Mountain West Football: Week 0 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.
Finally! After what felt like a painfully long off-season, the Mountain West Conference was able to get college football season underway. It wasn’t all fun and games, though, as some folks on the field probably wish they’d had another week to prepare in retrospect.
Here’s our last full set of winners and losers from the last full weekend of Mountain West football.
1. Fresno State defensive coordinator William Inge. Mock UConn all you want for the talent disparity between the Huskies and the Bulldogs, but a shutout is a shutout. The 4-2-5 looked sharp in giving up just 107 yards of total offense and the defensive line, in particular, picked up right where it left off last season, as well as some of the team’s off-season decision making.
Arron Mosby, who had moved from linebacker to defensive end, and his scoop-and-score is the most obvious example, but they also got strong performers from the other starters — David Perales, Kwami Jones, and Kevin Atkins — and showed the kind of productive depth that could make a difference if the West division becomes the fight we all expect.
2. San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel. At least for one week, the questions about how Starkel would survive without his top two pass catchers from last season have been quelled. He went 17-of-28 for 394 yards and four touchdowns against Southern Utah, connecting with four different receivers for those scoring plays, and while the performance wasn’t without its blemishes — the pick-six in the second quarter was a bad decision that’ll need to get ironed out in the film room and at practice — that the Spartans proved they could spread the ball around to diverse playmakers will give USC plenty to think about in the week ahead.
— San José State Football 🏆 (@SanJoseStateFB) August 29, 2021
3. Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers. It’s not every day in the Mountain West that someone gets to go into a record book for being such a prolific scorer. Rivers put his name among Bulldog greats with an exclamation point on Saturday with a 61-yard catch-and-run for his 45th career touchdown, so while the Red Wave hopes that’ll be the first of many more to come in 2021, it’s cool to bask in the moment with one of the program’s best legacies.
You have a lot of people in your corner @lilronnie_20.
— Fresno State Football (@FresnoStateFB) August 29, 2021
1. Hawaii’s defensive line. The Warriors got dominated by UCLA yesterday afternoon and the overall performance carried many of the same markers as last season’s letdowns. Chief among them: Hawaii got bullied up front by the Bruins running game.
UCLA’s main running back tandem, Brittain Brown and Zach Charbonnet, combined for 184 yards and four touchdowns on just 19 carries, almost all of which came in the first half as they buried Hawaii in a deep hole early. Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Warriors defensive line didn’t manage a single tackle for loss until Jonah Laulu brought down backup quarterback Ethan Garbers for a fourth-quarter sack when the game was long out of reach. They’ll get a chance to turn things around at home against some lighter competition in the weeks to come, but with a wealth of talented Mountain West runners on the horizon, the Warriors had better do so quickly.
2. Mountain West punters. Even with a pair of blowout wins on the conference ledger to start the year, two punters who saw action yesterday didn’t cover themselves with glory. Fresno State’s Carson King averaged just 38.4 yards per punt thanks to a first-quarter shank that traveled just 20 yards, while Hawaii’s Matthew Shipley inadvertently took a knee in the first quarter for a turnover on downs, setting UCLA up inside the red zone, and then averaged 33.4 per punt on the five kicks he did get to attempt (to his credit, three of them landed inside the Bruins 20).
3. Hawaii offensive coordinator Bo Graham. Whether it was all part of the plan or a consequence of falling behind early, putting the ball in Chevan Cordeiro’s hands didn’t work out at all against UCLA because, in the first quarter, he was only 7-of-13 for 61 yards with an interception. He had pressure in his face seemingly every time he dropped back to pass, which meant that he rarely had time to push the ball down the field… and when he did, Calvin Turner Jr. looked like the only pass catcher capable of stretching the Bruins defense. There’s a lot of blame to go around for the poor performance, but it’ll be on Graham to diagnose and correct against Portland State next week.