Mountain West Football: Week 13 Winners and Losers

Mountain West Football: Week 13 Winners and Losers

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Mountain West Football: Week 13 Winners and Losers

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Mountain West Football: Week 13 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.

The regular season has come to a close, which means the end of the line for this weekly column isn’t too far ahead at this point. Unlike a lot of other weeks, this final week of Mountain West football play didn’t have a huge amount of drama as just one game was decided by fewer than ten points, but we’re thankful for one last bountiful crop of winners and losers to take us into championship weekend. Here’s who’s up and who’s down bad from Week 13.

Winners

1. San Diego State defensive tackle Jonah Tavai

The Aztecs got pushed early in their Friday morning battle with Boise State and it wasn’t until the defense found its footing that San Diego State was able to rally and finish off the Broncos to wrap up the West division title.

Chief among the reasons why the Aztecs still have a championship to play for was the senior Tavai, who may have been overshadowed a bit this year playing between Cameron Thomas and Keshawn Banks but put together a Herculean effort to stymie the Broncos. He finished the day with six tackles, two quarterback hurries, three sacks, and three tackles for loss, winning repeatedly at the point of attack against a Boise State offensive line that played without perhaps its best overall player in guard Jake Stetz.

2. Colorado State head coach Steve Addazio

After months of criticism for lackluster and predictable results from Fort Collins, you’ve got to hand it to Addazio for the creativity he expressed on Saturday night. Not only did he find a way to bail out from watching his Colorado State Rams lose by 42 points to Nevada by getting ejected from the game in the first half, he managed to contradict himself in the post-game press conference by insisting that the team is still a work in progress despite the fact that he spoke openly of competing for a conference championship this season back in the spring.

One can only imagine how things might look once stars like Trey McBride move on, except Addazio might also be a secret finesse king. Though his contract buyout drops by two million dollars on December 1, he’d still collect a cool $3 million if athletic director Joe Parker decides to give him the axe after that point. Maybe that doesn’t seem likely, but you never know and, at any rate, it’s rare that dispassion, excuse making and antipathy pays this well.

3. Hawaii tight end Steven Fiso

One of the best things about college football is that anyone can be a big enough hero that they find themselves shooting commercials for Applebee’s in short order. Such was the case in Laramie on Saturday, where tight end Steven Fiso came out of nowhere to have the biggest game of his collegiate career in Hawaii’s Paniolo Trophy victory over Wyoming.

The American Samoa native caught two passes for 51 yards and two touchdowns against the Cowboys. Those two receptions were the first in Fiso’s 21 games with the Warriors, as were the scores, and if you can’t feel good about the infectious hype in the locker room at the end of the game, then you may not actually be a college football fan.

Losers

1. San Jose State

The Spartans’ conference title defense ended with a whimper on Thursday afternoon when Fresno State rolled into CEFCU Stadium and dispatched SJSU with relative ease. To the team’s credit, however, it could have been a much different game except for missed opportunities in the first half: Three drives into the red zone ended with three field goals while two fumbles erased another pair of promising drives around midfield.

Nick Starkel’s day, in particular, makes for a tidy summation of the way things went this year for the Spartans. Though he battled through the game against the Bulldogs, it looked like he wasn’t 100% after absorbing a couple of big hits early and he finished the game just 19-of-42 for 260 yards. Though they’ll reload at a lot of spots heading into 2022, don’t count San Jose State all the way out.

2. UNLV

The Rebels’ strong second half of 2021 ended on a sour note with a 48-14 loss to Air Force on Saturday afternoon.

On defense, UNLV had some success containing the Falcons in power rushing situations (Air Force was 2-of-9 on rushing plays of two yards or fewer to move the chains or score a touchdown), but they allowed a 54% offensive success rate and did not need backup quarterback Warren Bryan to throw the ball… at all.

The offense wasn’t much better outside of Charles Williams’ two touchdowns once the game was out of reach. Justin Rogers couldn’t duplicate his strong game against San Diego State and completed just 8-of-18 passes for 127 yards while the offensive line gave up five sacks.

One game doesn’t define a season, though, and there are still plenty of reasons for long-suffering UNLV fans to feel optimistic about the direction of the program.

3. Utah State’s skeptics

After a 2020 campaign in which nearly everything that could go wrong did, the Aggies’ turnaround under head coach Blake Anderson is nearly complete. One big reason why the season’s final weekend ended up being so anticlimactic is because Utah State did exactly what was expected in dispatching New Mexico by a 35-10 margin; the only mystery, really, is when exactly it dawned on the Aggies’ sideline in Albuquerque that, following San Diego’s State victory over Boise State, they would be going to the Mountain West championship.

Now’s a good time, then, to take stock of just how far behind Utah State left what were some fairly modest expectations. They bested Las Vegas’s win projection by the end of September. They won the Mountain division after being projected by both the conference’s media and our own staff to finish fifth. Blake Anderson not only convinced Deven Thompkins not to hit the transfer portal, he enabled the senior wide receiver to break the program’s single-season record for receiving yards. Oh, and he also brought in quarterback Logan Bonner, who promptly tied the Aggies’ single-season record with 32 passing touchdowns.

This Twitter thread for Ajay Salvesen gives you a sense of just how complete the 180 turn has been for Utah State, and there’s a strong case that it’s even more impressive than other comparable narratives like 2017 Fresno State or 2016 Wyoming. There’s still a few things left to accomplish, of course, but fans in Logan can be assured this has been no fluke. Enjoy the ride, you’ve earned it.

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