Mountain West Football: Week 13 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.
The Mountain West only got to play half of its original schedule this weekend, but there was still plenty of action and more than one surprising result for which we could be all be thankful.
Here’s who stood out and who let us down from Week 13 of Mountain West football.
1. Utah State quarterback Andrew Peasley. A change under center can sometimes work wonders. While we caution against extrapolating too much from the Aggies’ big win over New Mexico, there’s no doubt the offense looked a lot crisper with the sophomore Peasley at the helm for his first start ever. Not only did he complete 14-of-21 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns, far and away the team’s best performance through the air in 2020, he also led the Aggies with 118 rushing yards on 11 attempts, too, including a 62-yard fourth-quarter scamper that put the icing on their first win in nearly a full calendar year.
2. The Wyoming running game. If you had any doubts about whether or not the Cowboys would have issues after Xazavian Valladay left the game againt UNLV early with injury, they were definitely unfounded for at least one afternoon. Brett Vigen’s ground attack pounded the Rebels for 399 yards, at seven yards per carry, and six touchdowns, the first time that Wyoming had put together that kind of performance in its history as part of the Mountain West.
It wasn’t just one person carrying the load, either, which is good news for the Pokes and bad news for everyone else down the stretch. Valladay had a 78-yard scoring run before exiting, then Trey Smith led the way with a team-high 164 yards on 24 carries. Quarterback Levi Williams scored three times on the ground, redshirt freshman Dawaiian McNeely had 54 yards on 13 carries, and Brett Brenton cleaned up in the fourth quarter with 41 yards and his first career touchdown in the fourth quarterback.
3. Hawaii defensive coordinator Victor Santa Cruz. Nobody had been able to contain the Nevada Wolf Pack offense in the first half of the season but Santa Cruz solved that puzzle on Saturday night, continually dropping eight men into coverage and daring Carson Strong to try and beat them down the field. While Nevada didn’t make any obvious mistakes and took advantage of the situation with a stronger-than-expect running attack, the strategy worked to perfection by holding Strong to 168 yards, with just five explosive plays totaling 98 yards, while continually playing from behind.
1. Nevada’s discipline. One issue that has continually plagued the Wolf Pack all season, and eventually did them in throughout their loss to Hawaii, are mental errors. They seemed to come at particularly bad times throughout the night on Saturday — a 15-yard personal foul that erased a fourth-down conversion in the first quarter, a face mask and another personal foul that kept Hawaii’s 99-yard scoring drive alive in the third, and the pass interference call that decided the game —
2. San Diego State’s offense. The big question coming into the year, as always, was whether the Aztecs offense could effectively complement what looked like another strong defense and, over the last couple weeks, they have struggled mightily to do that. In racking up just 155 yards of total offense at 2.63 yards per play in their loss at Colorado, San Diego State had their worst overall performance on that side of the ball since the Chuck Long years. Granted, the team had to turn back to Carson Baker at quarterback and played without leading rusher Greg Bell, but the regression over the last few weeks has to be concerning.
3. San Jose State and Boise State. The reasoning here is much the same as it was for placing the Spartans and Fresno State in this spot last week, since it was a massive bummer to see a game with big ramifications canceled. Granted, public health and team health should take priority and the weekend largely worked out in both teams’ favors, but we’ll probably always wonder what might have been between what are now the top two teams in the Mountain West.