, what hasn't been efficient. That's one of the good things about the break coming here at the midpoint, because if there are some major changes that need to be made, this is the time you can do it.

"You can evaluate it, implement it, practice it and have some extra time to get it coached up."

A big part of UNM's nightmarish start this season has been its carousel at quarterback. The Lobos removed the redshirt from a second true freshman, Stump Godfrey, in the game against the Aggies.

Sophomore starter B.R. Holbrook has remained sidelined since Week Three because of a knee injury that has yet to improve with rest. Locksley told the Journal that if and when Holbrook returns, he's one hit on the knee away from landing on the sidelines for the rest of the season.

Junior Brad Gruner is the most experienced of the healthy quarterbacks, but he is the least-suited to run Locksley's offense because of his inconsistency in the passing game.

After promising moments early in the season, true freshman Tarean Austin has struggled more -- instead of less -- as he's gotten more playing time.

Godfrey doesn't have the rifle arm that Austin has, but his ability to make plays with his feet could be the one thing that helps the Lobos' offense as it moves forward. He struggled against New Mexico State because the UNM offensive line did not protect well, but as he plays more, he should adapt in how to escape trouble and make more positive things happen.

NOTES, QUOTES

--QBs B.R. Holbrook and true freshman Tarean Austin remain Nos. 1 and 2 on the depth chart, depending on their health. Holbrook still can run the offense better than any of the other QBs, and the Lobos can use much more of their playbook with him in the lineup. Austin, still recovering from an ankle injury suffered Sept. 25 against UTEP, is perhaps the most skilled passer of the group.

--The tally on UNM's special teams through six games: three punt returns for touchdowns; two blocked punts that gave opponents a first-and-goal; one 93-yard kickoff return that gave an opponent a first-and-goal; one low punt snap that resulted in an opponent starting at the UNM 20 and one fumbled punt resulting in opponent's touchdown. That's 56 points in six games, and average of 9.3 points the Lobos are letting opponents score on special teams. Per game.

--Of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, New Mexico ranked in the 100s in 17 categories on the Mountain West Conference's 24 weekly statistics categories that include national rankings. The Lobos ranked last in scoring defense (46.2 points per game) and net punting (29.0 yards per punt) and next to last in turnover margin (-1.67 per game) and punt-return average (-0.2 yards per game).

SEASON SUMMARY: The Lobos are averaging 86.2 rushing yards per game, which is next to last in the Mountain West Conference. An improved rushing attack was one of the emphases UNM had during the offseason. The problems are magnified because of the team's inability to keep a healthy or productive QB in the game. The defense also has been hit hard by injuries and has just four sacks on the season. That has left a weak secondary exposed through the air. But special teams have been the most crippling to UNM, and the Lobos will have to spend considerable time during the bye week to find solutions.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Lobos face a public-relations nightmare when SDSU comes to town on Oct. 23. Former UNM coach Rocky Long, who preceded Mike Locksley and left the team after 2008 under questionable circumstances as to whether he quit or was forced out, now is the Aztecs' defense coordinator and returns to University Stadium. The Lobos' other home games are against Wyoming and TCU. The Lobos' best chances for a win now appear to be at Colorado State on Oct. 30 and against the Cowboys a week later. UNM is unlikely to be favored in any game during the second half of its schedule.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "(It's) everything. Offense, defense, special teams, personnel, schemes, you name it. Down-and-distance tendencies; there may be some things there that people could look at and (figure out)." -- New Mexico coach Mike Locksley, on what the coaching staff must re-evaluate during the bye week, in the Albuquerque Journal.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Lobos have to find a quarterback that can finish a game, much less a season. UNM is averaging 262 yards per game and 12.5 points -- both ranking 118th among 120 FBS teams entering play Oct. 16. Unless starting QB B.R. Holbrook can come back healthy, the Lobos must find a way to get their running game to account for more than 86.2 yards per game. UNM has little chance to move the football unless it can get opponents to respect its run game and give the Lobos any semblance of a favorable matchup with a wideout or tight end downfield. UNM has shown some flashes of imaginative play-calling, but if the offense can't execute, it doesn't matter.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Lobos are hoping S A.J. Butler, who has a thumb injury, can return after the bye week to shore up a porous secondary. UNM has stopped trying to apply much pressure -- especially with DE Johnathan Rainey out for the season with a broken bone in his neck. Now it just wants to try to limit the number of big plays an opponent has on a weekly basis. Butler's return should help UNM cut down on those big plays. LBs Carmen Messina and Joe Stoner have to play more dominantly on defense down the stretch for the unit to get off the field without considerable damage.

