Mountain West Football: Week 3 Winners and Losers
Who came out ahead and who left something to be desired in the last weekend of Mountain West football?
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Some encouragement and some letdowns from the week that was.
If you stayed up through 16 full hours of Mountain West football action yesterday, then congratulations, you are a winner!
As this column tends to focus more on who performed on the gridiron and who didn’t, however, we can’t just stop there. Here are the winners and losers from Week 3 of Mountain West football.
1. Utah State quarterback Andrew Peasley
In what became a wild back-and-forth battle between the Aggies and the Air Force Falcons, no one was a bigger hero for the eventual victors than Utah State’s backup quarterback. After Logan Bonner exited the game with an injury early in the second half and returned only briefly, Peasley stepped into the breach and rallied the offense from deficits of 31-20 and 45-34, finishing 10-of-15 with 195 yards and three touchdowns.
HOLY ROCKET!! 🚀
Andrew Peasley connects with Deven Thompkins for a 72-yard score and @USUFootball ain't done yet!! pic.twitter.com/ycN5Z9KAjC
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 19, 2021
2. Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener
Speaking of displays of gutsy quarterback heroism, Jake Haener solidified his status as an all-time program great with a legendary performance against #13 UCLA on Saturday night. It isn’t the first time Haener has shown a willingness to give all under duress, but after absorbing some big hits he still managed to throw two touchdown passes in the final three minutes, capping a 39-of-53 night in which he threw for 455 yards to defeat the Bruins.
LET'S GO @FresnoStateFB!#AtThePeak | #GoDogs pic.twitter.com/c3IiCF4IEQ
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) September 19, 2021
3. Colorado State’s ideal game plan
Now that’s more like it. While the Rams offense sputtered for most of the game against Toledo, the defense and special teams had far and away their best overall performance of the young season against the Rockets, holding the home team to four yards per play while collecting six sacks and ten tackles for loss.
Ryan Stonehouse had another quality performance, as well, averaging 52.2 yards per punt, while Thomas Pannunzio had a punt return touchdown to give the Rams a lead they wouldn’t relinquish and kicker Cayden Camper had a career-best five field goals to help CSU secure the upset.
Big fella comin' through!#RamClash 🤜🤛 pic.twitter.com/xenuqF27I5
— Colorado State Football (@CSUFootball) September 18, 2021
1. UNLV quarterback Tate Martell
Martell’s hotly anticipated debut for his hometown Rebels turned out to be much ado about nothing, at least in UNLV’s blowout loss to Iowa State on Saturday. By the time he saw the field in the early third quarter, the Rebels already trailed 24-0, which made the decision to run a quarterback keeper of sorts for zero yards and then remove Martell from the game a little puzzling.
Though he’d pitch in later during the Rebels’ lone scoring drive of the evening, the moves didn’t provide the hoped-for offensive spark as he finished 2-of-6 through the air for 27 yards with two yards on four rushing attempts. The question remains why Marcus Arroyo wouldn’t put Martell in the game when it was still competitive since starter Cameron Friel looked mostly overwhelmed in his first career start as a true freshman, but you have imagine we’ll see more of him as the season progresses.
2. The Nevada running game
The Wolf Pack fell short on the road against Kansas State for a few different reasons, but none were more glaring than the running game’s inability to get anything going. Toa Taua’s longest run of the game was just eight yards and he combined with Devonte Lee to finish with 39 combined rushing yards on 16 attempts while the Wildcats racked up six tackles for loss.
It had the effect of putting the game entirely in Carson Strong’s hands and while the Nevada quarterback didn’t make that many mistakes (even the interception he threw came as a result of a receiver falling down), he also absorbed three sacks and didn’t get much help from the defense, either. The rest of the Mountain West is surely taking notes, so the Union and those in the backfield behind them will have some work to do before others can take advantage.
3. Boise State’s offense
As it turns out, George Holani’s full return to the backfield wasn’t the silver bullet that Broncos fans hoped for. Without center Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez and young wide receiver Stefan Cobbs, Boise State again struggled to run the football — Holani himself had a fumble before halftime that Oklahoma State turned into the game-winning touchdown — and create explosive plays when Khalil Shakir isn’t involved.
While most of the post-game discussion revolved around a pair of critical calls from the referees, a second-quarter pass interference call and a fourth-quarter scoop-and-score which was erased when the play was ruled dead, those pivot points can’t account for Hank Bachmeier throwing a brutal interception in that same fourth quarter and finishing the game with only seven conpletions in his last 16 pass attempts, why the depleted offensive line gave up three second-half sacks, and why the Broncos averaged an anemic 2.9 yards per play in the second half when the game was right there for the taking.