Mountain West Football: Week 3 Winners And Losers
Who came out ahead and who left something to be desired across the Mountain West in Week 3 of the college football season?
Encouragements and letdowns from the week that was.
Conference play and heated rivalries and Power 5 victories, oh my! There was a little bit of everything on the table for fans across the Mountain West on Friday night and Saturday, though some results were certainly sweeter or more bitter to swallow than others.
Here are the winners and losers from Week 3 of Mountain West football.
1. Fresno State
Yes, Arizona State was short-handed but, man, that was a beatdown. The Bulldogs forced eight turnovers and had five sacks while Mikey Keene had 32-of-49 for 281 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-0 win.
Newcomers and veterans alike contributed on both sides of the ball: On offense, Erik Brooks had over 100 receiving yards for the second time in three games while Jalen Moss and Jaelen Gill each hauled in a touchdown pass. Defensively, Carlton Johnson intercepted three different ASU quarterbacks while Kemari Munier-Bailey forced a fumble and picked up a second that was put on the turf by Morice Norris Jr.
There’s still room for improvement since the Sun Devils managed six sacks of their own and the Bulldogs had only 22 points on seven red zone trips, but Fresno State is currently one of nine FBS teams (and the only Group of 5 team) with two Power 5 wins on the resume at this juncture. It’s hard to ask Jeff Tedford’s team for more than they’ve given through three weeks.
On a weekend where multiple Mountain West teams disappointed, the Rebels survived a serious gut check at home against Vanderbilt on Saturday, falling behind 17-0 before scoring 30 unanswered points in the second and third quarters and surviving a late Commodores rally to walk away with a 40-37 victory.
That the Rebels did so without quarterback Doug Brumfield, who took an early beating and missed most of the game with injury, and linebacker Jackson Woodard, who was called for targeting and ejected in the second quarter, makes the win all the more impressive. Backup signal-caller Jayden Maiava stepped in to complete 19-of-33 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown, and he got lots of help from Ricky White (120 yards on seven receptions after halftime) down the stretch. Jerrae Williams continued his strong early-season play with eight tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown while Johnathan Baldwin added a key interception. Fred Thompkins and Cameron Oliver each added two TFLs and a sack, as well.
In all, it was an early defining moment for UNLV head coach Barry Odom, whose team now looks well-positioned to make a run and establish themselves as contenders with several winnable games over the next month.
3. Air Force linebacker Alec Mock
If you’re looking for an early leader in the race for defensive player of the year, Mock has already built an impressive candidacy in just three games. On Friday against Utah State, the senior linebacker led the Falcons with 11 tackles and added two sacks and a forced fumble that led to a first-quarter touchdown.
While it’s still very early, it’s perhaps noteworthy that, according to Pro Football Focus, the only Mountain West player with a higher overall grade in the young season is fellow Air Force linebacker Bo Richter. Things will get tougher for the Falcons as they head deeper into conference play while also preparing for both Army and Navy, but it’s a very good sign for their conference championship hopes that the middle of the defense looks as good as it ever has in recent memory.
1. Colorado State
The Rams always seem to find groundbreaking new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the Rocky Mountain Showdown and, following a week of (mostly) manufactured drama leading up to kickoff, Saturday night was no different. Despite finishing the game neck and neck with Colorado on a yards-per-play basis, converting 50% of 20 third-down opportunities, sacking Shedeur Sanders four times, and posting nine tackles for loss, sloppiness betrayed Colorado State in a 43-35 double-overtime defeat.
Never mind the pre-game heat on the field, 17 penalties for 187 yards is just the most extreme example of something that has been a problem in Fort Collins for a little while: The Rams had four games with at least ten flags last year, as well. They also turned the ball over four times, including twice in the red zone, while allowing too many big plays to Sanders in the second half (six chunk plays totaling 144 passing yards).
The silver lining is that the passing game finally came to life with Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi, who had a few big-time throws en route to a 34-47-367-3-3 performance, but a lack of discipline is going to kneecap the team’s promise this fall if they can’t iron things out.
2. San Jose State quarterback Chevan Cordeiro
Cordeiro is a good, but not great, quarterback. Great quarterbacks find ways to close out games and the Spartans needed more than they got from their senior down the stretch against Toledo.
After starting the game 15-of-20 for 155 yards and a touchdown, Cordeiro faltered in the second half and finished 9-of-21 with 73 yards. He also threw a pick-six to Chris McDonald Sr. that proved to be the difference in a 21-17 loss to the Rockets. Granted, he didn’t have a lot of help from a running game that managed only 3.1 sack-adjusted yards per attempt and an offensive line that coughed up five sacks, but it was one of the weekend’s more disappointing performances when you consider the game was right there for the taking.
3. New Mexico’s defense
Speaking of disappointments, the Lobos defense was a total letdown in the Rio Grande Rivalry against New Mexico State, allowing 8.8 yards per play while mustering only two tackles for loss in a 27-17 defeat at home to their rivals.
Perhaps the performance shouldn’t have come as a total shock since NMSU had already averaged at least 6.7 YPP in each of their previous three games, but the Aggies made the most of limited opportunities and gashed the Lobos over and over with 288 total yards of offense on 12 chunk plays, accounting for 72.5% of their overall yardage on 26.7% of their plays. Pro Football Focus noted that the Lobos also had nine missed tackles as a unit on Saturday, so while all isn’t lost just yet, the pressure is on to tighten things up against a very beatable UMass team on the road next week before conference play kicks into gear.