ROSTER REPORT:

--The Lobos are hoping S A.J. Butler can return after the bye week after undergoing surgery on his thumb three weeks ago.

--Backup LB Terel Anyaibe also could return after the bye week if he can recover from lingering effects from a concussion.

--If QBs B.R. Holbrook and Tarean Austin come back healthy, coach Mike Locksley still insisted he would try to find ways to get Stump Godfrey in the game.

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SAN DIEGO STATE
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INSIDE SLANT

This time, the Aztecs -- and the officials -- got it right.

San Diego State defensive back Andrew Preston stopped Air Force's Asher Clark just short of the goal line to foil a two-point conversion attempt late in the game, and the Aztecs went on for a 27-25 victory Saturday night at Qualcomm Stadium.

It was a signature victory for coach Brady Hoke in his two-year tenure with SDSU. The Aztecs improved to 4-2 overall, 1-1 in the Mountain West Conference.

"I was very happy to get the win; obviously that was an understatement," Hoke said. "I like our football team. I like how they really complemented each other from a defensive and offensive standpoint. We made it exciting, probably a little more exciting than we should have at the end with that last (Air Force) drive. I'm proud of the kids and how they kept fighting and played 60 minutes of football."

But for the third time this season, the 60 minutes of football was placed in the officials' hands.

Trailing 20-12, Air Force (5-2, 2-1) embarked on a 16-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in a 4-yard Nathan Walker touchdown run with 2:08 left. The Falcons attempted to tie the game by going for two, but the Aztecs had the play defended, forcing quarterback Tim Jefferson to scramble in the backfield.

He dumped the ball to Clark, who tried to dash to the end zone. Preston hit Clark just as Clark reached the goal line, and officials originally ruled Clark had scored to tie the game at 20.

Uh-oh.

After all, the Aztecs had been the victim of a missed call a week earlier against Brigham Young -- as the MWC league office confirmed -- and an apparent missed call earlier against Missouri. SDSU lost both games.

"We put the (BYU controversy) behind us," Hoke told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It's going to stay behind us."

The replay official took a long look at the play before relaying that Clark's knee hit the ground before he advanced the ball across the goal line.

After a failed Air Force onside kick, SDSU running back Ronnie Hillman ran 44 yards for a touchdown to push the Aztecs' lead to 27-18. Air Force responded with a 65-yard touchdown drive with 18 seconds left, and the Aztecs had to survive another onside kick attempt.

NOTES, QUOTES

--SDSU was the victim of a missed call Oct. 9 against Brigham Young, in which the Aztecs forced a fumble that was neither called on the field nor overturned on replay. Three replay officials were suspended because of the botched call, including a replay communicator that was a BYU graduate and employee.

--The Aztecs beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 1996 when they defeated No. 23 Air Force 27-25. They had lost 25 straight to ranked foes before Saturday's win. SDSU's 4-2 record through six games also marks their best start since 1996 and matches the school's best start since 1977.

--SDSU's four victories matches or surpasses its win total in each of the last four seasons. It has an 8-10 record under coach Brady Hoke. Prior to his arrival, the Aztecs had gone 8-22 in their previous 30 games.

GAME BALL GOES TO: The SDSU coaching staff -- The coaches kept its team's spirits high after a second loss in which the players had reason to feel officials helped take away. But more important, the coaches devised a game plan against Air Force that gave the Aztecs a better chance to win the game. Offensively, SDSU pounded the ball at the speedy Falcons defense and sprung RB Ronnie Hillman for 191 yards and two scores. Defensively, SDSU began shifting players after the Air Force offense looked to the sidelines for the play call. The Aztecs took away the Air Force dive play and forced the Falcons into 30 pass attempts. If Air Force has to throw the ball 30 times, it is not going to win many games.

