Mountain West Football: Week 15 Winners and Losers
Who came out ahead and who left something to be desired in the last weekend of Mountain West football?
Some encouragement and some letdowns from the week that was.
The Mountain West Conference has often had a flair for the dramatic so, despite a lack of apparent drama on paper, no one should be surprised that Week 15 ended up bringing the heat after all. From a wild battle for a bid in the conference title game to snow games to an unexpected upset, the slate ended up having a little bit of everything.
Here’s our last full set of winners and losers from the last full weekend of Mountain West football.
1. San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan. At this point, the fourth-year Spartans head coach looks like a lock to earn the conference’s coach of the year honor and why not? Just two years removed from a 1-11 campaign, SJSU rallied from its biggest deficit of the year, a 20-7 halftime hole, with a strong second half to beat the Nevada Wolf Pack and claim the program’s first berth in a Mountain West football championship game. It all goes to show that tough jobs are never impossible ones if you make the right hire and the players have clearly bought in to Brennan’s energy and enthusiasm for turning the ship around.
COACH OF THE YEAR.
— San José State Football (@SanJoseStateFB) December 12, 2020
At this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see his name connected with other job openings in the Power 5. With a chance to secure the Spartans’ first outright conference title in 30 years, however, he’d probably tell you his job in the South Bay isn’t anywhere close to finished yet.
2. New Mexico quarterback Isaiah Chavez. What a way to make an impression. After stepping into the breach to lead an upset win over Wyoming last Saturday, the true freshman walk-on made his first start yesterday against Fresno State and proved that performance wasn’t a one-off. Chavez completed 14-of-18 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown, adding another 110 sack-adjusted rushing yards and a second score on the ground, in a 49-39 victory over the Bulldogs.
— New Mexico Football (@UNMLoboFB) December 13, 2020
After so much unexpected turnover at the game’s most important position, Lobos fans had to feel good that a little bit of stability went a long way over the last two weeks. Though there’s still plenty of work to be done in Albuquerque, Chavez definitely looks like he could part of a promising future in the Land of Enchantment.
3. Hawaii linebacker Darius Muasau. We probably haven’t paid much attention to how well the Warriors defense has played throughout the fall, and no one better exemplifies how much that unit has been slept on than the sophomore Muasau. He collected 18 total tackles, including 12 solo takedowns, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack in Hawaii’s win against UNLV, finishing the regular season as the top tackler in the Mountain West.
1. Nevada Wolf Pack running back Toa Taua. Let’s say this right at the start: The referees likely blew the fumble call that marked a turning point in Nevada’s loss to San Jose State. Clinging to a 20-14 lead on its first drive of the second half, it looked like Taua’s knees were down and the CBS Sports Network commentators even said as much, but that didn’t stop the Spartans from marching 99 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
In that respect, Taua’s appearance here isn’t entirely his fault since he racked up 128 yards of total offense on just 16 touches. That call was so egregious in the eyes of Wolf Pack fans, however, that it’s easy to forget he had a second fumble in the fourth quarter that killed Nevada’s comeback hopes for good.
2. Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. Last week’s loss to New Mexico was tough for the Cowboys, but at least you could point to the explosive element and say that the offense had at least a silver lining or two to which it could point. That wasn’t the case on Saturday in Laramie, where the snow can’t entirely explain what the hell happened to the Pokes.
In averaging just 2.5 yards per play, Wyoming put up a dismal performance that is only surpassed in its Mountain West history by the 50-0 beatdown suffered at Utah’s hands back in 2007. Quarterback Levi Williams was just plain bad again and then got hurt, and backup Gavin Beerup wasn’t any better. Xazavian Valladay’s return to the backfield didn’t amount to much, either, and it was such a glaring red light that Craig Bohl had to acknowledge there’s work to be done in the off-season to address it.
Has it been a strange year for everyone? Yes, but it’s reasonable to expect that the Cowboys attack wouldn’t regress as much as they have in the last few weeks.
3. Fresno State’s running game. If you wondered just how important Ronnie Rivers is to the Bulldogs offense, consider that Jordan Mims and Jevon Bigelow combined for just 11 carries in his stead in the loss to New Mexico. Granted, attacking a Lobos secondary that’s still a work in progress is a very reasonable thing to do, but it raises some eyebrows that Mims managed just one 84-yard touchdown run… and that’s it. Both Mims and Bigelow have been solid contributors in the past, but clearly there’s still work to be done to determine how Fresno State will adjust to life without Rivers next fall.