Mountain West Football: Week 4 Winners And Losers
We take a look at the Mountain West’s winners and losers from Week 4 of college football.
Encouragements and letdowns from the week that was.
It was another mixed bag of a weekend across the Mountain West in Week 4, as the conference posted just two victories in seven non-conference games while the race to the championship game got a little clearer in both divisions. Some results were decidedly more of the same while others surprised, which made choosing winners and losers from Friday and Saturday a difficult task.
1. UNLV linebacker Austin Ajiake
The Rebels offense had another solid performance on the road at Utah State, but it was defense which put UNLV over the top against the Aggies and no one played a bigger role on that front than Ajiake. Not only did the senior post a team-high 11 total tackles, he had a tackle for loss and an interception, as well. One of last year’s more underappreciated athletes, Ajiake deserves more attention for his role in the team’s ongoing leap forward.
2. San Diego State running back Jordan Byrd
The Aztecs had what can only be described as another lackluster offensive performance on Saturday afternoon against Toledo, but the veteran Byrd gave them just enough of a spark to survive a late Rockets rally. He had two runs for a total of 80 yards to open the scoring in the first quarter, then scored the game-winning touchdown from one yard out with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter.
On the day, Byrd averaged 7.2 yards per carry while the rest of the San Diego State offense averaged 4.07 yards on 41 other plays. With that in mind, he probably deserves more touches as the season progresses.
3. San Jose State
It wasn’t a flawless performance on Saturday night at CEFCU Stadium — the Spartans converted just 3-of-12 third down tries and had 11 penalties — but San Jose State got its vengeance against Western Michigan, after all. The defense forced two first quarter turnovers on downs which turned into 10 points on offense, finishing the night by holding the Broncos to 3.3 yards per play and 206 yards of total offense.
The offense, meanwhile, bounced back from its frustrations at Auburn to average 7.6 yards per play and convert on 4-of-5 red zone opportunities, totaling 20 points. Running back Kairee Robinson had one of the best games of his career with 81 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Chevan Cordeiro had the best game of his season-to-date with 250 passing yards and two touchdowns, and Justin Lockhart and Charles Ross brought explosiveness to the passing game. In a conference race that suddenly feels wide open, don’t overlook the Spartans.
1. Boise State offensive coordinator Tim Plough
Despite some shuffling on the offensive line, the Broncos offense disappeared once again on Friday night against UTEP but, this time, it did so in a near-historic fashion. Hank Bachmeier completed just 13-of-34 passes for 93 yards and one touchdown while George Holani finished with 75 rushing yards on 16 attempts, and the offense as a whole put up its fewest yards of total offense since 1997.
That poor performance forced the hand of head coach Andy Avalos, who relieved Plough of his coordinator duties the following afternoon. Whether new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will be an improvement or not remains to be seen, but the Broncos are in unfamiliar territory as they look to find some steady footing headed into conference play.
2. Utah State’s offense
Sloppy. Undisciplined. Erratic. The Aggies had their chances to keep things close at home against UNLV on Saturday but wasted them with 11 penalties, their third straight game with that many flags, for 93 yards and five Logan Bonner interceptions. Utah State also struggled yet again on third downs, converting just 4-of-13 opportunities, so despite a valiant effort from Justin McGriff (six catches, 103 yards, one touchdown), the contest served as another harsh reminder that last year’s path to the championship was always going to be a hard one to follow a second time.
One step forward, two steps back. That’s probably the best way to describe the Warriors’ lopsided loss to New Mexico State on Saturday seeing as the offense had its best overall game of the year so far, posting 411 yards at 5.4 yards per play and finally completing a pass for a touchdown, but the defense took a big step back and allowed the Aggies to run wild. NMSU wore the Hawaii run defense down to the tune of 357 rushing yards, the team’s most since 2001, and the Warriors had just one tackle for loss in the process.