KEEP AN EYE ON: The bowl race -- The Aztecs go on the road for a pair of conference games as they try to earn their first bowl invitation since entering the Mountain West Conference in 1999. Coach Brady Hoke might not be ready to admit it, but he has changed the culture of the program. SDSU teams of the past always had shown themselves to be potentially strong when they played nationally ranked teams early in the season before losing close games. Those teams inevitably would fall apart as the year went on. This season, officials have been partly responsible for both Aztecs losses -- to Missouri and Brigham Young. Instead of falling apart, SDSU regrouped and produced its most impressive victory in years. The team has taken on the mentally-tough personality of its head coach.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Rocky (Long) is the defensive coordinator. He was a triple-option quarterback at New Mexico, so he understands that style offense awfully well. We wanted to give them different sets and different looks, and then take it away from them to see where they were going to check and where they were going to run the ball." -- SDSU coach Brady Hoke, on the Aztecs' pre-snap shifting to confuse the Air Force offense.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: RB Ronnie Hillman had 191 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries against Air Force on Saturday. The freshman has 785 yards through six games. He already has rushed for more yards in a single season than any Aztec since Lynell Hamilton finished with 819 in 2005. Through six games, Hillman has the second most rushing yards by an Aztecs freshman. He trails only the great Marshall Faulk, who had 983 yards after six games. Hillman has had three games of 150-plus rushing yards, and that takes a lot of pressure off QB Ryan Lindley and the passing game.

STILL NEEDS WORK: SDSU still must learn how to finish games. Aztec back Andrew Preston did come up with the game-saving play on Air Force's two-point conversion attempt -- by a couple of inches. But the SDSU defense allowed Air Force to run 27 plays, go 145 yards and score two touchdowns as the Aztecs were trying to preserve a lead. Leon McFadden dropped an interception on one of the drives. The offense also had a chance to put the game away early in the fourth quarter but came away with only three points in two chances in the red zone. Abel Perez missed a 19-yard field goal after SDSU had first-and-goal at the 4 while protecting a 20-12 lead.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Aztec back Andrew Preston, who suffered a head injury against Brigham Young, did not start against Air Force, but he did play. Preston's tackle of Asher Clark just short of the goal line on AFA's two-point conversion attempt to tie the game at 20 with two minutes left helped SDSU preserve the victory. Preston finished with a game-high 10 tackles.

--Sophomore Khalid Stevens started in Andrew Preston's place at Aztec back and finished with five tackles.

--RB Walter Kazee, who injured his hamstring during warm-ups before the BYU game, did not play Saturday.

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TCU
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INSIDE SLANT

Less than five minutes remained in the game. TCU was up 24-3 on a BYU team that had not given any indication of being able to mount a comeback.

And yet the Horned Frogs not only still had their starters in the game, but coach Gary Patterson decided to go for it on fourth-and-3 at the BYU 21-yard-line.

And not just go for a first down, TCU aired it out for the end zone, with quarterback Andy Dalton hitting senior wide receiver Jeremy Kerley for a 21-yard touchdown pass that pushed the final score to 31-3.

It looked a lot like the kind of style-points decision that Patterson and TCU (7-0, 3-0 Mountain West) have sworn off the past two seasons.

The head coach was questioned immediately after the game about the decision.

"We were going on fourth down more than anything else to keep the ball away from BYU and run the clock out," Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It wasn't style points. We were just running our offense."

Of course, the Cougars were held to a grand total of 147 yards in the game, so there wasn't much reason to think they'd suddenly find their way in the closing minutes of the game, but Patterson held firm that there was no hidden message to his game plan.

In fact, he seemed perturbed when asked about it after the game and likened weekly questions about hidden messages and style points to daytime soap operas.

"Sometimes I think the whole ranking thing is like 'Days of our Lives,'" Patterson said. "These two people are going to have an affair so we can get everyone over here mad. Then we're going to flip-flop it so that everybody that watched the show isn't happy. It's become a drama deal. I'm going to let everybody else do it."

NOTES, QUOTES

--TCU didn't get its third-consecutive shutout Saturday in a 31-3 win over BYU, but it did keep an opponent out of the end zone for the third consecutive game.

TCU hasn't allowed a touchdown since the 11:24 mark of the fourth quarter against SMU on Sept. 24, a span of 12-plus quarters and 191 minutes, 24 seconds of game time.

