Mountain West Football: Week 5 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.
Mountain West football only consisted of six games this past weekend, as non-conference play winds down and our collective attention begins to turn toward the race to the conference championship, but we certainly got our money’s worth out of the modest slate and, as always, some players and teams cashed in while others busted.
Here are the winners and losers from Week 5 of Mountain West football.
1. Hawaii safety Khoury Bethley
The Warriors secondary had a great game in stunning Fresno State at home, but no one stood out more than Bethley. He tied for the team lead with nine total tackles and made several critical plays to help Hawaii ward off the Bulldogs: His first interception stopped a red zone threat dead in its tracks before halftime, his second pick set up a crucial fourth-quarter scoring drive, and his forced fumble with six-and-a-half minutes to go in the game set up another which helped Hawaii claim the lead for good.
Halftime | FS 14 UH 10
The second interception of the night, and both were in the RedZone. Khoury Bethley with the big pick! pic.twitter.com/GLNbZ7wfvv
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) October 3, 2021
2. Air Force linebacker Vince Sanford
Speaking of defensive players who made a tremendous splash, Sanford announced his presence in Albuquerque with authority by racking up a team-high eight tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the Falcons’ 38-10 romp over the New Mexico Lobos. If you’re wondering about the last time an Air Force defender had that kind of performance, well, it hasn’t happened since at least 2000, according to College Football Reference.
SACK ➡️ FUMBLE RECOVERY pic.twitter.com/4JM6iP2dAM
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) October 2, 2021
3. Nevada running back Toa Taua
The Wolf Pack might have relied on Carson Strong to get ahead early, but it was Taua’s performance that enabled Nevada to slam the door on any Boise State comeback bid. After being mostly bottled up against Cal and Kansas State, “Taua Power” got loose for 124 rushing yards on just 12 carries, which include a pair of second-half touchdowns, while also leading the team with seven receptions on eight targets, totaling 44 yards through the air.
— Nevada Football (@NevadaFootball) October 2, 2021
1. Boise State’s offensive line
It came out shortly before kickoff that the Broncos would try their fourth different starting lineup along the offensive line of the season against the Nevada Wolf Pack and, uh, they may want to find another after a dismal performance on the blue Saturday afternoon. Hank Bachmeier threw for 388 yards and four touchdowns, but he got punished far too often in the process and absorbed six sacks.
The running game fared a little better than in past weeks, even after George Holani exited with injury yet again, but it seems clear now that the Broncos’ hopes of reaching the conference title game again will hinge on how quickly they can find some continuity in the trenches that’s reliable.
TRISTAN NICHOLS IS BRINGING THE 🔨!
— Nevada Football (@NevadaFootball) October 2, 2021
2. Quarterbacks playing at less than 100%
This is really the only way to rope Utah State’s Logan Bonner and Fresno State’s Jake Haener together, as both battled through lingering hurts but ultimately fell short on the scoreboard on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Bonner had an okay game against BYU, finishing the evening 21-of-41 for 276 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but it marked the second week in a row that his completion percentage ended up under 60% and, with Andrew Peasley capable and in the wings, it makes for a tough situation that Aggies head coach Blake Anderson will need to navigate with a bye week on the way.
As for Jake Haener and his burgeoning Heisman campaign… it was fun while it lasted, I guess? He was knocked out briefly in the middle of the third quarter and replaced by backup Jaylen Henderson, though his return shortly thereafter may have been a mistake. After completing 20-of-31 passes to that point, Haener finished the night just 8-of-19 with two interceptions.
3. The Mountain West’s already-slim New Year’s Six bowl hopes
College football had another weekend of tremendous upheaval but, this time, the Mountain West was caught in the undertow when Fresno State lost to Hawaii. While this puts San Diego State in a good position to jump into the rankings themselves after finishing just a few spots outside of them last Sunday — the Bulldogs lost, as did Maryland, #15 Texas A&M, #20 UCLA, and #21 Baylor — the Aztecs would’ve been in a better spot long-term had Fresno State found a way to hold on, especially considering the two teams have a date in Carson on October 30.
It didn’t help, either, that Notre Dame didn’t show up at all against Cincinnati, that BYU handled business against Utah State, and that Coastal Carolina looked no worse for the wear despite quarterback Grayson McCall missing most of the second half against Louisiana-Monroe as an injury precaution. Best of luck, Aztecs, you’ll need it.