Mountain West football round-up Week 2 West Division
In part two of the Mountain West football round-up, we cover the West Division. Only Fresno State and San Jose State are coming off of wins, and the schedule is about to get a whole lot tougher with Pac-12 opponents in the picture this week.
Check out news and notes from around the conference written by the team beat writers. Check out part one on the Mountain Division here.
The Bulldogs allowed 543 yards of total offense in their overtime victory over Rutgers. That is more than they allowed in any game last season including a loss at No. 4 Oregon, which obviously can get up and down the field.
Of that total, 311 yards came on just eight plays - covering 69, 65, 55, 30, 28, 23, 21 and 20 yards.
The other 232 yards came on 65 plays, 3.6 per play.
Coach Tim DeRuyter said the Bulldogs were lucky to win the game - it was 52-51, Rutgers blowing a two-point pass play in the overtime - and he hasn't been shy about reminding the team.
Playing on Thursday last week, the team took Friday as its day off and on Saturday had position meetings and went through a brief practice in preparation for the triple-option offense run by Cal Poly, a Football Championship Subdivision program.
"I wanted everybody to enjoy the win, but then it was over," DeRuyter said. "It was, 'Guys, we're dangling, and we're going to show you on tape all the things that we have got to get corrected if we want to do all the things we want to do this year.' It was very stark to them. Some of those guys didn't have a real fun meeting on Saturday, but that's the reality of it. We talk to our players all the time about our core values in this program are truth and love and the truth hurts sometimes and so they got a little bit of that.''
More from DeRuyter: "We've got to get stops on defense and not give up cheap ones. Of the 73 plays we played the other night on defense, 63 went for 230 yards. That's pretty good defense. But when you give up 10 explosive plays for 300-something yards, you can't do that and play good defense. Our charge is to make sure we find out exactly why technique-wise or fundamentally we weren't playing those plays right and get it corrected."
Next game: vs. Cal Poly, 8 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN3)
Notable: Fresno State has three of the top five receivers in the Bowl Subdivision (receptions per game) - Davante Adams and Josh Harper are tied for second with 14 and Isaiah Burse is tied for fourth with 13. ... Adams has caught a touchdown pass in nine consecutive games, a school record. He also holds the MW record. The NCAA mark is 18 in a row, set by Larry Fitzgerald (Pittsburgh). ... Safety Derron Smith had a pick against Rutgers, extending the Bulldogs' streak with at least one interception to 12 games. That is the longest active streak in the nation.
- Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
Quarterback Taylor Graham had a difficult debut in his first start since his senior year at Wheaton (Ill.) North High in 2009. He attended Ohio State for three semesters and redshirted at UH in 2012.
Against USC, Graham was 16 of 41 for 208 yards, with his one touchdown pass - a 60-yarder to freshman Keith Kirkwood - coming on the Rainbow Warriors' final offensive play of the game. Graham was intercepted four times and sacked seven times.
The Warriors expanded their pro-set offense, opening with a five-wide formation. Graham also called several plays without a huddle and, a few times, the Warriors were aligned in a pistol formation. Still, the Warriors struggled for rhythm. There were six dropped passes. Two of the interceptions occurred when receivers ran incorrect routes.
The Warriors are hopeful running back Joey Iosefa, who missed training camp because of a foot fracture, will be available for Saturday's road game against Oregon State. The Warriors netted 23 rushing yards on 31 carries. Receiver Bubba Poueu-Luna, who gained 19 yards on a reverse, was the leading rusher.
David Griffin, a transfer from Mesa Community College, and Leo Koloamatangi, who redshirted in 2012, are expected to have expanded roles on the offensive line this week. Both are regarded as tackles, although Koloamatangi also can play guard.
The UH defense played well, with senior Brenden Daley leading the way with 10 tackles, including four in the USC backfield.
Next game: at Oregon State, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (Pac-12 Networks)
Notable: Left tackle Sean Shigematsu, who departed in the second half because of a bone bruise in his right ankle, is expected to play. ... Safety Marrell Jackson, who has an undisclosed injury, also should be included on the 64-player travel squad. ... Linebacker Lance Williams and tight end Jordan Pu'u-Robinson will miss their second consecutive game because of injuries. ... The Warriors will take four quarterbacks to Corvallis. Ikaika Woolsey, the fourth-string QB, doubles as the holder. ... Scott Harding, a 27-year-old former Aussie rules player, was used as a receiver, punt returner and punter against USC. He did not begin playing American football until he signed with UH in 2011. In Aussie football, the players do not wear pads or helmets.
- Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Nevada played two very different halves of football against No. 21 UCLA on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, and while coach Brian Polian is focused on getting better in key areas, he's also choosing to look at the good that came out of the game.
The Wolf Pack trailed 17-13 before giving up two quick touchdowns to start the second half, the second on a 4-yard return of a blocked punt, and the rout was on. The Bruins outscored the Pack 41-7 in the second half and won 58-20.
"My gut feeling coming off of the field (at halftime) was what it was. We were in great position at halftime," said Polian, who was named Chris Ault's successor in January and coached his first game. "We were going toe to toe with a team that I think is better than No. 21 in the country.
"We had that blocked punt and the air came out of us. And quite frankly the most disappointing thing to me was we couldn't rally. We couldn't rally emotionally. We let it deflate us. And we're not going to let that happen."
Nevada moved the ball fairly well, gaining 353 total yards, but had no answer on defense. The Bruins did not punt and scored on nine of their first 10 possessions (eight touchdowns), excluding a short, end-of-half possession.
