There really isn't a quarterback controversy at Air Force, but the Falcons know they have two quarterbacks they can rely on.
When Tim Jefferson was knocked out of Saturday's game against New Mexico, backup Connor Dietz came in and the offense hummed right along. Dietz led the Falcons to 34 points in a little more than two quarters.
"Even when Tim goes down, we don't have any doubts," senior receiver Kyle Halderman said. "He showed today, he took care of business."
Dietz played a lot last season, as Jefferson dealt with a variety of injuries from the first game on.
Coach Troy Calhoun said there would be a competition for the starting job coming into the season, but that was mostly talk. Jefferson spent each day in training camp with the first unit and never was close to giving up the job.
Jefferson has had a strong season, and Dietz has waited his turn. He hadn't thrown a pass this season before Jefferson was forced out of the game because of a bloody nose.
Dietz was in the huddle at the start of a two-minute drill at the end of the first half, and drove the team right downfield for a score. He hit Zack Kauth for a 28-yard touchdown with four seconds left in the first half, a score that pretty much ended the Lobos' chance at an upset.
"It was a long time coming," Dietz said. "I never had a problem with my role, but it was definitely nice to be on the field and be a contributor, and show the guys I can go out there and play."
Jefferson could have come back in the second half, but Calhoun decided to stick with Dietz. Dietz completed 5-of-7 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 34 yards and a touchdown.
Calhoun doesn't like to proclaim any player as a starter. So even though Jefferson is very likely to be back at quarterback for Thursday's regular-season finale against UNLV, Calhoun wouldn't say he is the starter.
"We've got to see," Calhoun said. "We'll see."
--The Falcons started the season with four consecutive games of 350 rushing yards or more, and led the nation in rushing offense. Air Force has slipped a bit behind a couple other teams in that category, only getting 300 yards once in its next six games. But the rushing offense of early in the season was back against New Mexico, as Air Force rushed for 373 yards and six touchdowns. "It's good to know we can control the line and move the ball and be the rushing team we are," RB Asher Clark said.
--Although there is a coaching vacancy at Colorado, and Air Force coach Troy Calhoun would be an obvious candidate, there haven't been any indications of interest from either side. Calhoun's approach to job openings and other schools being interested in him has been to say nothing on the matter. "I'm going to think about getting our guys ready to go this Saturday and see what we can do to make sure there's a really good freshman class coming in the summer of 2011 to the Air Force Academy," Calhoun said last week.
--Air Force's senior class got a lot of credit for keeping the team from pointing fingers during a three-game losing streak. Now the Falcons have rebounded with two straight wins. "We're willing to take the role that comes along with being a senior," LB Andre Morris said. "For younger players that haven't experienced winning and losing, and highs and lows, they look to the seniors to see what happens when you face adversity and things go wrong, and things will go wrong, just like in life."
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Connor Dietz -- Dietz came off the bench to relieve Tim Jefferson and played very well, throwing for one touchdown and running for another. Dietz gets a lot of practice repetitions in Air Force's high-tempo workouts, so he seemed well prepared for the moment. He is a confident player who has full confidence of his teammates.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Cody Getz -- Getz is a quick sophomore who hasn't gotten a lot of playing time because of RB Asher Clark's solid season. But he got some first-quarter carries against New Mexico, and might be the Falcons' kickoff returner in the regular-season finale if Jonathan Warzeka, who has a head injury, can't go. Getz could be a playmaker for the Falcons in his final two seasons.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You keep reaching and grabbing and finding different ways here, and we probably went down a new avenue tonight." -- Coach Troy Calhoun after his team's victory over New Mexico.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Air Force's offense is starting to click again. The linemen, not facing huge front sevens like they did against TCU and Utah, are starting to win the line of scrimmage again. The Falcons have a passing game that can be effective, enough to keep opposing defenses honest. Air Force needs to get its running game going the way it was early in the season. There were signs of rejuvenation against New Mexico.
STILL NEEDS WORK: For some reason, Air Force does not start games well. That happened again against New Mexico, when the Falcons fumbled on their first offensive play and the Lobos marched in for a 7-0 lead. The early-game problems are tough to figure out, because the Falcons are well coached and their discipline is obvious, but it has been an issue since the beginning of the season.
--Starting WR Jonathan Warzeka didn't play the second half because of a head injury. The Falcons have a quick turnaround with a Thursday game this week, so there's no guarantee Warzeka will be back against UNLV.
--Starting WR Zack Kauth appears to be healthy again. He missed two games because of an ankle injury, but is back and serving his role as a deep threat. Kauth caught a 28-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first half against New Mexico.
--Starting QB Tim Jefferson was out in the second half against New Mexico after suffering a bloody nose. Jefferson was cleared by trainers and wanted to return, but the coaches stuck with backup Connor Dietz because he was playing well. Jefferson should be able to start against UNLV.
One might think BYU is lamenting that it can't have a do-over to the start of the season.
The Cougars aren't, they're just thankful that a 1-4 start has been totally turned around as they've won four of their last five games, including a 49-10 rout of Colorado State on the road.
"It's hard to even remember the beginning of this season," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "There's been so much work that's been put in to kind of reach where we are now.
"And I can't tell you exactly where that is, other than we are an improved team from where we started."
BYU claimed its first road victory in five tries this year. This was against arguably the worst in the bunch, as Colorado fell to 3-8, but the Cougars were convincing beginning with their second series.
Freshman quarterback Jake Heaps, who continues to improve dramatically in poise and confidence, completed a long flea-flicker pass to Luke Ashworth for a touchdown.