The Frogs have held three consecutive opponents under 200 yards of total offense, and the 147 allowed to the usually-offensively gifted Cougars was the lowest opponent's total since TCU held San Diego State to 87 yards on Oct. 4, 2008.

--Another Big 12 team leapfrogged the Frogs in this week's USA Today coaches poll. Last week, after No. 1 Alabama lost and there was room for movement in the poll for TCU, the Frogs were jumped by Nebraska. This week, with No. 1 Ohio State losing and another opportunity for TCU to inch closer to the top, the Frogs were jumped by Oklahoma but still moved up from No. 5 to No. 4.

Apparently, outscoring opponents 103-3 in three consecutive league games isn't impressing coach Gary Patterson's peers enough for more love in the coaches poll.

Asked after Saturday's BYU win where he thought his team would be ranked, Patterson said he has stopped trying to guess.

"I don't have any expectation," Patterson said in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We're 7-0. We're probably going to be No. 1 in the nation on defense for one more week. Those are the things I know. Rankings? I have no idea."

--TCU has won 20 consecutive regular season games and 12 consecutive MWC games.

GAME BALL GOES TO: TCU defense -- Pick a defensive player and he probably had a good game Saturday vs. BYU. In fact, it's a three-week stretch in which the Frogs have not allowed a touchdown, and in that span no opposing team has reached 200 yards of offense.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Josh Boyce -- The redshirt freshman hauled in eight passes for 127 yards and two TDs vs. BYU. Through the team's first six games, Boyce had only 12 receptions for 155 yards and one score. "He has done a great job," said QB Andy Dalton. "He is a very explosive player. I have been getting him the ball and he has been making some plays."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If that's what works, that's what works. In ballgames, you take what people will give you. If they're going to stack the line of scrimmage, then you throw the ball." -- TCU coach Gary Patterson, after his usually potent rushing attack had just 108 rushing yards vs. BYU.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: Three straight games without an allowing a touchdown is an impressive feat. The Horned Frogs had three sacks Saturday, six tackles for loss and two interceptions while allowing BYU just 10 first downs, including none in mop-up duty in the fourth quarter. And on the other side of the ball, when BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to put all his eggs in the stop-the-run basket, TCU just threw over the stacked box. QB Andy Dalton threw for 273 yards and four touchdowns.

STILL NEEDS WORK: For the first time this season, the TCU run game simply couldn't get going. The 108 yards for the run game on Saturday vs. BYU was the lowest of the season, and it wasn't as though TCU totally abandoned the run in favor of a passing attack. TCU still had 38 rushing attempts for 108 yards (2.8 per carry). And while the Frogs didn't lose a fumble, they did put the ball on the turf three times vs. BYU, so ball security will need to be tightened up.

ROSTER REPORT:

--LG Kyle Dooley sprained his knee in the first quarter and did not return to the BYU game. Coach Gary Patterson said Dooley's status was not certain. Dooley was replaced by junior LG Spencer Thompson.

--LB Tank Carder suffered an undisclosed injury that forced him out of the second half vs. BYU, but it doesn't appear to be serious. "Tank will be OK," coach Gary Patterson said in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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UNLV
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INSIDE SLANT

On paper, it appeared that UNLV would finally play a team more of its own caliber when the Rebels traveled to Colorado State.

Both teams were 1-5 after facing daunting early schedules. The Rebels actually ranked better than the Rams in most key statistical categories.

But that was on paper.

The Rebels (1-6, 1-2 Mountain West) not only lost to the Rams, they were embarrassed 43-10.

Colorado State (2-5, 1-2), which was a three-point favorite, led 34-10 at halftime and cruised for the surprisingly easy win, rolling up 492 yards in the process.

"Very stunned. Very stunned," UNLV senior safety Alex De Giacomo said. "They're a good team. Don't get me wrong. But, man, we just didn't come out and play our game."

First-year Rebels coach Bobby Hauck shouldered the blame for his team's inept performance.

"What I would say is, whether we're playing seniors or freshmen or walk-ons or scholarship guys, it's one guy's job to get them to play better and that's mine," Hauck said. "I've got to get them playing better than we did today."

The Rebels have a bye this week to try to fix things before hosting undefeated TCU.

