Mountain West Football: Week 11 Winners and Losers
Who came out ahead and who left something to be desired in the last weekend of Mountain West football?
Contact/Follow @MattK_FS & @MWCwire
Some encouragement and some letdowns from the week that was.
Things are coming down to the wire in Mountain West football action and, as you probably expected, some of the weekend’s biggest games had a big number of twists and turns. Now that the dust has settled, however, let’s take a look at the winners and losers from Week 11.
1. UNLV running back Charles Williams
After the Rebels and Hawaii Warriors traded a number of turnovers in the first half of the Ninth Island Showdown, Williams ensured the home team wouldn’t regress by putting the offense on his back. The end result? Well, we haven’t seen a wagon move like that since National Lampoon’s Vacation: A career-best 266 rushing yards, just the 13th time in Mountain West history a player has run for at least that many yards, and three touchdowns on a career-high 38 carries. When someone simply will not be denied, it can be special to watch.
Turned on the jets 💨 @ChuckW_8 pic.twitter.com/EqNSFOGikM
— UNLV Football (@unlvfootball) November 13, 2021
2. San Diego State athlete Matt Araiza
Araiza has made national headlines for his prowess as a punter, but it turned out that the Aztecs needed every single contribution he could give them on Saturday night to outlast the Nevada Wolf Pack. Averaging 55.6 yards per punt was business as usual, though it proved crucial in terms of field position since Nevada started those five drives at the 28, 20, 20, 18 and 20-yard line, ensuring that Carson Strong and the Wolf Pack offense would have string together long drives to get the upper hand.
More importantly, Araiza was also nails on field goal tries as he connected on 3-of-4 kicks (with the lone miss coming from 55 yards), including the game-winning 35-yarder with 1:21 to go. That ensured that San Diego State would continue to control its own destiny in the West division and climb up the national rankings just a little further on Sunday and Tuesday.
Game on the line… @matt_araiza delivers pic.twitter.com/xqcdRxjC2P
— San Diego State Football (@AztecFB) November 14, 2021
3. Utah State linebacker Ajani Carter
Once again, the Aggies pulled it together after a slow start thanks to contributions on both sides of the ball against San Jose State. Individually, though, no one did more than the junior from Houston.
First, he strip-sacked Nick Nash early in the second quarter and recovered the fumble, setting up a short Utah State touchdown drive. Later, he intercepted Nick Starkel in the fourth quarter with an incredible effort to put an exclamation point on what had been a dominant second half. In all, Carter headlined what might have been the Mountain division-leading Aggies’ best overall effort of the year to date.
Like we said… @AjaniCarter3 ➡️ turnover machine!#AggiesAllTheWay pic.twitter.com/4oEypiXcvM
— USU Football (@USUFootball) November 14, 2021
1. Colorado State
It feels like overtrodden territory to bring up the Rams again here, but the defense didn’t have many answers against the Air Force ground game, coughing up 386 rushing yards at 5.8 yards per attempt, and they allowed the longest passing play in Falcons program history thanks in large part to a busted coverage down the field.
The offense had its moments, especially when Trey McBride could bull his way for extra yards, but CSU’s own rushing attack was mostly held in check and Todd Centeio’s strong efforts — he extended a handful of plays with his legs and powered for a short touchdown — were undermined by a pair of killer interceptions. It wasn’t exactly a dismal performance since the offense averaged a solid 5.2 yards per play and went 7-of-14 on third downs, but overall it proved to be the same kind of boring and conservative result that couldn’t hold up without an even better defensive performance to complement it.
.@AF_Football's Milton Bugg III with the interception. pic.twitter.com/wgzKru7wna
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 14, 2021
2. Wyoming’s offensive efficiency
The Cowboys were never really out of it on the blue against Boise State on Friday night, but you never really got the sense they could truly threaten the Broncos because the offense was a lot more boom-and-bust than it needed to be. Isaiah Neyor, for instance, finished the evening with six catches for 126 yards and a touchdown, but the rest of the team combined for just 30 yards on five receptions.
Likewise, Xazavian Valladay and Titus Swen had a few nice runs but the overall production (96 rushing yards on 22 attempts) was a far cry from they surely hoped to get. And while Levi Williams’ lone interception wasn’t really his fault, those are all big reasons why Wyoming struggled to cobble together a long drive or two, finishing with a 32% offensive success rate and just 3-of-10 on third downs while never facing anything shorter than 3rd-and-5 all night long.
He'll take that 🤧
→ First-career INT for @dwash_9 pic.twitter.com/Omnuax6f5e
— Boise State Football (@BroncoSportsFB) November 13, 2021
3. New Mexico quarterback Isaiah Chavez
It became clear pretty quickly that Chavez and the Lobos wouldn’t be able to threaten Fresno State through the air on Saturday, which ended up making the game a an exercise in slow inevitability for New Mexico fans watching at home. While freshman running back Aaron Dumas had a nice night on offense, Chavez enabled the Bulldogs to exorcise some of last year’s demons by finishing the day 2-of-7 for 34 yards with an interception, with only 14 yards on seven carries. It’s a learning experience, but it’s also revealed some of the limitations of the team’s recent reinventions and acts as another reminder that growth isn’t always linear.