About two months ago, it looked like BYU would be without a bowl game for the first time since 2004, the year before Mendenhall was promoted to the head job.
Now, facing New Mexico (1-9) on Saturday, it appears the Cougars will finish no worse than 6-6.
And as rival Utah has struggled mightily the last two weeks, suddenly a 7-5 record, a major upswing, considering where this proud program stood to start October, doesn't seem so impossible.
--BYU forced three first-half turnovers and four overall, one on a jarring hit by DB Corby Eason on RB Raymond Carter that dislodged the ball on a screen pass to start the second quarter. Freshman LB Van Noy was there to pick up the ball and run 44 yards for the first touchdown of his career and the first by the defense in 2010. "It was a good play," Van Noy said. "Thanks to Corby, I gave him the touchdown, he deserved it. He made a great hit on the running back. I retraced my steps to the screen like I've been told to do and just made a play."
--QB Jake Heaps completed 15-of-20 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, notching the eighth-best passing-efficiency mark (242.7) for a game in school history. "This isn't a shock to me," said Heaps, who threw all four of those touchdown passes in the first half to senior WR Luke Ashworth. "We could have been doing this since Week 1."
GAME BALL GOES TO: Senior WR Luke Ashworth, who wasn't catching anything in the early part of the season, caught touchdown passes of 62, 7, 36 and 8 yards, all in the first half, to set a record for most touchdown receptions in a half in BYU history. His four touchdown receptions in a game tied the school record set by John VanderWouden in 1976 against Colorado State and equaled by Kirk Pendleton in 1983 against New Mexico. "Not a bad day's work," Ashworth said. "That was fun. The line gave Jake (Heaps) all the time in the world, and I was fortunate to be on the other end of that."
KEEP AN EYE ON: BYU is one victory from bowl eligibility and plays New Mexico (1-9) on Saturday. The Cougars have gone to the Las Vegas Bowl the last five season, but probably won't get it this time because they still stand to be 6-6 or 7-5 at best. But BYU won't take any postseason opportunity for granted, considering the team started 1-4 after posting four consecutive 10-win seasons.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's like I've always said, winning is a lot more fun than losing." -- Senior S Andrew Rich on the Cougars winning four of their last five games to improve to 5-5.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Cougars finished the game 12-of-13 (.923) on third-down conversions, the first time BYU has had a third-down conversion of over 80-percent since going 12-of-14 (.857) at Washington in 2008. On the only failed third-down attempt, BYU converted on the ensuing fourth-down. As part of the third-down proficiency, BYU did not punt in the game, accomplishing that feat for the first time since playing at Tulane in 2009.
STILL NEEDS WORK: BYU still is fairly fruitless at tight end, which is a valuable position in the team's offensive scheme. Marcus Mathews was injured a week earlier during the UNLV game, and it was back to the drawing board. Cougars at that position combined to catch two passes for 31 yards against Colorado State.
--BYU's best linebacker, Jordan Pendleton, didn't make the trip to Colorado State. Pendleton played one late series a week earlier against UNLV, but has missed virtually five consecutive games because of a knee injury.
--BYU backup NT Jordan Richardson suffered a sprained knee in the second half and left the game.
Colorado State isn't going to a bowl game, but wanted to make progress heading into next season. For a few weeks the Rams did that, playing mostly competitive games despite its youth. That progress hit a wall against BYU.
The Rams were woefully uncompetitive in their second-to-last game of the season. The final was 49-10, and the game was not that close. The Cougars led, 42-0, before the end of the third quarter at Colorado State.
"There are no excuses," coach Steve Fairchild said. "We got out-played, we got out-coached we got out-classed. I did not see this coming."
The loss was a major blow to a program that was trying to rise above the lower tier of the Mountain West.
The Rams were coming off a game in which they played a bowl-bound San Diego State team tough at San Diego, so there was a sense of shock after the BYU blowout.
"It's the opposite of what I wanted to happen," senior fullback Zac Pauga said. "Even if it was a loss, I would have liked to have played them closer and played them tougher."
The Rams fell behind quickly, turning the ball over on offense and allowing big plays on defense.
A 62-yard touchdown pass by the Cougars started the scoring. A 44-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the second quarter made the score 21-0 and put the Rams out of the game.
"We had to abolish the game plan pretty quick, and that's not good when you have to do that," quarterback Pete Thomas said.
There was almost nothing positive to come out of Colorado State's home finale, but the Rams will try to go into the off-season on a good note.
Colorado State plays at Wyoming in the season finale. A loss in that game would be another tough blow to Colorado State's rebuilding effort as it tries to have a positive vibe heading into 2011.
"I'm glad we have another game," Fairchild said. "Our kids certainly love to play. I would hate to think this would be the final showing of our football team. We're very fortunate to have one more shot to go out and prove that we're a better football team than we showed today."
--One of the most disappointing aspects of Colorado State's loss to BYU was it was the senior class' final home game. "I do want to say it's a great senior class and I really do appreciate the senior leadership they provide," coach Steve Fairchild said. "It is disappointing we could not send them out on a better note."
--Senior LB Ricky Brewer had a team-high 13 tackles in his last home game, but that wasn't on his mind after a tough loss to the Cougars. "Obviously you want to play well individually," Brewer said. "If everyone plays well individually, we win games. I just wanted to go out and do my part individually, but as far as the team is concerned, I'd rather win and have no tackles then obviously lose like we did today."
