Mountain West Football: Week 11 Winners and Losers
Who came out ahead and who left something to be desired in the last three days of Mountain West football?
Some encouragement and some letdowns from the week that was.
Well, that was a wild weekend, wasn’t it?
From the get-go on Thursday night, the five-game slate took a lot of unexpected twists and turns, mostly revolving around a few surprisingly competitive games between contenders and upstarts. In the end, though, a few performances stood out more than the rest, as is always the case.
Here’s who earned a flex and who disappointed from Week 11 of Mountain West football.
1. Boise State special teams god Avery Williams. Any time someone blocks two kicks in a game, they make the winners list. Those are just the rules.
The conference’s defending special teams player of the year burnished his case for earning the honor again by disrupting Ryan Stonehouse’s first kick and recovering it in the end zone for the game’s first touchdown, then he blocked another attempt to put an exclamation point on the Broncos’ 42-point first half performance.
2. Fresno State wide receiver Jalen Cropper. With all due respect to Nevada’s Romeo Doubs, who continued his blistering pass-catching pace against New Mexico on Saturday, the Bulldogs sophomore had the biggest receiving performance of all this past weekend.
Cropper did much of his heavy lifting for Fresno State down the field in the first half, but he finished the game with ten catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first Fresno State player since Davante Adams to crack the 200-yard mark through the air. It was the breakout performance that the Red Wave had been waiting for and you can be sure that defensive coaches elsewhere in the Mountain West took notice.
3. San Diego State running back Greg Bell. We knew coming into 2020 that the Mountain West would be flush with running back talent, but what we didn’t expect was that the Aztecs would re-enter the chat so emphatically. They kept it rolling in a blowout win over Hawaii thanks to the senior Bell, who set a new career high with 160 rushing yards while scoring twice.
According to SDSU assistant athletic director Jamie McConeghy, he became the first Aztecs runner since Rashaad Penny in 2017 to have four straight 100-yard performances on the ground, which is definitely the right kind of company to keep.
1. Utah State quarterback Jason Shelley. At the risk of beating a dead horse (dead bull?), the Aggies have to make a change under center now, right? To his credit, Shelley finally topped 100 passing yards, finishing the day with 144 while adding 41 rushing yards for good measure, but he was lucky to get there since he also finished 9-of-24 — which included going just 3-of-10 for the first three quarters — and had zero touchdowns.
Utah State hasn’t had this kind of miserable quarterback play since the mid-1980s, so there’s really no downside to seeing what Andrew Peasley and/or Cooper Legas can bring to the table over the next month.
2. Hawaii’s offensive line. The Warriors looked like they were going to thrive by being more balanced on offense, but there may be some cracks in that foundation that San Diego State exposed on Saturday. The trio of Miles Reed, Calvin Turner, and Dae Dae Hunter combined for 46 rushing yards on 15 carries, while quarterback Chevan Cordeiro spent far too much of the game on the run outside of his own role in that attack.
After adjusting for SDSU’s seven sacks and its 64 yards, Cordeiro did finish with 84 yards on 13 carries, but absorbing that many hits probably wasn’t in the game plan. Hawaii isn’t out of the title game chase just yet, but their climb back into contention has to correct a pass protection performance that has given up more sacks to date than any team in the Mountain West except UNLV.
3. Colorado State pass catchers not named Trey McBride or Dante Wright. The two-man show worked just fine for the Rams’ passing game in their Border War victory a week ago, but their blowout loss to Boise State showed how that same reliance could end up becoming a hindrance to the team’s title game hopes. McBride and Wright combined for 16 of the team’s 18 targets in the first half of the game while E.J. Scott and Nate Craig-Myers ultimately finished with two total catches for 19 yards on seven targets.