Fresno State Football

Mountain West football notes: Nevada thankful for bye heading into Fresno State game

Nevada running back James Butler (20) runs through an opening against Hawaii during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.
Nevada running back James Butler (20) runs through an opening against Hawaii during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Associated Press file

After a month-long training camp and eight straight weeks of games, Nevada finally gets a week off – just like its next opponent: Fresno State.

“I do think it came a little late,” Wolf Pack linebacker Jordan Dobrich said of the team’s bye week, “but it’s here now.”

And Nevada (4-4, 2-2 Mountain West) is thankful for that. Coming off a 30-20 win over Hawaii, the Wolf Pack will get a couple of days off this week before visiting Bulldog Stadium on Nov. 5, a Thursday game that limits how much time either team could really take off.

“Everybody is emotionally and physically tired right now – me being one of them,” said Nevada coach Brian Polian, whose team has one bye this year after getting two the past two seasons.

“I’m happy our guys get to go into the bye with a win and we get a chance to collectively catch our breath and hopefully get some guys back physically healthy so we can focus on going to Fresno State and trying to get to 5-4.”

Polian, who is 1-3 coming off byes the past two seasons, said his team “badly” needed a bye week. A number of key starters have been playing with injuries and could be held out of practice this entire week.

“We need it physically,” Polian said. “We’re banged up right now. I know everybody is banged up. We’re banged up in some key spots. We need to take a breath.”

The Wolf Pack enter the bye in third place in the West Division behind San Diego State and San Jose State. Nevada still plays those two teams, which means it’s very much alive in the division title race. The Wolf Pack also need two more wins over their final four games to become bowl eligible for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.

“Everything is still basically in front of us,” Wolf Pack tight end Jarred Gipson said. “Coach let us know that, but we’re still taking it one week, one game at a time.

Chris Murray, Reno Gazette-Journal

West Division

Fresno State (2-6, 1-4) – The Bulldogs forced one turnover in their loss last week at Air Force and are on pace this season for only 18 turnovers gained.

The fumble recovery was their 12th turnover gained this season and the team is on pace for 18, which would be the lowest since coach Tim DeRuyter and defensive coordinator Nick Toth installed a 3-4 defense.

Fresno State forced 35 turnovers in their first season, but the number has gone down every year since: 23 turnovers in 2013 and 20 last season.

Next game: vs. Nevada, Nov. 5

Notable: The Bulldogs had four explosive plays of 20 or more yards in their first 17 plays against the Falcons – they had been averaging 3.1 per game going in. Fresno State had only one the rest of the way and in the second and third quarters ran a total of 20 plays for a loss of 4 yards.

Robert Kuwada, The Fresno Bee

Hawaii (2-6, 0-4) – The Rainbow Warriors must win their final five regular-season games to avoid their fifth consecutive losing season (and fourth under coach Norm Chow). A difficult schedule (five of past seven games were on the road, including at Ohio State, Wisconsin and Boise State) and injuries (14 of the 22 projected starters in training camp have missed games) contributed to the start.

Hawaii appears ready to stick with quarterback Max Wittek, who threw for a career-high 291 yards in last week’s loss against Nevada. But Wittek was sacked five times and intercepted three times (one came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half). Wittek has played despite ailments to both knees and a foot. Ikaika Woolsey’s lone pass — a completion — was nullified because of a penalty.

Beau Reilly, the No. 3 quarterback, has not played this season. The No. 4 QB, Aaron Zwahlen, has made four of the five road trips, but has been held out as a redshirt candidate.

Next game: vs. Air Force, 7:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Acknowledging that Chow, who is in the fourth year of a five-year contract, is on the proverbial hot seat, slotback Dylan Collie said: “It kills me. I love that man.”

Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser

San Diego State (5-3, 4-0) – The Aztecs lead the Mountain West in turnover margin at plus-eight.

They forced two fumbles in last week’s victory against Utah State and safety Malik Smith added an interception. The turnovers were converted into two touchdowns and a field goal, helping the Aztecs to a 34-7 halftime lead.

Up next: at Colorado State, 12:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: San Diego State is 6-1 against the Mountain Division since the conference was split into two divisions three years ago. The other teams in the West Division are a combined 12-25 against the Mountain Division.

Kirk Kenney and Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune

San Jose State (4-4, 3-2) – With last week’s win over New Mexico, the Spartans surpassed last year’s victory total. In 2014, San Jose State had a 3-9 overall record and was 2-6 in conference action. Since joining the Mountain West in 2013, the Spartans’ best single-season win total is six by the 2013 team.

Next game: vs. BYU, Nov. 6

Notable: Entering its bye week, San Jose State is among the least penalized teams in the FBS, ranking second in fewest penalty yards per game (32.5), tied for fourth in fewest penalties per game (4.13) and fifth in fewest penalty yards (260).

Bee news services

UNLV (2-5, 1-2) – Quarterback Blake Decker returns to the lineup after missing the past two games with a dislocated shoulder.

UNLV missed him, losing heartbreakers to San Jose State and Fresno State. With Decker, the Rebels had the threat of a passing attack. Without him, opponents were able to focus on stopping the run.

Next game: vs. Boise State, 12:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU)

Notable: UNLV is 3-1 against Boise State in Las Vegas, but the three victories were in the 1970s.

Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Mountain Division

Air Force (4-3, 3-1) – Linebacker Connor Healy returned to practice this week, a welcome sight for a team decimated by injuries.