NOTES, QUOTES

--UNLV enjoys its only bye of the season this week after playing four Top 25 teams in a seven-week span. Head coach Bobby Hauck had threatened to have his team scrimmage if it "laid an egg" like it did at Colorado State but seemed to be backing off that comment afterward because of his team's injury woes.

"There's a part of me that would like to go full pads every day this week and scrimmage at our stadium Saturday," Hauck said. "I haven't decided if that's what I want to do. In the real world that would be great but I don't know that we are healthy enough to do that."

The Rebels had 22 players listed on their injury report prior to the Colorado State game.

--Junior tight end Austin Harrington, who had six career receptions entering the Colorado State game, caught six passes for 58 yards against the Rams.

GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Tim Cornett -- The 6-foot, 190-pound true freshman from Houston continues to be one of the few bright spots for the Rebels. He rushed for 74 yards on 17 carries including a 3-yard touchdown run, caught two passes for 29 yards and also had 92 yards in kickoff returns to finish with 192 all-purpose yards.

KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Deante' Purvis -- The 5-foot-11 junior began the year as a starting cornerback against Wisconsin and Utah. But head coach Bobby Hauck decided to give him a try on offense to better take advantage of his 4.4 speed for 40 yards. Purvis got the start at Colorado State and rushed for a team-high 85 yards on 14 carries, including a 27-yard run. However, he also fumbled twice, losing one.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm at a loss for words, to be honest. They just came out and they took it to us." -- UNLV senior safety Alex De Giacomo, after the Rebels' 43-10 loss at Colorado State.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: The Rebels rushed for 149 yards, had 11 rushing first downs and controlled the ball for 32:08 against Colorado State. Freshman PK Nolan Kohurst kicked a career-best 47-yard field goal into the wind and has made 6-of-8 this season, including his past four attempts. Quarterback Omar Clayton, despite dealing with a strong pass rush, was 15 of 23 for 114 yards and has thrown just two interceptions in 145 attempts this season.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The offensive line, expected to be an offensive strength this season, struggled badly against CSU, allowing six sacks including 4.5 by defensive tackle Guy Miller. The unit also was whistled for three tripping penalties. Defensively, the secondary broke down early and often and allowed three touchdown passes. The run defense wasn't much better, allowing 259 yards on the ground to a Colorado State squad that entered the game ranked 109th in the nation in rushing, averaging just 94.3 yards per game.

ROSTER REPORT:

--All-Mountain West Conference WR Phillip Payne did not make the trip to Fort Collins as part of his continuing punishment for some unflattering Tweets about the coaching staff prior to the team's trip to West Virginia. Payne spent the week practicing on the scout team.

--Freshman WR Marcus Sullivan, who ranks second in the Mountain West in kickoff returns (26.3 per attempt), missed the game while recovering from a bruised chest suffered on a nasty hit at West Virginia.

--Senior OLB Starr Fuimaono returned to the starting lineup after missing the West Virginia game with a sprained right ankle. He had two tackles.

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UTAH
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INSIDE SLANT

Sometimes it takes an ordinary effort to show how special a team can be.

The Utes lost the turnover battle for the third time this season and sputtered at times against the nation's fifth-worst defense, but they still came away with a convincing 30-6 victory at Wyoming on Saturday.

"I can't turn the ball over in the red zone like that, but we still won by 24 points," quarterback Jordan Wynn, who threw three interceptions, told the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Utes (6-0, 3-0 Mountain West Conference) understand that as only the third-highest-ranked team from a non-BCS conference, they have to accumulate style points to get noticed.

Wynn had his worst game of the season, throwing three interceptions in Wyoming territory. He was picked off twice in the end zone to stall drives at the Cowboys' 12 and 22. His final interception ended a Utah drive at the Wyoming 45. Tashaun Gipson picked off Wynn at the Cowboys' 26 and returned it 32 yards, leading to Wyoming's only score of the game.

Otherwise, the Utes were their dominant selves.

The defense allowed the Cowboys (2-5, 0-3) just 183 yards of total offense -- and just 91 yards after the first quarter. Shaky Smithson had punt returns of 46 and 23 yards.

Running back Matt Asiata had his best game of the season. The senior had 109 yards on 16 carries.

