Mountain West Football: Week 7 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 entered its first full week of nothing but conference clashes and, well, it ended up being a pretty wild weekend, right? Not always in a good way, mind you, depending on who you ask, but we got a little more clarity in the race to the title games thanks to a new crop of heroes and duds.
Here are the winners and losers from Week 7 of Mountain West football.
1. San Diego State quarterback Lucas Johnson
Talk about coming through in the clutch: The Aztecs had a bear of a time putting anything together on offense in regulation against San Jose State, averaging a meager 3.2 yards per play in the game’s first sixty minutes, until Johnson took over for Jordon Brookshire under center and promptly threw two touchdown passes to the underrated Jesse Matthews in overtime, helping San Diego State to remain unbeaten in the process.
Given that Brookshire has struggled mightily since his return from injury two weeks ago, you have to wonder whether a change at quarterback might be in the works.
— San Diego State Football (@AztecFB) October 16, 2021
2. Utah State safety Shaq Bond
In perhaps the wildest game of the day, the Aggies escaped an upset bid by UNLV in no small part thanks to Bond, who not only led the defense with nine tackles but snagged two fourth-quarter interceptions to keep the Rebels at bay. Considering that UNLV ended up averaging six yards per play against a Utah State defense that had been prone to a lot of bending, securing the critical turnovers once again proved to be a tremendous difference maker.
— USU Football (@USUFootball) October 17, 2021
3. Air Force fullback Brad Roberts
It’s rare that any one Falcons ball carrier shoulders so much of the offense’s running game, Beau Morgan in 1996 and Jacobi Owens in 2014 come to mind, but Roberts has taken that to a new level and Air Force needed every bit of what he could give them in defeating Boise State on the road yesterday.
Roberts ran 28 times, the sixth time in seven games that he’s had at least 25 carries, for 138 yards and two first-half touchdowns, the second of which gave Air Force a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. If you’re looking for reasons why the streaking Falcons are making a push for their first title game appearance in six years, it starts with #20.
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) October 17, 2021
1. Freshman quarterbacks
It was a rough day of quarterbacking for many different Mountain West teams on Saturday, but the youngest guns may have had it the worst.
Hawaii’s Brayden Schager made some progress in his second start for the Warriors, but he absorbed four sacks and threw four interceptions which led to 17 Nevada points in a loss to the Wolf Pack. Cameron Friel, meanwhile, battled Utah State and finished the day 11-of-21 for 107 yards with an interception before a late leg injury knocked him out for the rest of the game.
And then there’s New Mexico’s C.J. Montes, who provided a valuable lesson in letting one’s work speak for them against Colorado State:
Interesting quote in the ABQ Journal from Lobos freshman QB CJ Montes who is likely to make his first college start tonight vs CSU:
"Schematically, we should run through these guys. What (offensive coordinator Derek Warehime) has for us, I think we should blow these guys out.”
— Brian Roth (@BrianHRoth) October 16, 2021
You can admire the confidence, but Montes then completed three of 19 pass attempts for 11 yards, and threw two interceptions, in a 29-point loss to the Rams. It might literally have been the single worst quarterback performance in Mountain West history.
Speaking of brutal quarterback performances, the Cowboys’ Sean Chambers looked every bit as bad as his Saturday stat line suggests — 8-of-23, 111 yards and three interceptions — in a shutout loss at home to Fresno State. While Chambers also led the team with 51 rushing yards, as well, he also lost another fumble which set up the Bulldogs’ first touchdown and didn’t get much help from Xazavian Valladay and Titus Swen, who combined for just 71 yards on 16 carries. Barring some stumbles elsewhere, it effectively slams the door shut on their conference championship window for 2021.
Even worse, though, is this all there is to look forward to in the long term? The Cowboys defense did its part yet again, holding Fresno State to just 3.6 yards per play while forcing two turnovers on downs and a missed field goal, but the offensive ineptitude enabled the Bulldogs to win its first game since 2008 while being held in check on offense like it was. It’s a frustrating feeling, to think you’re simply spinning your wheels, so while Wyoming still remains a solid bet to at least land in a bowl somewhere, perhaps it’s time to put a little heat under Craig Bohl’s seat.
We apologize if you were trying to fly into Laramie this afternoon… it's a no fly zone. 🚫🚫🚫🚫
— Fresno State Football (@FresnoStateFB) October 16, 2021
3. Boise State’s title hopes
Injuries can sink just about any team, no matter how talented they are, and that seems to be the case for the Broncos after a third straight loss on the blue turf on Saturday against Air Force. Without George Holani, Cyrus Habibi-Likio, Markel Reed, and more, the running game once again lacked flash (Andrew Van Buren averaged a very Van Buren-like 3.9 yards per carry), the defensive line gave Scott Matlock no help in creating havoc, and the offense lost the turnover battle for the third time this fall. Unsurprisingly, that coincides with the Broncos’ last three losses.
While it’s easy to feel frustrated with the lack of progress in Andy Avalos’s first year at the helm, the situation in Boise, unlike the situation in Laramie, is probably one where patience is a virtue. This year’s Broncos squad has never been at full strength, after all, so while the Boise State faithful are in unfamiliar territory right now, it doesn’t have to be a harbinger of things to come.