Healy, a team captain who was second in tackles for the 2014 Falcons, was lost to a sprained left MCL in the Oct. 3 game at Navy. He was expected to be gone for six to eight weeks, but if the knee responds to practice this week he would be back instead in four.

Next game: at Hawaii, 7:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Air Force has not held a lead in its three road games.

Brent Briggeman, The (Colorado Springs) Gazette

Boise State (6-2, 3-1) – The Broncos might have to play their final game before a much-needed bye without both starting offensive tackles.

Senior left tackle Rees Odhiambo, a three-year starter and NFL prospect, broke an ankle Saturday against Wyoming. It’s unclear whether he will return this season. Junior right tackle Mario Yakoo missed the Wyoming game and is questionable this week at UNLV.

Boise State also was without season-opening starters in quarterback Ryan Finley (broken ankle), safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner (broken ankle), cornerback Donte Deayon (knee surgery) and middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo against Wyoming.

Next game: at UNLV, 12:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU)

Notable: Boise State true freshman cornerback and former Edison High star Tyler Horton made his first career start in place of senior Donte Deayon, who will miss about three games with a knee injury.

Chadd Cripe, (Boise) Idaho Statesman

Colorado State (3-4, 1-2) – Although it might not have seemed that way when the Rams were losing four out of five games earlier this season, but a third consecutive bowl appearance remains well within reach.

Win three of its last five games, and Colorado State will be playing again in December in one of the seven bowl games under contract with the 12-team conference.

“They know how many wins you’ve got to get to get to a bowl,” First-year coach Bobo said of his players. “They know where everybody is as far as conference play.”

This week’s opponent is San Diego State, the only MW team without a loss in conference play. After that, the Rams have games Nov. 7 at Wyoming (1-7, 1-3), at home Nov. 14 against UNLV (2-5, 1-2) and on the road Nov. 21 at New Mexico (4-4, 2-2) and Nov. 28 at Fresno State (2-6, 1-4).

Next game: vs. San Diego State, 12:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Colorado State has lost four in a row and seven of its past eight games against San Diego State, with the lone win during that stretch coming in 2008 in San Diego. The teams haven’t played since 2012.

Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan

New Mexico (4-4, 2-2) – Lobos coach Bob Davie has decided who will play quarterback for his team the rest of the season.

Will it be sophomore Lamar Jordan, who is widely regarded as the running quarterback and who started New Mexico’s first seven games? Or will it be junior Austin Apodaca, who is more of a passer and who was a surprise starter in last week’s loss at San Jose State?

Yes – both can expect to play in the team’s final four games: “I think we just let it rip,” Davie said, “and kind of go with whoever we need to have in there at that particular time.”

Next game: vs. Utah State, Nov. 7

Notable: The prevailing question around Albuquerque regarding Lobos football this week seems to be this: Why start your “passing quarterback” at San Jose State and then have him throw only three passes in the first half? Davie hasn’t answered that question as yet, but the answer might be found in the statistics: The Lobos threw three passes in the first half against the Spartans and scored 14 points. They threw 17 in the second half and scored seven.

Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal

Utah State (4-3, 3-1) – San Diego State thoroughly outplayed the Aggies last week, with Utah State giving up 336 rushing yards – including 181 on 23 carries by running back Donnel Pumphrey – as the Aztecs won 48-14.

“We got outcoached, we got outplayed and they won a good college football game,” Aggies coach Matt Wells said. “They did a nice job creating their run game. We didn’t do a good job of (stopping) it or making adjustments.”

On offense, Utah State owned the football for only 22 minutes. Sophomore quarterback Kent Myers, solid during a three-game winning streak, completed only 8 of 19 passes for 93 yards. He fumbled twice and was intercepted once.

Next game: vs. Wyoming, 7:15 p.m. Friday (ESPN2)

Notable: Utah State is still in control of the Mountain Division race. If the Aggies win out, they will reach the conference championship game because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Boise State and can hand Air Force its second league loss on Nov. 14.

Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune

Wyoming (1-7, 1-3) – Nick Smith started the season as the Cowboys’ No. 3 quarterback.

Since the end of the first game when former, he has been the No. 2 guy. This week, he’s No. 1.

The redshirt freshman will take snaps due to the right shoulder injury to redshirt senior Cameron Coffman during last week’s loss at Boise State.

Smith was 4 of 8 for 53 yards and ran five times for 18 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter at Boise State. In his only other playing time this season, Smith came in during Wyoming’s second offensive series against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 12 after sophomore Josh Allen (Firebaugh High/Reedley College) suffered a broken collarbone. Smith played the rest of the game and was 3 of 13 for 0 yards and ran 10 times for 65.

Next game: at Utah State, 7:15 p.m. Friday

Notable: Despite only 76 yards against Boise State, running back Brian Hill is fourth in the FBS with 1,061 yards and ninth with 132.6 yards per game. The sophomore is the fastest player in school history to reach 1,000 yards – eight games.

Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle

This week’s games

FRIDAY

  • Wyoming at Utah State, 7:15 p.m.

SATURDAY

  • Boise State at UNLV, 12:30 p.m.
  • San Diego State at Colorado State, 12:30 p.m.
  • Air Force at Hawaii, 7:30 p.m.

Bulldogs on a bye

Fresno State (2-6, 1-4) and Nevada (4-4, 2-2) have breaks in their schedules this week before meeting at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at Bulldog Stadium

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