--The Rams have been at their best this season when they can have a balanced offense, but that wasn't possible on Saturday after falling behind quickly to BYU. They had to pass on most downs, and finished with only 83 yards rushing. "We'd obviously like to run the ball, but when you're down 35 points you have to throw it if you want to stay in the game," FB Zac Pauga said.
GAME BALL GOES TO: LB Mychal Sisson -- Sisson has been one of the few playmakers on the defense. In an otherwise awful game against BYU, Sisson had 12 tackles, including one for a loss, and forced two fumbles. Sisson is a junior and will be the centerpiece of the Rams' defense next season.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Lou Greenwood -- The sophomore will be a big part of the offense next season. The Rams try to be creative to get him the ball, and he had five catches and two carries against BYU. He didn't break any long plays, but has shown the ability to be a playmaker.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is the most embarrassed I've been after a football game. Played pretty bad on offense, and you can't turn the ball over four times and expect to win the ballgame." -- QB Pete Thomas.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: In most games this year, even the worst losses, freshman QB Pete Thomas has been solid, and he put up a good stat line against BYU despite a blowout loss. He completed 28-of-42 passes for 292 yards. He dwelled on his two interceptions, but for a young quarterback, Thomas has done a decent job protecting the ball this season, with 12 interceptions through 11 games.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The most shocking stat in Colorado State's loss to BYU was the Cougars' success rate on third downs. They converted 12-of-13 third downs, showing that the Rams need to find a pass rush and make more plays in the secondary when the pass rush doesn't arrive.
--Backup RB John Mosure got the start on Senior Day. He didn't get a lot of playing time this season because of a logjam of tailbacks ahead of him.
--Backup RB Raymond Carter had a costly fumble that was returned 44 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Carter lost his starting job when he was injured, and the Rams need to get more consistency out of a player they were depending on heavily coming into the season.
Thanks in part to playing one of the nation's toughest schedules, rebuilding UNLV (2-8 overall, 2-4 in the Mountain West) has taken more than its share of lumps this season.
But Bobby Hauck's young Rebels, who featured 18 freshmen on the two-deep entering their Homecoming game with Wyoming, showed they are still capable of dishing out a few too.
After allowing a 72-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the game, UNLV rebounded to score a convincing 42-16 victory over the Cowboys (2-9, 0-7).
The victory means that UNLV, picked to finish eighth in the Mountain West Conference preseason poll, can finish no worse than seventh. The Rebels moved into sixth place, a major accomplishment considering UNLV's youth and overwhelming injury list.
Even more promising was the fact that two true freshmen, running back Tim Cornett, who rushed for 70 yards and scored four touchdowns, and wide receiver Marcus Sullivan, who had 183 all-purpose yards and the game-clinching 41-yard touchdown catch, played key roles.
"It's a pretty big night," Hauck said of Cornett becoming the first Rebel since Henry Bailey in 1994 to score four touchdowns in a game. "A lot of guys go careers without scoring four touchdowns, so for a true freshman to do it is tremendous."
The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Rebels, who have little time to enjoy it. UNLV hosts Air Force on Thursday night. Still, that mattered little to Hauck afterward.
"We needed something to hang our hat on and something to build off of," Hauck said. "And tonight is a good building block for us."
--UNLV snapped an eight-game losing streak in Homecoming games dating to 2001. The victory upped the Rebels' record in Homecoming games to 22-21.
--Senior QB Omar Clayton threw three touchdown passes Wyoming to increase his career total to 44. He moved past Jon Denton (43 in 1996-97) into second place on the school's career touchdown pass list behind Randall Cunningham (59, 1982-84).
--The Rebels ran for a season-high 197 yards and had a season-best 23 first downs.
GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Tim Cornett -- The true freshman from North Shore High School in Houston became the first Rebel since WR Henry Bailey in 1994 to score four touchdowns in a game. The 6-foot, 195-pound Cornett rushed for 70 yards on 20 carries, including three touchdowns, and caught a 12-yard touchdown pass.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Marcus Sullivan -- The true freshman, a former Las Vegas Review-Journal High School Athlete of the Year at Cheyenne High School, is arguably the top return man in the Mountain West Conference. Sullivan had kickoff returns of 46 and 53 yards to help set up Rebel touchdowns and caught a 41-yard touchdown pass.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our players executed the best we've executed this season and consequently we got a good win." -- Coach Bobby Hauck, after the Rebels snapped a five-game losing streak with a 42-16 victory over Wyoming.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Rebels, who came into the game ranked 115th in the nation in scoring defense at 39.8 points per game and 118th in rush defense at 221.2 yards per game, had arguably their best defensive performance of the season. UNLV allowed only 133 yards on the ground, 72 of which came on the first offensive play of the game. The Rebels held the Cowboys, who had rushed for 392 yards a week earlier at New Mexico, to only 61 yards rushing on 29 rushes over the final 59 minutes. Wyoming finished with only 273 yards in total offense, a season-low for a Rebel opponent.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The Rebels, who have stressed the importance of getting off to quick starts the last month, gave up a 72-yard touchdown run to Alvester Alexander on the first offensive play of the game. All 10 of UNLV's opponents have scored first this season.
--WR Phillip Payne had a 21-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, his first scoring reception since Sept. 18 at Idaho. The preseason All-MWC missed two games shortly after that when he got in coach Bobby Hauck's doghouse for some unflattering tweets about the coaching staff.
--True freshman S Eric Tuiloma made his first career start. The rebuilding Rebels have 10 freshmen on their defensive two-deep and have played 23 freshmen this season.
