Mountain West Football: Week 12 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.
In the penultimate week of Mountain West football’s regular season, the conference decided to lean further into high drama and unexpected turns of events. Depending on your rooting interests, you either love or hate to see it, but let’s take a look at the winners and losers from Week 12.
1. Air Force
The Falcons kicked off an epic weekend of conference play with a wild triple-overtime victory over Nevada and, given how the rest of the slate played out, got exactly the kind of help they needed to strengthen their position in the Mountain division race.
They helped themselves first, though, with another strong performance from the running game as both fullback Brad Roberts and tailback DeAndre Hughes topped 100 yards on the ground (Hughes actually topped 200, the first Falcon to do so since Cole Fagan in 2018). The defense got after Carson Strong, as well, sacking the Wolf Pack quarterback seven times and forcing an interception even as he topped 300 passing yards for the seventh straight game.
Their victory, combined with Utah State’s loss to Wyoming on Saturday, puts them in a position where they now hold the inside track to a spot in the championship game. Should the Falcons, Aggies, and Boise State Broncos all win next week, Air Force would advance on tiebreakers (Utah State would be eliminated first because of its two divisional losses, and then Air Force owns the head-to-head advantage against Boise State). In other words, life is good in Colorado Springs right now.
Finished it‼️ pic.twitter.com/m5jsb8jb41
— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) November 20, 2021
2. UNLV quarterback Justin Rogers
The Rebels might have lost their matchup with San Diego State on Friday night, but Rogers made sure that the Aztecs had to work for every single minute to escape. After Cameron Friel got knocked out of the game with an injury, it was an open question as to how effective the junior from Shreveport would be until he completed his first five passes for 126 yards, four first downs and a touchdown to Zyell Griffin.
From there, Rogers would go on to have arguably the single best game by a Rebels quarterback this century, finishing 15-of-21 for 305 yards with two touchdowns and a late-game interception that probably should have come off the stat sheet because of an uncalled offsides penalty. In terms of passer rating, only Jason Thomas in 2002 had a better overall performance than Rogers. While Friel’s status for the regular season finale remains to be seen, it’s just more evidence that this Rebels team is growing into something very promising.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 20, 2021
3. Hawaii linebacker Darius Muasau
In a game that featured nearly 1,200 yards of total offense, it might seem strange to highlight an individual defensive performance. However, Muasau’s ability to make stops proved to be vital for the Warriors to hang on against Colorado State late on Saturday night.
Not only did Muasau lead Hawaii with 13 total tackles (including 12 solo takedowns), he collected two sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. You read that last one right: Though the Warriors only recovered one of those fumbles, he became just the third Mountain West player since 2000 to accomplish that particular feat.
FUMBLE!!!! Darius Muasau with the big play to start the third quarter! pic.twitter.com/HMjzWv9ylX
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) November 21, 2021
1. Utah State
It’s always tough to lose control of your destiny in a division race, but the Aggies made a few too many early mistakes and, for a change, couldn’t make up enough ground against Wyoming on Saturday night.
First and foremost, Utah State’s run defense ran out of answers after some early success against the Cowboys ground game, allowing Titus Swen and Xazavian Valladay to run for a combined 314 yards (including a 98-yard backbreaking touchdown from Swen to put an exclamation point on the night). The Aggies passing game wasn’t able to get things going, either, as Logan Bonner finished just 19-of-40 for 181 yards and two touchdowns, though the offense as a whole also gave the ball away three times. That -2 turnover margin is also what played a big role in their earlier losses to Boise State and BYU, something they’d mostly been able to overcome in their recent surge.
It isn’t all doom and gloom in Logan now, of course, but the Aggies will now need some help if they want to return to the Mountain West championship game for the first time since 2013.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) November 21, 2021
2. New Mexico’s special teams
The Lobos faced long odds of keeping things competitive on the road against the Boise State Broncos on Saturday, so when New Mexico gave up two touchdowns on blocked punts in the first 17 minutes of the game, you could tell that would be a wrap on whatever hopes they harbored for an upset bid.
It was especially disappointing in that New Mexico hadn’t really had such lapses all season long, which made for a problem they aren’t, at present, really equipped to overcome. Sophomore punter Aaron Rodriguez is averaging a solid 42.9 yards per punt this year and, at least by special teams SP+, the Lobos were in the middle of the pack nationally before yesterday’s game, so while it’s likely that this was more of an aberration than anything, you can bet they’ll work on the practice field to rectify those issues in order to end the season next week on a more positive (or at least neutral) note.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 21, 2021
3. Colorado State quarterback Todd Centeio
If you’re searching for the weekend’s spiritual successor to “Nick Foles in a losing effort”, look no further (and cue that Solid Verbal sound bite while you’re at it for the fullest effect). However, though Centeio would finish the night 29-of-48 with 527 yards and five touchdowns, it’s worth remembering that he was not very good in the early stages of the Rams’ loss to Hawaii.
Consider, for instance, that he was just 11-of-20 in the first half, including a brutal interception just before halftime that Cameron Lockridge gladly took to the house for a touchdown. A second interception by Khoury Bethley in the third quarter didn’t end up immediately hurting the Rams as Matthew Shipley would miss a 41-yard field goal try, but those early mistakes would render the Rams’ fourth-quarter rally too little and too late.
Serious question…. How much of the 🌎 is covered by water, and how much of it is covered by Khoury Bethley? pic.twitter.com/rIn2SCiOW8
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) November 21, 2021