Mountain West Football: Week 1 Winners And Losers
We take a look at the Mountain West’s winners and losers from Week 1 of college football.
Encouragements and letdowns from the off-season that was.
Well, that’s one way to get a football season underway in full.
Week 1 of Mountain West football arrived in all of its splendor and while some teams were able to coast to an easy victory, others got into some wild action or got pasted in routs against elite opponents. With that in mind, here are the biggest winners and losers from Thursday and Saturday.
1. New Mexico
After their offensive free-fall in the second half of 2021, it was good to see the Lobos come out strong on both sides of the ball in their 41-0 victory over Maine. The balanced attack outgained the Black Bears by a nearly four-to-one margin, averaging six yards per play, and while it wasn’t perfect — Miles Kendrick had a pair of interceptions, while the team had three fumbles and nine penalties — it was an encouraging sign that the Lobos could move the ball for most of four quarters and, more importantly, capitalize on scoring opportunities: New Mexico got all of its points on six of seven trips into the red zone.
Rocky Long’s defense did its part, too, forcing two Maine turnovers while collecting three sacks and holding the visitors to 2.5 yards per play. Next week’s test against Boise State should be a little stiffer, but for one week UNM appeared to be back in business.
2. Nevada cornerback Bentlee Sanders
The Wolf Pack continued their defensive onslaught in a resounding 38-14 win over Texas State, forcing four turnovers, four sacks, and 11 tackles for loss, but no one had a bigger day against the Bobcats than the former South Florida transfer Sanders.
After snagging one interception in the season opener against New Mexico State, Sanders doubled his output and grabbed two more, including a pick-six for the Wolf Pack’s last points of the day. Through two weeks, he’s been one of the leading examples of how the remade Nevada roster has improved and should demand more attention moving forward.
3. Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley
Now that was more like Craig Bohl and Tim Polasek drew it up. After a lousy performance in Week 0 against Illinois, credit where credit is due because Peasley pulled it together and helped lead the Cowboys to a wild 40-37 double overtime victory over Tulsa.
He got off to a much faster start against the Golden Hurricane than he did against the Illini and finished the day 20-of-30 for 256 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Peasley also led the Pokes with 45 rushing yards on ten attempts, using his mobility to move the chains at a couple of key junctures, so if this is more of the Wyoming team we’ll see looking ahead, they could be just as dangerous to play as ever.
1. Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier
The Broncos struggled mightily on offense in the early parts of their 34-17 road loss to Oregon State, enough so that the “Hurricane Hank” era under center may have come to an alarmingly unceremonious close. Bachmeier completed just 4-of-8 pass attempts for 30 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble before being relieved by Taylen Green in the second quarter.
Whether there’s an actual quarterback controversy or whether the switch is more permanent remains to be seen, bu it’s a troubling sign, regardless, that head coach Andy Avalos had so quick a hook for his veteran signal-caller.
2. Colorado State’s and San Jose State’s offensive lines
Yes, the Rams weren’t the only Mountain West team to get rolled (no pun intended) by a team in the College Football Playoff conversation this fall, but the dominant performance by Michigan’s front seven can’t be entirely explained away by “well, it’s Michigan”, can it?
Clay Millen’s formal introduction to the college football world was a rude one, as the Rams gave up seven sacks and eleven tackles for loss in a 51-7 defeat, so while that unit isn’t likely to be pressed as strongly as they were against the Wolverines, it bears monitoring.
The good news? Misery loves company and CSU wasn’t the only Mountain West team to allow seven sacks in Week 1. San Jose State did, too, though they scrapped their way to a 21-17 victory over Portland State. The most alarming part of that is not that Viking stars VJ Malo and Parker McKenna had one each, but that defensive back Tyreese Shakir, the brother of former Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir, got loose for three. The Spartans got by for one week, though other defenses may be less forgiving in future matchups.
3. College Football Playoff hopefuls
If you were waiting on Alabama’s downfall anywhere in the country, from College Station to Columbus to Athens, well, Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide has some bad news for you.
Utah State never managed to get anything going in a 55-0 loss, the team’s most lopsided negative result since 1989, which wasn’t a huge surprise except for the degree to which they sputtered in the first half. From Bryce Young to Will Anderson to Jahmyr Gibbs to Traeshon Holden, the Tide were simply too fast and too strong for an otherwise capable Aggies team to keep up with, but now the rest of the country is on notice: There were many good reasons why ‘Bama is the odds-on favorite to win it all and they were all on display Saturday.