Reality reared its ugly head for the New Mexico football team on Saturday.
One week after the Lobos finally recorded their first victory of the 2010 season, they reverted to outmatched status in a 48-23 loss to Air Force in Colorado Springs.
After their initial drive, the Falcons (6-4 overall, 3-3 in the Mountain West Conference) were not as willing as Wyoming the previous week to allow the Lobos (1-9, 1-5) to hang around.
Air Force scored four touchdowns in their five possessions in the second and third quarters to put the game away.
The Falcons, who had the nation's third leading rushing offense entering the game, finished with 373 yards on the ground and held nearly a 9 1/2-minute edge in time of possession.
"Going into the game we knew the way we'd have to stop the run," New Mexico coach Mike Locksley told the Colorado Springs Gazette. "Obviously, we didn't stop the run."
New Mexico did do a better job than it did the previous week against Wyoming, which rushed for 392 yards during a 34-31 Lobo victory. What New Mexico failed to do was get Air Force to cough up the football as it did against Wyoming.
The Falcons appeared open to the idea when Asher Clark fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. New Mexico took over at the Air Force 24-yard-line and needed five plays to take a 7-0 lead on James Wright's two-yard touchdown run.
Air Force dominated the rest of the half, but held only a 14-7 lead when the Falcons appeared to catch a huge break right before halftime.
Backup quarterback Connor Dietz, subbing for injured starter Tim Jefferson, threw down the sideline to Zack Kauth, who appeared to push cornerback DeShawn Mills in the end zone before catching a 28-yard touchdown pass with 4 seconds left.
The sideline official threw a flag, but called Mills for pass interference. The play gave the Falcons a 21-7 halftime lead, and the Lobos had no answers after halftime.
Locksley refused to be critical of the officials immediately after the game.
"Crucial," Locksley told the Albuquerque Journal of the touchdown. "We had a guy in position to make the play, and he didn't make the play."
--The Lobos would be bowl-eligible if the rules stated that the first team to score wins. New Mexico has scored first in six of its last seven games, and even led in the seventh. The Lobos, however, have relinquished the lead in every one of those games and fell behind by double digits in six of the games.
--The attendance for Saturday's game at Air Force was 27,309, representing the second largest crowd to see a Lobo game this season, behind the 59,104 that witnessed Oregon's 72-0 win over New Mexico in the opener in Eugene, Ore. The crowd in Colorado Springs filled less than 60 percent of Falcon Stadium, capacity of 46,692. The Lobos' home attendance average of 21,338, with the season-finale against TCU remaining, would represent New Mexico's lowest average attendance per game in 18 seasons.
--True freshman QB Stump Godfrey made his second consecutive start, as sophomore B.R. Holbrook, who was atop the depth chart during the preseason, has been limited to four starts this season because of injuries. Junior Brad Gruner and true freshman Tarean Austin each have had two starts. The carousel at quarterback has been a major part of the Lobos' struggles on offense.
GAME BALL GOES TO: MLB Carmen Messina is back to the form that helped him lead the nation in tackles in 2009. He had a game-high 17 tackles against Air Force, and he recovered a first-quarter fumble by the Falcons' Asher Clark that led to James Wright's two-yard touchdown run that gave the Lobos a 7-0 lead. Messina, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the opener against Oregon that severely hampered his play early, has double-digit performances in tackles the last five games. He leads the Lobos with 93 tackles, averaging 9.3 per game. Of course, the problem is that the defense is playing a lot of plays, allowing Messina to increase his stat total. Air Force ran 90 plays.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Lobos' prospects for a second victory are slim at best, with games at resurgent Brigham Young this week followed by the regular-season finale against undefeated TCU. With coach Mike Locksley facing a 2-22 record after two years, his job security likely will come into question during the off-season. New Mexico has to show enough fight and improvement in its last two games to merit giving Locksley a third season. Improvement over the last five games in 2009 was an indication that the program was headed in the right direction. The Lobos have played slightly better in the second half of 2010 as well, but sooner or later they're going to have to show their improvement in the win column.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I thought he played like a true freshman quarterback today. He made some errors in the passing game and missed some throws early. ... (But) every rep he takes, he'll be better for it." -- Coach Mike Locksley, on true freshman QB Stump Godfrey's second start, to the Albuquerque Journal.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Sophomore RB Kasey Carrier led the Lobos with 79 rushing yards on 14 carries against Air Force and has 176 yards in his last two games. He has been the one reliable ball-carrier this season for New Mexico. While the Lobos were hoping for big things from speedy Demond Dennis, who's no longer on the team, and bruising James Wright, Carrier has emerged as the leading rusher with a modest 290 rushing yards. But he's shown that he can be a featured back in the offense if given some running lanes.
STILL NEEDS WORK: New Mexico has allowed its last three opponents a total of 1,093 rushing yards, an average of 364.3 yards per game. Next comes BYU, coming off a 284-yard rushing effort in a 49-10 victory over Colorado State. After that, TCU comes to University Stadium, and the Horned Frogs are 11th in the nation in rushing at 258.3 yards per game. The Lobos are staring at the possibility of giving up 300 rushing yards per game to their last five opponents. If coach Mike Locksley makes it to a third year at the helm, he might be expected to make considerable changes, and that stat could signal a shakeup on that side of the ball.
