Mountain West Football: Week 5 Winners and Losers
Who came out ahead and who left something to be desired in Week 5 of Mountain West football?
Some encouragement and some letdowns from the week that was.
After whetting our appetite with a small bit of conference play last week, things really kicked into gear this past weekend across the Mountain West… well, for some teams, anyway.
Lopsided results tend to make identifying the week’s winners and losers very straightforward, so here’s who stepped up and disappointed in Week 5.
1. Air Force fullbacks. An unexpectedly important conference game between the Falcons and San Jose State was decided, in large part, by the home team’s hard running between the tackles. A trio of fullbacks — Taven Birdow, Christian Mallard, and Timothy Jackson — combined for 39 carries against the Spartans and tallied 214 yards while accounting for five of Air Force’s six touchdowns. After seeing that part of the ground game neutralized by Boise State, it’s an encouraging sign for a Falcons team that hopes to stay on the periphery of the Mountain division race.
2. Utah State running back Gerold Bright. There’s no shame in being RB1A rather than RB1 in an explosive offense like Utah State’s, but Bright reminded everyone just how much of a grinder he could be in yesterday’s slugfest against Colorado State. Playing in the rain and without Jaylen Warren, who exited early with injury, Bright racked up 36 carries for 179 yards and did his part to help keep a game Rams team at bay.
3. Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald. After taking a sack on his first dropback, the Warriors QB completed his first seven passes en route to his most complete game of the season. McDonald finished 25-of-30 for 312 yards and four touchdowns, including three more to Cedric Byrd, in a shocking 54-3 rout on the road against Nevada.
1. UNLV athletic director Desiree Reid-Francois. We’ve all been in situations at our jobs where you can’t really say what you feel in the moment, but imagine being an AD, watching your team get demolished by 36 points in its conference opener for the second straight season, and then being asked about whether a head coaching change was on the near horizon. You pretty much have to say no, right?
That’s what Reed-Francois did, anyway, though there’s plenty of room for skepticism when one considers her off-season proclamation that nothing less than a bowl bid would do to meet expectations this fall. With Boise State, Vanderbilt, Fresno State and San Diego State on the slate in the next four weeks, it could easily get a lot worse than this for the woman who will ultimately have to make a call at some point.
2. New Mexico’s secondary. Covering Antonio Gandy-Golden has been one of college football’s more unenviable tasks this fall, but the Liberty wide receiver had his way against the Lobos yesterday. Whether it was dragging Donte Martin a good seven or eight yards or outmuscling De’John Rogers for his lone touchdown, the unit’s inability to slow him down proved to be one of the major factors in a 17-10 loss to Liberty.
3. Nevada’s offense. A lot of prognosticators, myself included, though the Wolf Pack and Hawaii Warriors would get themselves in a good old shootout, but Jay Norvell’s offense went into a hibernation we haven’t often seen from them in conference play. 3.03 yards per play was their lowest such figure in a Mountain West game ever, and with uncertainty now rearing its head at the quarterback position, Nevada has a lot to do to prove they belong in the mix as a West division contender.