"We didn't go into the game with any plan to run him more than Eddie (Wide)," coach Kyle Whittingham told the Salt Lake Tribune. "He just got the hot hand, and was doing a nice job, so you stick with the hot hand."

Considering Wyoming entered the game with the worst rushing defense in the MWC, the Utes figured to be able to move the ball on the ground. They finished with 188 yards, which was their average entering the game.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The series with Wyoming represents the third longest for the Utes, but with the move to the Pac-10 next season, Utah doesn't have plans to play the Cowboys in the near future. The Utes lead the series 51-31-1, and the teams have been members of the same conference since 1921.

--QB Jordan Wynn was particularly hard on himself following his three-interception performance against Wyoming. "The bottom line is I killed us," he told the Salt Lake Tribune. "There is nothing else to say." Wynn, who had two interceptions entering Saturday's game probably only prevented the Utes from getting to the 50-point plateau, but as they chase a BCS postseason berth, those points could become more significant.

--K Joe Phillips' 48-yard field goal in the second quarter extended his streak of consecutive field goals made to 17. He has hit eight in a row this season, including two from 40 yards or more. The 48-yarder on Saturday was his longest of the season.

GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Matt Asiata -- He recorded his first 100-yard rushing performance since 2009. The bruising running back showed on Saturday that he is getting better every week after recovering from a torn ACL suffered in week four vs. Louisville last season. Asiata had 109 rushing yards, and he needs to show that he is as punishing as he was last year when he was the focal point of the offense. If he can do that, he can take pressure off the Utah passing attack. The Utes will be a much stronger team down the stretch as long as Asiata continues to perform.

KEEP AN EYE ON: The QB situation -- A creep of doubt at QB? Perhaps not, but starter Jordan Wynn may be starting to look over his shoulder at backup Terrance Cain. Wynn's three-interception effort against Wyoming gives him five on the season. He did throw two TD passes to give him nine on the year. Cain? All he did while Wynn was out with a sprained thumb was lead the nation in passing efficiency. He is completing better than 75 percent of his passes, while Wynn is at 67.3 percent. Coach Kyle Whittingham has indicated that he likes Wynn's ability to get the ball downfield, but Wynn cannot continue to throw interceptions in the end zone to kill scoring chances. Cain may get more of a look if Wynn continues to make mistakes.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "In my mind, it's all overshadowed by throwing three interceptions. (There were a) lot of positives out of the game, but our turnover margin this year has been abysmal." -- Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, on the offense's performance against Wyoming.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: Utah's run defense has been fantastic this season. The Utes held Wyoming to 67 yards rushing and have held four of their six foes under 100 yards rushing, and UNLV had just 102. The Utes are not going to be dominated physically in any game on defense, and that's going to put pressure on opposing offenses to take chances to move the football. That should give the defense the upper hand in creating momentum-changing plays.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Utes are minus-6 in turnover margin and have yet to win the turnover battle in any game. They've been even with three teams and lost the battle with three teams. The Utah defense has forced only six turnovers this season, which has been a sore spot with coach Kyle Whittingham. The offense can't afford to turn over the ball in the big games during the second half of the season. If QB Jordan Wynn continues to throw interceptions in the end zone, he may soon find himself a seat on the bench.

ROSTER REPORT:

--TE Kendrick Moeai did not make the trip to Wyoming because of concussion. That helped fellow TE Brad Clifford haul in a team-leading five receptions for 63 yards.

--LB J.J. Williams stayed home as he continues to nurse a foot injury.

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WYOMING
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INSIDE SLANT

It's been established: Wyoming is not yet ready for prime time.

The Cowboys (2-5, 0-3 Mountain West Conference) again found themselves on the wrong end of a lopsided game against a Top 25 opponent, falling 30-6 to Utah on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

All five Wyoming losses have come to teams who were ranked in the Top 25 at the time of the game. Except for Air Force's 20-14 win over Wyoming on Sept. 25, none of the games have been close. The ranked foes have combined to outscore the Cowboys 180-33.

"It's nice that there's no more ranked teams," coach Dave Christensen told the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, "but we still have five quality opponents left on the schedule that will be very difficult games."

Wyoming has been competitive early in three of those games and had opportunities to put pressure on the Utes. And failed.