--True freshman QB Stump Godfrey made his second start of the season. He finished with 99 passing yards and 41 rushing yards with a touchdown, a step back from his 280 yards of total offense vs. Wyoming the previous week. He fumbled twice, but New Mexico recovered both. Godfrey is 41-of-63 passing this season, with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
--S A.J. Butler returned against Air Force after missing the Wyoming game because of a shoulder stinger. Butler finished with 10 tackles.
--Freshman K Justus Adams has taken over kickoff duties while K Garrett Hentrup nurses a strained hamstring. Adams had three kickoffs against Air Force for an average of 63 yards.
SAN DIEGO STATE
Perhaps the most ironic aspect in San Diego State's season is that its best outings seem to have come in its losses.
After surrendering 37 consecutive points to national powerhouse TCU on Saturday, the Aztecs appeared to be in danger of suffering a blowout loss that would have negated some of the progress the program had made in 2010.
San Diego State, however, went on a 21-3 rally, but came up short in a 40-35 loss to the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth, Texas. The loss eliminated the Aztecs (7-3 overall, 4-2 in the conference) from contention for the league title and ensured the crown for TCU (11-0, 7-0).
The Aztec scored the most points against the No. 1-ranked TCU defense this season. The Horned Frogs came into Saturday's game having given up 23 points in their last six games combined.
And perhaps the most encouraging sign was the attitude of the San Diego State players after the game.
"Moral victories are done at San Diego State," quarterback Ryan Lindley told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "We're over that. That's not a part of who we are anymore."
The Aztecs were a minute from beating nationally ranked Missouri until a non-call on what appeared to be a block in the back allowed the Tigers to score a on 68-yard pass play for a game-winning touchdown.
They were denied an obvious fumble at Brigham Young that kept the Cougars' drive alive, ending in the eventual game-winning touchdown.
On Saturday, San Diego State stormed out to a 14-0 lead, thanks to a flea-flicker play that set up the first touchdown of the game and a blindside blitz on defense that forced a fumble in the end zone.
Lindley was only 11-of-26 with two interceptions, but he finished with 262 yards and touchdown passes of 33 and 35 yards. He also completed the 49-yard flea-flicker to the TCU 1-yard-line and had another 50-yard pass.
After the Aztecs closed to within 40-35 on Lindley's 35-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Brown with 4:50 left in the game, TCU shut the door with eight consecutive rushing plays to run out the clock.
"Losing hurts," linebacker Miles Burris told the Union-Tribune. "It doesn't matter who it's against or what they are ranked. It's not good enough to come close to winning. It's still losing, and that's not a good feeling."
--San Diego State's 14-0 lead in the first quarter was its largest ever against a top-10 opponent. The previous high was an eight-point advantage at No. 1 Washington on Oct. 2, 1982. Washington won that game, 46-25. The lead also represented the Aztecs' first lead over a top-10 team since they had a 6-0 lead over No. 9 Ohio State on Sept. 17, 2005. The Buckeyes won that game, 27-6.
--Senior FB Brandon Sullivan has become a goal-line machine. He scored on a two one-yard runs against TCU, giving him six one-yard touchdown runs in the last three games. He also has a touchdown reception during that three-game span.
--QB Ryan Lindley's two touchdown passes gave him 57 for his career, moving him into second place in the school's all-time list. His 262 passing yards were more than double the average the Horned Frogs had allowed before Saturday. TCU entered the game giving up 121.9 passing yards per game.
GAME BALL GOES TO: The San Diego State coaching staff for its halftime adjustments. After the Aztecs' initial drive of the game that resulted in a touchdown, they managed only 26 yards on offense in their next seven possessions. In the second half, they responded with 216 yards on offense and scored three touchdowns. The defense surrendered 347 yards to TCU in the first half, 234 in the second quarter alone, and yielded five touchdowns. It responded by limiting the Frogs to 138 second-half yards and only two field goals.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Aztecs have responded well after their two previous losses, dominating Utah State after the loss to Missouri and upsetting Air Force after losing to BYU. San Diego State comes home against Utah, which suddenly is reeling with back-to-back losses. The Aztecs' signature victory this season was over Air Force, but a victory over the Utes would be even bigger and would give them a chance to claim second place in the MWC. It also would keep alive their chances of a 10-win season, an almost unfathomable feat before coach Brady Hoke's arrival last season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our players have played hard all year, they have done it before. I like the way the team acts together and the way they treat each other. They show a lot of fight and I like that part of it, but I do not like the inconsistencies of the second half. We have to play four quarters in the game. As a team and coaches, we took the second quarter off. You cannot win big football games like that. We could not have started off any better, but like in life, in football you have to finish." -- Coach Brady Hoke.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Vincent Brown is reestablishing himself as one of the best wide receivers in the MWC. He had four receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns against TCU. Brown, who led the MWC last season in receptions per game and yards per game until he suffered a torn thumb ligament in week seven, again is atop the league in both categories. Brown is averaging 4.8 receptions per game to lead teammate DeMarco Sampson, who has 4.7. Brown's 92.9 receiving yards per game leads Sampson's 89.3 for the league lead, and Brown is 10th nationally. His threat to go deep every time he touches the ball allows the Aztecs to run the ball.
STILL NEEDS WORK: In each of the Aztecs' three losses, they've had the opportunity to make plays to win, and have come up empty-handed. After Missouri scored a controversial touchdown in the fourth quarter to take the lead, San Diego State had a minute to march for game-winning touchdown or game-tying field goal and could not complete the task. After being denied a fumble when the Aztecs stripped the ball from a BYU ball-carrier, the defense had a chance to keep the Cougars out of the end zone, but couldn't. On Saturday, two interceptions in the second half against TCU helped stunt the Aztecs' comeback, and the defense could not stop the Horned Frogs in the final five minutes to give the offense a chance for a game-winning drive.
