Mountain West Football: Conference Championship, Air Force vs. Army Winners and Losers
The title game and the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy bout between Air Force and Army had its fair share of ups and downs.
Some encouragement and some letdowns from the week that was.
Despite having just two games on the schedule this week, we should’ve known that the Mountain West would still know how to cram the slate with action.
With a new conference champion and a proverbial fistfight for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, here’s our take on the winners and losers from the Mountain West football championship and Air Force/Army.
1. San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel. When it became clear that the Spartans might have trouble getting its ground game going in yesterday’s title game, the transfer quarterback put the entire game on his right arm and made sure the Broncos couldn’t mount a complete comeback.
Starkel completed 32-of-52 passes for 453 yards, a championship game record, and three touchdowns. That stat line could’ve been even more impressive without a handful of drops throughout the contest, but he created big plays when San Jose State needed them most with 11 explosive plays that totaled 301 yards.
Beautiful throw from Nick Starkel pic.twitter.com/Pm76LTk0Gu
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) December 20, 2020
2. Air Force tight end Kyle Patterson. The Falcons won’t soon forget this tough loss to rival Army, but it’s safe to say that the sophomore did his part with three catches for 65 yards and Air Force’s lone touchdown of the afternoon. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a tight end make that kind of impact in the Air Force offense, so it will be exciting to see how the Falcons keep him involved over the next couple years.
How big the window was on that touchdown pass 🤏
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) December 19, 2020
3. Boise State cornerback Avery Williams. In retrospect, it should be wholly unsurprising that the player who sparked Boise State’s comeback hopes was the same one who’d been creating massive breaks for them all season long. Williams’s 69-yard punt return touchdown in the third quarter was the ninth of his decorated career, which ties the NCAA record, and drove home that we may never see a playmaker like him in the Mountain West again.
AVERY WILLIAMS DOES IT AGAIN pic.twitter.com/9HxfrySVbg
— Boise Edits (@boise_edits) December 20, 2020
1. Boise State offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau and offensive line coach Brad Bedell. How much of Boise State’s offensive woes should you attribute to injuries and COVID-related circumstances? The reality is that the Broncos still went into Saturday’s game with the best young quarterback in the conference, one of its best wide receivers, and a healthy offensive line… and got the brakes beaten off of them in a way we simply aren’t used to seeing.
They averaged just 3.6 yards per play, a figure surpassed since 2000 by only the Broncos’ home loss to San Diego State back in 2018, and they ended the regular season by averaging fewer than five yards per play in four of their last five games. That’s a stretch of shakiness that, according to CFBStats.com, hasn’t happened since at least 2009. They also got hammered up front to the tune of seven tackles for loss and three sacks and it wasn’t the kind of thing you can simply pin on one underperforming athlete. Boise State is going to have to take a long look at what it wants to be once the season is in the books.
— San José State Football 🏆 (@SanJoseStateFB) December 19, 2020
2. The Boise State defense. This unit isn’t here because of something they did, obviously, since it looked for all the world to see like they were doing everything they could to help the offense stay in the game.
For instance, though they were hit hard by San Jose State on first downs all game long, the Spartans finished just 5-of-16 on third down tries. The Broncos defense also had season highs with ten tackles for loss and six pass breakups, so an off-season to recuperate and learn from the year’s frustrations should put them in a good position to bounce back.
3. Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels. The sophomore signal-caller will learn from this one. Though Daniels had a stretch in the middle of the game against Army where he caught fire, completing 6-of-9 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, his contributions through the air were bookended by a trio of killer interceptions, the first time since October 2016 that the Falcons had thrown that many picks.