The Cowboys advanced to the Utah 37 on their first possession, then the Utah 11 on their second, and came away with zero points. That doomed Wyoming.

"It's tough when you don't capitalize on opportunities like that," quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started after missing last week's game at No. 4 TCU with an injury, told the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. "Penalties were big and we had some miscues, and when you have those things, especially in the red zone, it's not going to work."

The Utes (6-0, 3-0) took advantage of some favorable field position in the second quarter to score 16 points that turned a 7-0 lead into a 23-0 edge. Utah started drives on the Wyoming 45, the Utah 41 and the Wyoming 48 on those three possessions.

Still, the Cowboys managed to hold the Utes to their second-lowest point output of the season.

But the offensively challenged Cowboys had no chance after that. They finished with 183 yards of total offense -- more than half of those (92) coming in the first quarter. Wyoming, which entered the game with the worst offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision at 240.7 yards per game, finished with 57 fewer yards than its average against Utah.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Backup QB Dax Crum's 10-yard TD pass to David Leonard with 7:23 left in the game was Wyoming's first visit to the end zone in the fourth quarter this season. It also ended an eight-quarter touchdown-less streak for the Cowboys.

--For QB Dax Crum, the touchdown pass was his first since the season opener against Ohio in 2008. Crum threw a pair of TD passes in that 21-20 victory in his first game as a member of the Cowboys. He finished 2 of 4 for 32 yards against Utah.

--The Cowboys intercepted three passes for the first time since 2008 against North Dakota State. They had recorded just two interceptions on the season coming into the game. Senior cornerback Marcell Gipson, a three-year starter, record the first interception of his career.

GAME BALL GOES TO: The Wyoming defense -- The unit played well enough to give the team a chance to win the game. The Cowboys recorded three interceptions, two in their end zone, to stop Utah from putting points on the board. It also held the Utes to their second-lowest point total of the season. Utah managed only its rushing average of 188 yards against the Cowboys, and scored 16 of its points thanks to shorter fields. If Wyoming can muster any kind of offensive consistency, the defense should be able to keep the team close in the fourth quarters of games against Cowboys foes down the stretch.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Bowl eligibility -- That six-game season coach Dave Christensen talked about last week is down to five, with Wyoming needing four victories to become bowl-eligible. The Cowboys have to hope they can go to Provo, Utah, and come away with a win against Brigham Young. The Cougars are nowhere near as strong as they've been in the past three years, but Wyoming still has a tough challenge. After the beatings the Cowboys have taken through the course of the first seven games, do they have enough in the tank emotionally to bounce back and keep themselves in bowl consideration?

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I thought there was an area there in the second quarter that we just didn't compete well. We had guys not going full speed on certain plays, and it only takes one guy. We are capable of playing better than we played. At this point and time, we have to play flawless football when we're playing Top 10 and Top 25 teams to have a chance." -- Coach Dave Christensen, in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: P Austin McCoy improved from 15th to 12th nationally in punting with his performance against Utah. McCoy punted seven times for an average of 46.7 yards and had punts of 55 and 58 yards. McCoy has 14 punts that have traveled 50 yards or longer this season. He should become a huge factor in Wyoming's last five games as the team plays foes that are not as good as the ranked teams the Cowboys faced at the start. Field position will become much more critical in the expected close games.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Lack of execution helped kill each of the Cowboys' first two drives that penetrated Utah territory. Wyoming was flagged for an illegal block after it had reached the Utes 37, moving the ball back to the Wyoming 48. The drive stalled on the Utah 42 as the Cowboys failed to convert on fourth-and-7. On Wyoming's next drive, it reached the 11 before WR Travis Burkhalter and QB Austyn Carta-Samuels both fumbled the football. Wyoming recovered both times but lost a combined 20 yards in the process. Wyoming's struggling offense has enough problems moving the football, but it has to execute cleanly to give itself any chance.

ROSTER REPORT:

--RB Robert Herron and DT Tyler Strong didn't play Saturday because of undisclosed injuries.

--DE Mark Willis, a redshirt freshman, is out for the season with an undisclosed injury.

--Sophomore TD Ben Durbin recorded a fourth-quarter sack of Utah QB Jordan Wynn. It was the first sack the Utah offensive line had allowed in 2010.


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