--KR Brandon Davis was slow to get up after a helmet-to-helmet collision from TCU's Tanner Brock on the kickoff to start the second half. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Davis returned the kick 15 yards before Brock, at full speed, put his facemask into Davis' helmet. Davis got up and left the field under his own power.
--CB Jose Perez suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return.
TCU doesn't make excuses.
Survive and move on has been the team's mantra all season, and while that's what the Horned Frogs did Saturday to move to 11-0, by escaping with a 40-35 victory over San Diego State, it seems that wasn't enough for the college football world.
"We aren't too pleased with the way we played," center Jake Kirkpatrick said. "We have a lot of guys fighting through injuries, but we are 11-0, and not many people can say that."
Still, the Horned Frogs were passed in the AP and USA Today Coaches Top 25 polls by Boise State after the Broncos routed Idaho, 52-14, on Friday, less than 24 hours before TCU beat San Diego State, which hadn't lost by more than a field goal this season.
Boise State is No. 3 in the polls while TCU is back at No. 4.
But even if they won't make excuses, it seems there are plenty of reasons why Saturday's game shouldn't have been so damaging to the Horned Frogs.
First, TCU lost star running back Ed Wesley to an injured foot after one carry.
Second, 10-year offensive line coach Eddie Williamson suffered a heart attack on the sideline in the first quarter, a distraction that surely played at least some part in the Horned Frogs falling behind, 14-0.
And TCU wasn't the only team at the top of the standings given an early scare on Saturday, and did so at least to a bowl-eligible team, which the top-two ranked teams in the nation can't say.
After taking a 7-0 lead, No. 2 Auburn gave up three first quarter touchdowns to unranked Georgia and trailed, 21-7, after one quarter. The Tigers didn't take the lead for good until 5:10 left in the third quarter.
No. 1 Oregon was behind unranked Cal, 7-0, until more than halfway through the second quarter and the Bears had a chance at the win in the fourth quarter.
So while Saturday's less-than-dominant victory might end up costing TCU a shot at playing in the BCS National Championship game, it still was a day on which coach Gary Patterson was more than happy to escape from with a victory.
"Bottom line, we found a way to win," Patterson said. "You've got to give San Diego State a lot of credit and now we move on. That's all we've got control over."
--After a 52-14 victory over Idaho on Friday night, Boise State jumped past TCU to No. 3 in the AP and USA Today Coaches Top 25 polls. TCU, now No. 4 in each poll, lost one first place vote in the AP poll after a 40-35 victory over San Diego State.
--TCU assistant coach Eddie Williamson suffered a heart attack on the sideline during the first quarter of Saturday's game vs. San Diego State. Williamson, 58, underwent angioplasty at an area hospital, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. "We just tried to play for him the whole time," center Jake Kirkpatrick said in the Star-Telegram. "He's definitely in our prayers." Coach Gary Patterson acknowledged the scare was a distraction, but didn't use it as an excuse. "We got him in the tunnel and we got him to a hospital," Patterson said in the Star-Telegram. "That kind of put us in a little disarray early."
--Even after surrendering 35 points to San Diego State, TCU leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing 10.9 points per game. The 35 points posted by the Aztecs were not only the most scored in a game against TCU all season, it more than doubled the 23 points TCU had surrendered in six previous Mountain West Conference games.
GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Jeremy Kerley -- Kerley had eight receptions for 85 yards and three touchdowns, and was his usual field position-changing threat in the return game. He had a 43-yard punt return and one 26-yard kickoff return.
KEEP AN EYE ON: TCU running backs -- Sophomore RB Ed Wesley went down in the San Diego State game after one carry because of a foot injury, but it is unclear how seriously the problem is. It might not matter, because RBs Matthew Tucker and Waymon James each went for over 100 yards rushing. TCU's offensive line will continue paving the way for the Horned Frogs, who average 258.3 rushing yards per game, 11th in the nation.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coming into the game, we talked about winning by one point. And we just have to win, that's all that matters." -- S Tejay Johnson, after a 40-35 victory over San Diego State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: TCU's offensive line is one of the nation's best. When leading rusher Ed Wesley went down because of a foot injury after one carry on Saturday against San Diego State, the offensive line, led by C Jake Kirkpatrick, didn't skip a beat, paving the way for backups Matthew Tucker (131) and RB Waymon James (102) to each rush for more than 100 yards. WR Jeremy Kerley had eight catches for 85 yards three touchdowns, to go with a 26-yard kickoff return and 59 yards in punt returns, including one for 43 yards.
STILL NEEDS WORK: TCU didn't look like a national-championship contender in the second half. The Horned Frogs nearly let the Aztecs rally from a 34-14 halftime deficit when all TCU could muster in the second half were two field goals. The only other time TCU has gone two quarters without a touchdown this season was in the first half on Oct. 2 against Colorado State, the Horned Frogs also setting for two field goals. TCU leads the nation in pass defense, allowing 134.6 yards per game, but that number was inflated Saturday when San Diego State passed for 262 yards on the uncharacteristically average TCU secondary.
--RB Ed Wesley, TCU's leading rusher, took only one handoff against San Diego State on Saturday before a foot injury sidelined him the rest of the game. Backup RBs Matthew Tucker and Waymon James each ran for more than 100 yards in his place.
