Mountain West Football: Week 4 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.
With nine Mountain West games on the docket between Friday night and Saturday, you figured there would be plenty of room for surprises and, sure enough, a number of battles didn’t turn out at all the way anyone expected.
Here are the winners and losers from Week 4 of Mountain West football.
1. Fresno State wide receiver Jalen Cropper
The Bulldogs took UNLV’s best shot on a short week Friday night, so they needed everything their stars could give to rally and hold off the Rebels. No one did more in that regard than Cropper, who took over in the second half and scored four touchdowns to match a school record, finishing the evening with ten catches on 13 targets for 108 yards.
Here's the 4 touchdowns for Jalen Cropper vs UNLV (all in 2nd half).
Cropper's four receiving touchdowns tied the single game program record. He joins Davante Adams, Jim Molich and Charlie Jones as the only 'Dogs to do so. @jcropper_5 pic.twitter.com/oUE2xAIifm
— Scott Bemis (@SBemisOnline) September 25, 2021
2. Hawaii linebacker Darius Muasau
After a relatively quiet September, Muasau’s dominant performance against New Mexico State on Saturday night was a reminder of just how disruptive he can be and, by extension, how good Hawaii’s defense could be, too. He racked up 11 tackles (including nine solo takedowns), three tackles for loss and two sacks against the Aggies as the Warriors held them to just 4.56 yards per play.
3. Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels
Anytime you establish a new program record of some kind, you make the winners list. Those are the rules, but Daniels did a lot in the Falcons’ dominant win over Florida Atlantic than his epic 94-yard touchdown run. He contributed 234 yards of total offense and two scores on just four passes and 17 carries, looking every bit the master operator that could give defenses nightmares as Air Force turns toward conference play.
Man on a mission ‼️@ziiqq3 runs 94 yards for a new school record and an Air Force touchdown 🙌 pic.twitter.com/pLfn8Fl7sK
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) September 26, 2021
1. San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel
Put simply, the Spartans quarterback hasn’t looked as sharp in 2021 as he was in the team’s rise last fall and Saturday marked the worst overall performance of his tenure in San Jose. He completed just 6-of-14 passes for 55 yards, including another poor decision which led to a Western Michigan interception, before getting knocked out of the game with a left arm injury. Considering that his replacements, Walker Eget and Natano Woods, were even worse coming off the bench, the SJSU faithful will certainly hope for the best with regards to Starkel’s health, that he can return to form before the team’s title defense is over much earlier than expected.
2. Utah State
The Aggies’ loss to Boise State on Saturday afternoon looks lopsided if all you paid attention to was the final score, but Utah State had plenty of opportunities to establish the game’s tone and couldn’t do it because of so… so many mistakes. Utah State converted just one out of four red zone opportunities, lost the turnover battle, committed 13 penalties (the most in a USU game since 2014), and just couldn’t get its offense on track in a 27-3 loss.
They still look like a good bet to be a major factor in the Mountain West championship race, but this proved to be a reality check that there’s plenty of work left to be done.
3. The depleted New Mexico passing game
When news broke shortly before kickoff that six Lobos pass catchers would miss the UTEP game because of COVID-19 contact tracing protocols, you just knew it would affect the overall game plan. It may have been the biggest factor in New Mexico falling short against the Miners since Terry Wilson struggled without Mannie Logan-Greene, Andrew Erickson and others in the fold. UNM managed just one passing play of over 20 yards and Wilson finished 16-of-38 for 160 yards with one interception.
Given that the Lobos could’ve been halfway to a bowl bid had they been able to beat UTEP, this result could loom large since the Mountain West looks like it could be a tough road for pretty much everyone to walk.