Mountain West Football: Week 11 Winners and Losers
Who came out ahead and who left something to be desired in Week 11 of Mountain West football?
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Some encouragement and some letdowns from the week that was.
It’s hard to imagine a college football slate that takes closer to the true edge of your seat than the four games that Mountain West fans got to watch yesterday. Two field goal tries with a win on the line, a history-making upset, and a late-night island shootout? We’d take that anytime, though it meant some very obvious letdowns.
Here’s who stepped up and disappointed in Week 11.
1. Nevada’s defensive line. A lot of things went right for the Wolf Pack in their shocking win over San Diego State, but their ability to keep the Aztecs running game in check made a world of difference. Sam Hammond led the way with nine tackles and a sack, but the trio of Hammond, Dom Peterson and Hausia Sekona combined for 2.5 tackles for loss and led the way in holding SDSU to just 3.4 yards per carry (after adjusting for sacks).
2. Utah State kicker Dominik Eberle. In a season full of excellent performances from Mountain West specialists, yesterday was Eberle’s turn alone in the spotlight. Not only was he 3-for-3 on field goal tries, he set the program record for points and his 30-yard game-winner against Fresno State was the first, believe it or not, in his decorated career.
3. Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers. The Bulldogs junior is making a late play for Offensive Player of the Year honors and he definitely bolstered his resume against Utah State yesterday, cracking 100 yards for the third straight game (102 on just 17 carries) and scoring three touchdowns, the fourth straight week that he has accounted for multiple scores.
1. Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. It’s fairly easy to see both sides of the Cowboys’ last critical decision in their overtime loss at Boise State. On fourth-and-1 at the Boise State 39 with less than a minute left in regulation, Wyoming elected to run Xazavian Valladay into a massive wall and he was stopped short.
While betting that your strength can out-muscle the other team’s strength isn’t necessarily a bad thing — Valladay did have four runs of more than ten yards, all of which came in the second half — the fact that a fairly bland play call didn’t work out is something they may be thinking about in Laramie for some time.
2. San Jose State’s defense. It’s never a good look when an offense scores on every single possession, which is exactly what the Spartans did last night, and loses. That’s because it says something about the defensive performance and, in their loss against Hawaii, that unit coughed up 7.6 yards per play and, beyond a Chevan Cordeiro fumble in the second quarter, couldn’t buy a stop all night long. They enabled the Warriors to convert on 7-of-10 third down tries, allowed 12 combined chunk plays, and gave up six different scoring drives of at least 75 yards.
3. San Diego State head coach Rocky Long. You can’t help but wonder whether the Aztecs played it too safe down the stretch against Nevada and no decision illustrates that better than electing to kick a field goal, down seven, on 4th-and-6 at the Nevada 27 with about four minutes to go.
As with Vigen, expecting the Aztecs defense to do its job and give the offense one more opportunity isn’t crazy (they did just that), but the offense had crossed midfield just three times before that. The conservative play-calling didn’t add up and it cost them in the end.