The Utes need to retrace their steps. Somewhere in Falcon Stadium or along Interstate 25, they lost their offense. Beginning with the fourth quarter of an Oct. 30 game at Air Force, the Utes have been outscored, 88-10.
The latest part of that was Notre Dame's surprising 28-3 victory over Utah on Saturday in South Bend, Ind. The Fighting Irish (5-5), who lost to Tulsa at home in their previous game and were in danger of moving closer to being eliminated from postseason contention, capitalized on Utah mistakes.
"When you're struggling on offense like we are right now, that's two games in a row that we've struggled, and scored one touchdown in eight quarters of football now in the last two weeks," coach Kyle Whittingham said.
"Like I said, (we) turned the ball over twice and had a punt blocked. You combine that with a nice game plan, solid game plan by Notre Dame on offense to, you know, make the most of what they have available to them right now, that was the outcome."
Two weeks ago, the Utes (8-2) were entertaining thoughts of a Bowl Championship Series game and an outside hope of a national championship berth.
Now, Utah is staring at the possibility of four consecutive losses, with games coming up against resurgent San Diego State and Brigham Young as it limps into a lower-tier bowl game.
Notre Dame had only 256 yards of total offense but scored on a blocked punt and on a 26-yard pass play right after Shaky Smithson of Utah fumbled on the kickoff to start the second half.
Another Irish drive benefited from a defensive holding penalty and pass interference penalty by Utah.
The Utes, who were averaging 45.3 points per game going into the game against TCU a week earlier, had only 265 yards of total offense and could not sustain any drives.
Utah's only score, a 46-yard Joe Phillips field goal in the first quarter, came after Notre Dame tried and failed on a fourth-down-and 1 at the Utah 49 on the game's opening possession.
"We're putting our 'D' in bad situations," senior wide receiver Jereme Brooks said. "We can't keep putting our team in short fields. Offensively, we have to score points to take pressure off of the defense, and we haven't been doing that the last few games."
Utah's 1-2 punch of running backs Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide combined for 69 yards on 21 carries.
And the Utes' special teams, which were so good during the team's winning streak, had perhaps their poorest outing of the season, thanks to the blocked punt, Smithson's fumble and a 31.4-yard average by punter Sean Sellwood.
"We've got to play more disciplined football," Whittingham said.
--The Utes, who entered the game ranked 97th in turnover margin at minus-0.6 per game, had two turnovers against Notre Dame while forcing none. Utah has a minus-5 in turnover ratio in their last two games. Utah also committed 11 penalties for 70 yards.
--Utah had not been held without a touchdown since a 27-0 loss at UNLV in September, 2007. That was also the last year the Utes lost back-to-back games, against Oregon State and Air Force to start the season, before the last two weeks. Utah won eight of its last nine games that season to finish 9-4.
--QB Jordan Wynn completed 24 of 39 passes for 194 yards and an interception. Coach Kyle Whittingham said he considered putting in backup Terrance Cain but noted Wynn wasn't the only player on offense who was struggling. "We have to dissect the entire film," Whittingham told the Salt Lake Tribune. "It's not just Jordan. We talked last week, but if there is nowhere to go with the ball, what is he supposed to do? It's a team effort, not just on Jordan."
GAME BALL GOES TO: DT Sealver Siliga and the Utah interior defense held Notre Dame's rushing attack in check, for the most part. Siliga had four tackles, a pass breakup and a sack. He helped the Utes hold the Irish to 127 yards on 29 carries. The defense played well enough, especially against the run, to carry the Utes to victory. Offense and special teams did not hold up their end.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Since a 1-3 start in 2007, the Utes had won 39 of 43 games until their game against TCU. After losses to the Horned Frogs and Irish, Utah must find a way to regroup and salvage the season. The Utes travel to San Diego State, which nearly knocked off TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, before losing, 40-35. That was a far cry from Utah's 47-7 defeat at home to the Horned Frogs. After that is the Holy War rivalry against Brigham Young, which has strung three wins together after starting the season 2-5. The Utes have to rediscover their swagger and turn their season back around before they head off to the Pac-12 next season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Yeah, we were riding high. Had eight in a row, and now we've dropped the last two ballgames, and right now not feeling real good about ourselves. I can tell you that. But nobody feels sorry for us. We've got two games left. We've got to rebound. Everybody's got to search and decide what they can do to make us a better football team as individuals. Take care of what they're able to control and then move forward. But right now, we're reeling a little bit." -- Coach Kyle Whittingham.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Utes didn't respond after their humbling 47-7 loss to TCU, but coach Kyle Whittingham faced plenty of adversity early in his head coaching tenure as he was trying to replace Urban Meyer. He has been able to press the right buttons and get the program moving forward throughout his six-year tenure, so one rough patch should not make Utah fans think Whittingham can't get his team turned around this season.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Utah has proven throughout the season that it must play mistake-free to be considered among the best teams in the nation. The Utes have struggled when they make special teams mistakes and don't take care of the football. KR Shaky Smithson has to recapture his midseason confidence after fumbling the second-half kickoff that took Utah out of the game emotionally. P Sean Sellwood had his third punt blocked this season against Notre Dame. Utah committed 11 penalties. If the Utes can fix the things they can control, they should be able to recapture the momentum of their eight-game winning streak.
--Junior DE Junior Tui'one didn't make the trip to Notre Dame because of a calf injury. Star Lotulelei started in his place.
--LB Chad Manis missed Saturday's game because of an ankle injury. J.J. Williams, a projected starter before the season who was sidelined because of a foot injury until last week, started in his place.