"Look, it's one bad game. It's a long season," Polian said. "We're upset about what we saw on tape and we know what needs to get fixed, but we're not going to let it put us in the tank for the whole season. It's one bad game. This game could be an afterthought at the end of year. You don't know how things are going to go."
Next game: vs. UC Davis, 7:05 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: The Wolf Pack came away from the UCLA game unscathed. The only injury among the two-deep remains backup TE Stephen Jeffers, who could be cleared this week. ... Bryan Lane Jr., who has gone from safety to linebacker, is practicing more at safety again. True freshman linebacker Travis Wilson is getting looks in the two-deep after a strong game on special teams.
- Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal
San Diego State
The Aztecs' 40-19 defeat to FCS Eastern Illinois highlighted some glaring errors in all three phases of their game.
Coach Rocky Long said the defense committed more than 43 assignment errors, while the offense struggled in both the rushing and passing game.
Receivers dropped passes, quarterback Adam Dingwell looked shaky and the Aztecs couldn't penetrate on the ground after starting running back Adam Muema went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter.
This week, the Aztecs have the daunting task of going into Columbus, Ohio, to take on the No. 3 Buckeyes.
Long said one of the reasons the Aztecs struggled in their opener was that they were trying to do too much. The defense was tasked with making its own calls, and on offense Dingwell was granted the autonomy to change the play liberally at the line of scrimmage.
In hindsight, the coaches think they overestimated the players.
"We hope to trim the offense down a little bit so we can do things the right way, and hopefully if we don't give (Dingwell) too much to think about, he'll execute to his ability," Long said, adding that the coaches also will go back to directing the defense from the sidelines.
Next game: at Ohio State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN2/ABC)
Notable: LB Derek Largent will miss two to four weeks with a knee sprain. ... Muema is in a walking boot with a low ankle sprain, but is expected back at practice Tuesday and should be able to play against Ohio State.
- Stefanie Loh, U-T San Diego
San Jose State
There were several kinks in San Jose State's season opener, but they didn't prevent a 24-0 win over FCS foe Sacramento State.
Quarterback David Fales, the nation's most accurate passer last year at 72.5 percent, completed a career-worst 50 percent and the Spartans' offense didn't dominate the way it would have hoped to.
As coach Ron Caragher and Fales pointed out, they were inches away from connecting on a few more big pass plays. Chalk that up to first-game jitters, Fales said.
"You look at last year, we had a couple drops in our first game," Fales said. "I think it's just getting into that first game environment. Everyone gets a little amped up. We've just got to relax."
It'll be tough to relax this week against No. 5 Stanford. The Spartans took the eventual Rose Bowl champions to the wire in last season's opener, losing 20-17. If Stanford overlooked SJSU last year, the Spartans should have their full attention now.
Fales said he knows it's a chance for the team to make a national statement. A win could put them on the cusp of a national ranking.
"We understand they're a really good team and it's a big game for us," Fales said. "But we take it week by week and we're excited to play them."
Next game: at Stanford, 9 p.m. MT Saturday (Pac-12 Networks)
Notable: Running back Tyler Ervin suffered an undisclosed right foot injury after only two carries against Sacramento State. He has not practiced since and is wearing a boot on his foot. Caragher doesn't disclose injuries unless they are season-ending, but it appears Ervin will be sidelined at least for this week.
If UNLV coach Bobby Hauck is making changes to special teams, he isn't letting on. Not completely anyway.
"We don't have to tell Arizona that, so we're not gonna," Hauck said. "But we've got some guys that we have high hopes are going to be good football players for us. We're going to hang with them."
Hauck has overseen special teams since taking over the Rebels following the 2009 season, and it's a unit that often has struggled. But Hauck has remained committed to coaching that part of the team, an area of the game he has overseen most of his career.
Breakdowns on special teams broke open what was a close game Thursday at Minnesota. The Rebels trailed 16-13 at halftime, but gave up a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half and a 51-yard return of a blocked field goal midway through the third quarter. Minnesota went on to win 51-23.
Hauck said after the game he didn't use live tackling in training camp to avoid injuries and he played reserves rather than starters to keep the front-line players healthy.
"We're not at the point where we want to play all our starters in the kicking game," Hauck said Monday.
Even with the special teams blunders, the Rebels nearly clawed their way back into the game, driving to Minnesota's 14-yard line early in the fourth quarter to try to cut the deficit to a one-score game. But a poor read by quarterback Nick Sherry turned into an 89-yard interception return for a touchdown to end all doubts.
Hauck, though, was encouraged UNLV even was in the position to make a run at the Golden Gophers.
"I don't think our former teams would've held up," Hauck said. "It would've been like, 'Here we go again.' This group fought its way right back into that. They're competitive."
Next game: vs. Arizona, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: The Rebels are expected to face the nation's leading rusher from last season in Ka'Deem Carey. He was suspended for Arizona's opener Friday, a 35-0 victory over Northern Arizona. Carey rushed for 1,929 yards in 2012. "Ka'Deem Carey's the best running back in the country," Hauck said. "I don't know if we can tackle him. No one tackled him very well last year." ... UNLV's loss to Minnesota was its 23rd in a row on the road. That is three short of the school record, set from 1994 to 1998. ... Junior wide receiver Marcus Sullivan is out indefinitely to deal with a personal matter. He was second on the team last season with 55 catches for 659 yards and four touchdowns. Sullivan also handles kickoff and punt returns.
- Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal