Mountain West Football: Week 8 Winners And Losers
We take a look at the Mountain West’s winners and losers from Week 8 of college football.
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Encouragements and letdowns from the week that was.
Week 8 of Mountain West football got off to a sorrowful start on Friday when it was announced that San Jose State running back Camdan McWright passed away unexpectedly on Friday morning, leading to the postponement of the Spartans’ game with New Mexico State later that afternoon. It’s a substantial loss for the entire conference community, which gives this week’s column a much different perspective.
1. The recent status quo
Were the September concerns about Boise State, Fresno State, and San Diego State overblown after all? The two preseason consensus division favorites and last year’s West division champions all won on Saturday, as the Broncos outlasted Air Force in a defensive fight, the Bulldogs mauled New Mexico on the road, and the Aztecs took care of business in Reno against the Wolf Pack.
At this point, Boise State is the overwhelming favorite to host the conference championship for the fifth time while Fresno State and San Diego State will meet next week in a crucial division tilt. It’s all a good reminder that with a small sample of games, fortunes can change quickly in college football.
2. Wyoming’s running backs
Even as quarterback Andrew Peasley had another uneven performance in the passing game, he and running backs Titus Swen and DQ James made sure the Cowboys’ defensive performance against Utah State wouldn’t go to waste. Wyoming got the upper hand on an Aggies defense that had rare struggles generating havoc, creating a total of 214 rushing yards on 13 runs of ten or more yards. Swen also ran for three touchdowns, the second time he’s done so this season, leading the way to keep the Pokes on a potential collision course with Boise State next month.
3. Colorado State’s Clay Millen and Avery Morrow
The Rams didn’t have the prettiest offensive performance of the day, but their young quarterback was aces in crunch time against Hawaii. During the game-winning drive in the late fourth quarter, Millen had two key first down throws — one on third down to Louis Brown which extended the drive at midfield and one on fourth down at the Warriors’ 33-yard line which pushed them into the red zone — to cap a solid performance: 17-of-24 yards for 177 yards.
Morrow, meanwhile, continued his strong recent run and came up clutch in the second half himself with two touchdown runs. He racked up another 26 carries altogether, the third straight week he’s had at least 24, and pushed the Warriors for 147 rushing yards. Believe it or not, the young Rams are still very much in the thick of the Mountain division chase with a trip to Boise next week.
1. Backup quarterbacks not named Logan Fife
While Fresno State’s fill-in for Jake Haener had a good outing against New Mexico, other entrants on the quarterback carousel didn’t fare so well on Saturday. His counterpart in the game, Justin Holaday, made his first career start for the Lobos and did not have a good time of things against the Bulldogs, absorbing three sacks while throwing for a meager 37 yards on 8-of-15 attempts and rushing for a team-high 39 yards on 11 carries.
In Laramie, Bishop Davenport‘s moxie couldn’t make up for struggles stretching the field in Utah State’s loss to Wyoming and he finished the game 17-of-26 for just 104 yards and an interception. Nevada’s Shane Illingworth didn’t fare much better against San Diego State, replacing an ineffective Nate Cox and managing only 181 yards, a touchdown, and a Patrick McMorris pick-six on 33 attempts.
UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo, meanwhile, gave both Cameron Friel and Harrison Bailey roughly equal snaps to try and find an offensive spark in Doug Brumfield‘s absence. It didn’t work, however, since that duo combined to finish 17-of-33 for 153 yards in the Rebels’ blowout loss to Notre Dame.
2. The fullback dive and tailback pitch
The biggest reason why Air Force came up short at home against Boise State is neither tailback John Lee Eldridge III nor fullback Brad Roberts could do much more than nickel and dime the Falcons offense down the field. The duo came into the game with 31 combined runs of ten or more yards, but the Broncos defense allowed them zero such chunk plays on Saturday.
When all is said and done, Falcons fans may wonder what might have been since that’s been a common thread in 2022. With three combined conference losses by a total of 15 points, it’s telling that Eldridge III and Roberts had just six such runs in those contests.
3. Third down offense
It was no secret coming into the week that the Mountain West, as a conference, has struggled to move the chains but it’s becoming more and more clear that third-down offense is a separator between the haves and have-nots. Six teams converted one-third or fewer of their opportunities on Saturday: UNLV (0-for-12), Hawaii (4-of-12), Colorado State (3-of-12), New Mexico (2-of-12), Utah State (5-of-15), and Nevada (3-of-14).