We take a look at the Mountain West’s winners and losers from Week 7 of college football.
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Encouragements and letdowns from the week that was.
Week 7 in Mountain West football action featured just five games but had plenty of excitement in that small number. With some defensive fistfights and rivalry trophies on the line, some players and teams were destined to step up while others languished, so here are the winners and losers from Saturday’s games.
1. Utah State’s defense
After starting quarterback Cooper Legas got knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion and backup Levi Williams suffered an ankle injury in the second, it might have been possible for Colorado State to steal another victory in conference play had the Aggies defense not stepped up in a big way to ensure that wouldn’t happen.
Despite also losing defensive end Byron Vaughns, Utah State kept the clamps on the Rams offense in a 23-13 victory by allowing just 3.9 yards per play. Daniel Grzesiak’s monster performance (three sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble) helped make up for Vaughns’s absence, as did Gurvan Hall’s game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter. It was the kind of effort they got repeatedly down the stretch in last year’s championship run, and the Aggies might need more of it if the injury news on offense isn’t good.
2. Fresno State defensive end David Perales
Speaking of monster performances, Perales’s dominance in a 17-10 victory over San Jose State on Saturday night might have single-handedly kept the Bulldogs’ title game hopes alive. He became just the second Mountain West player ever with four sacks and five tackles for loss, joining Utah’s Paul Kruger in that exclusive club, and may have set a tone for a re-energized Fresno State squad that is still very much in the thick of things and now has a key head-to-head advantage that may come in handy when November rolls around.
3. Hawaii running back Dedrick Parson
The Warriors offense has had its struggles throughout the season, but Parson put up the kind of performance against Nevada on Saturday night that reminds you why he’s one of the best playmakers in the Mountain West. He was given 24 carries against the Wolf Pack and responded with 136 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were season highs, leading the charge in what was easily Hawaii’s best offensive performance to date.
1. New Mexico’s coaching shuffle gambit
In their first game after replacing Derek Warehime as offensive coordinator with quarterbacks coach Heath Ridenour, the Lobos went south to Las Cruces and didn’t really look that much different on that side of the ball in a 21-9 loss to rival New Mexico State . New Mexico crossed midfield on just four of their 11 drives, coming away with a trio of Luke Drzewiecki field goals and a Miles Kendrick interception, and once again wilted after a respectable start in averaging 3.1 yards per play after the first quarter.
New Mexico also racked up four false start penalties and mustered only four explosive plays totaling 77 yards for the entire contest. This was a win the Lobos needed to bolster their hopes of climbing to bowl eligibility, but the same old offensive problems are threatening to completely derail what still looked like a promising campaign just a few weeks ago.
2. UNLV’s run defense
For the second time in less than a calendar year, Air Force ran all over the Rebels to the tune of 406 yards, at 5.3 yards per carry, in a 42-7 homecoming walloping at Allegiant Stadium. Though Austin Ajiake became just the second FBS defender to collect 20 total tackles this year, and the first Mountain West player to do so since David Woodward in 2019, UNLV managed only two tackles for loss as a team.
It’s the second straight week that a conference foe has had its way with the Rebels defense on the ground, so while injuries have certainly played a factor — they played against the Falcons without defensive linemen Naki Fahina and Adam Plant Jr., among others — and the offense didn’t do them many favors, their path to a bowl game could narrow considerably if defensive coordinator Keith Hayward can’t find answers soon.
3. The Mountain West’s already-slim New Year’s Six bowl hopes
When Old Dominion topped Coastal Carolina early on Saturday, removing the last eligible undefeated Group of 5 team from the board, it seemed like there could be an opening for a top-tier Mountain West team to climb their way back into the picture. That was a nice bit of wishful thinking which lasted several hours before San Jose State lost on the road to Fresno State later in the evening.
Now that every team in the conference has at least two losses, it looks like the conference’s best hope to sneak into a big-time bowl game is to turn the clock back to 2014. You may recall that in the first year of college football Playoff era, the Boise State Broncos made their most recent Fiesta Bowl appearance with two losses and, at least for now, remain the only Group of 5 team to have accomplished that feat.
Given that no one is lighting the world on fire — Tulane, Cincinnati, and UCF all have one loss in the American but have yet to play one another; James Madison isn’t eligible out of the Sun Belt and the only one-loss team in that conference other than Coastal is South Alabama; and the MAC and Conference USA likely don’t have anyone seriously in the conversation — the odds are slim but, hey, this has been a goofy season. Anything could happen.