--QB Jordan Wynn had the wind knocked out of him in the fourth quarter but was fine after the game.
Call it the curse of the New Mexico Bowl that has affected Wyoming.
The Cowboys (2-9 overall, 0-7 in the Mountain West Conference) lost their sixth straight game on Saturday, suffering a puzzling 42-16 defeat at UNLV, a team that had won only one game previously.
"A lot of miscommunication and we weren't prepared," quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels told the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. "We didn't do a good enough job as a team -- players, coaches and everybody.
"We did not do a good enough job to prepare and to be ready to win a football game. That's why we lost. It was evident when we got out on the field. We got our (butts) kicked in all phases of the game. It's frustrating. It's very frustrating. ... It's not fun right now."
Every winning team in the four-year history of the New Mexico Bowl has suffered a disappointing follow-up season the following season.
San Jose State went from 9-4 after the 2006 New Mexico Bowl to 5-7 in 2007. New Mexico, the 2007 bowl winner, went from 9-4 to 4-8, losing its last four games in 2008. Colorado State won in 2008 to go 7-6 that season. The Rams lost their last nine games in a 3-9 season in 2009.
The Cowboys went 7-6 after beating Fresno State in the 2009 New Mexico Bowl but could finish 2-10 if they don't regroup with a victory over Colorado State in their season finale.
Coach Dave Christensen was asked after the game if he thought his team had enough motivation to play against their border rival.
"Well, I would hope so, if they've got any competitiveness at all," Christensen said. "Our seniors are 1-3 against them the last four years. I'm sure like the last two teams, they see us coming and think they have a chance to win.
"Our challenge is to come out and execute, and play the best game that we can, and try to find a way to win a game."
After going ahead, 13-7, in the first quarter when Wyoming's failed onside kick helped give UNLV its first touchdown, the Cowboys were on the receiving end of a 35-3 Rebel onslaught to finish the game.
UNLV (2-8, 2-4) scored touchdowns on five of its last seven possessions to ensure the Cowboys of last place in the MWC. The six-game losing streak is Wyoming's longest since 2005, when the Cowboys lost their last six games.
--RB Alvester Alexander finished with a respectable 92 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries against the Rebels. However, 72 of those yards came on the first play from scrimmage, when Alexander gave the Cowboys a 7-0 lead. He had 16 carries for 20 yards the rest of the way. His 645 rushing yards this season are five more than he had in 2009.
--QB Austyn Carta-Samuels moved into ninth on the school's all-time list for completions with 322. That total is even more impressive, considering that he hasn't had a breakaway threat at wide receiver in his two years as the starter.
--K Ian Watts converted 1-of-2 field goal attempts against UNLV. He hit a 46-yarder in the third quarter that helped the Cowboys cut their deficit to 28-16, but missed a 44-yarder to start the fourth quarter. He also missed an extra point in the first quarter. Watts is 17-of-19 on extra points this season, his 89.5 percent success rate ranking eighth among Mountain West Conference kickers.
GAME BALL GOES TO: P Austin McCoy has given his offensively-starved team a fighting chance in the field-position battle all season. Saturday, he had his poorest game statistically, but he still was effective. He had three punts for an average of 36.3 yards. He landed two inside the UNLV 20 and the third one resulted in a Rebels fumble that Wyoming's James Caraway recovered. McCoy has been Wyoming's most consistent weapon outside of QB Austyn Carta-Samuels.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Is a rivalry game enough motivation help Wyoming end a six-game losing streak? The Cowboys return home to play Border War rival Colorado State on Saturday and don't want to go into the off-season on a seven-game losing streak. When Wyoming was 2-4, it thought it had a chance to get to a bowl game, especially with the last four games coming against the Mountain West Conference's worst teams. The Cowboys weren't embarrassed in a 30-6 loss to Utah and had a season-high 38 points in a 48-38 loss to San Diego State. Then came the shocking, 34-31 loss to New Mexico and a disappointing finish against UNLV. The Cowboys will have to muster a considerable amount of pride to finish on a winning note against Colorado State.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you can't execute on third-and-ones offensively, you can't get them off the field defensively. That's the bigger issue. We can't slow people down or stop them consistently. We can't move the football and score points consistently, Those are probably the two biggest, glaring problems we are having right now." -- Coach Dave Christensen.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Cowboys have been able to spring RB Alvester Alexander on touchdown runs of 94 and 72 yards the last two weeks against New Mexico and UNLV, respectively. That bodes well for a struggling line and offense that hasn't had a big-play threat. The runs give the Cowboys hope that they might be able to score more easily in 2011, as long as they add more playmakers and continue to build the offensive line.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The Cowboys gave up 197 rushing yards to UNLV, which ranked last in the MWC in rushing. Wyoming has struggled in the transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, but the troubling part is the team's inability to improve over the course of the season. Wyoming has to do a better job of making plays at the line of scrimmage and helping the unit get off the field. The Cowboys have been unable to shut opponents down on third down. Wyoming's opponents have converted 46.4 percent (70-of-151) on third down this season.
--True freshman RB Robert Herron stayed in a Las Vegas hospital overnight as a precaution after a fourth-quarter hit he sustained against UNLV, according to the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. Herron was on the field for a few minutes before being carried off the field on a stretcher. Coach Dave Christensen said Herron had feeling in his extremities.
--SS Shamiel Gary missed Saturday's game to attend a funeral for a family member. Luke Ruff started in his place.
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