NCF Nation: New Mexico State

Return of the non-AQ mailbag

April, 12, 2011
During my two months away, the Adelson mailbag overflowed with plenty of queries. For those wondering, no, I could never forget about the "little sisters of the poor." I was just trying to ward off sleep deprivation while taking care of a newborn and 2-year-old. I had middling success. Hopefully, I will fare much better in this edition of the mailbag. Since I got so much mail, stay tuned for several mailbag posts this week.

Kevin Clifton of Hattiesburg, Miss., writes: How long does the WAC have? Is it on life support? How long before the MWC poaches Utah State away? Then what? I see Louisiana Tech and UT-San Antonio going to Conference USA after Houston and Central Florida leave for greener pastures in the Big East. Then UTEP goes to the MWC, New Mexico State and Texas State go to the Sun Belt. All you would have left is Idaho and San Jose State. San Jose State is thinking of dropping their status as a FBS school and Idaho, who needs them? If you have Boise State, you have the Boise market. I also see Army keeping its home television rights and joining the MAC and I see Navy doing the same and joining Conference-USA.

Andrea Adelson writes: Kevin is the grand Nostradamus of college football expansion! This plan sounds good, but there are a few problems. First, the WAC might actually survive, depending on what happens with everyone else. That does seem hard to believe, but let us say it implodes. The Sun Belt really wants to keep its geographic footprint and I do not see the league going into New Mexico. It does the Sun Belt no good. A recent report in the Miami Herald explained as much, and also theorizes that Louisiana Tech could find a landing spot here. Of course, a lot of that is dependent of what happens with the Big East, which could choose Memphis or East Carolina ahead of Houston. Much of that depends on whether the league wants a travel partner for TCU. If Houston is not chosen, it would have to decide whether it wants to stay in C-USA or maybe even go to the Mountain West should that league want to expand to 12. Utah State is not a part of those expansion plans right now. Even though it would theoretically bring the Salt Lake City market, the school really does not have a fan base as big as BYU or Utah to meaningfully replace that market. Army was in a league before and that did not work so well for the service academy so I would bet on the Black Knights staying independent.

Brad in Dallas writes: What do you think TCU's record will be this upcoming season? What are your thoughts on the TCU-Boise St. match up? Do you think TCU has a chance to win on the blue turf?

Adelson writes: Never too early for way too early predictions, right? My best-case scenario has TCU at 10-2 this season, with losses to Baylor and Boise State. I have Baylor down as a loss right now for a few reasons. First, Casey Pachall will be making his first start at quarterback and it is on the road. It is very tough for first-year starters to win on the road, especially right out of the gate. Second, first games are usually tough because you do not have the identity of your team yet, and there are generally a lot of mistakes. I also have the game at Boise State as a loss. The Broncos get the edge because of Kellen Moore, and because of the blue turf. But TCU definitely has a chance -- especially if its defensive line is going to be as good as Gary Patterson anticipates. That is the key to slowing down Boise State, being able to put adequate pressure on Moore to force him to make mistakes and hurry throws. I reserve the right to change my mind between now and the start of the season, so stay tuned!

Joe Mimnaugh in Las Vegas writes: With both Boise and TCU in a semi-rebuilding year and TCU leaving, do you think that TCU might tank a few games to 1, get revenge on the MWC for their schedule and 2, to make sure that any chance the MWC of becoming a BCS conference is not realized? Do you think that the MWC will be better in a few years after the changes are done, or would the WAC in 2011 be better than a MWC in 2014?

Adelson writes: No shot that TCU tanks anything. If anything, the Horned Frogs want to stick it to the Mountain West for moving the Boise State game to Boise. You will not find a competitor out there who would rather tank games than win championships. TCU will do everything it can to leave the Mountain West with yet another conference title. As for the future of the MWC, the league has dim prospects of becoming an automatic qualifier even if the Horned Frogs go 12-0 again. I think it would have to take winning an appeal to the Presidential Oversight Committee to become AQ. As for the WAC in 2011 vs. the Mountain West in 2014, the essential difference is Boise State -- and that would make the Mountain West stronger.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 1, 2010
Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference:

Conference USA

Offense: UAB running back Pat Shed, UCF running back Ronnie Weaver. Shed ran for a career-best 176 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 50-49 double overtime win against Southern Miss. He finished with 235 all-purpose yards as the Blazers posted their first win in Roberts Stadium. Weaver ran for a career-high 180 yards on 30 carries with two touchdowns in a 49-35 win against East Carolina.

Defense: Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson. His interception with 37 second left in the first half gave Tulsa the momentum in its 28-27 win against Notre Dame. He also had six tackles, a sack and two quarterback hurries.

Special teams: Tulsa punt returner Damaris Johnson. Had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown, the second of his career in the win. He is 25 yards shy of tying the Conference USA all-time kickoff return record.


East Division

Offense: Miami receiver Nick Harwell. Had eight receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-9 win at Buffalo.

Defense: Bowling Green defensive tackle Chris Jones. Had six tackles, five tackles for loss, three and a half sacks and recovered a fumble in a 17-14 win at Central Michigan.

Special Teams: Kent State punter Matt Rinehart. Averaged 52 yards on four punts as the Flashes posted a 43-yard net in a 33-14 win against Ball State.

West Division

Offense: Western Michigan receiver Jordan White. Had a career-high 14 receptions for a career-high 180 yards and one touchdown in a 28-21 loss to Northern Illinois.

Defense: Northern Illinois defensive end Jake Coffman. He had four tackles and the game-saving interception on Western Michigan’s final offensive play to seal the win.

Special Teams: Toledo punter Vince Penza. Averaged 40.6 yards on five punts in the Rockets' 42-7 win at Eastern Michigan.

Mountain West

Offense: San Diego State receiver DeMarco Sampson. Had seven receptions for 175 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-38 win against Wyoming. He has three straight 100-yard games.

Defense: Utah safety Brian Blechen. Had a career-high nine tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in a 28-23 win at Air Force.

Special teams: San Diego State punter Brian Stahovich. Kicked the longest punt in San Diego State history at 89 yards in the second half against Wyoming. It was his only punt of the day.

Sun Belt

Offense: North Texas running back Lance Dunbar. Ran for a season-high 215 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-6 win at Western Kentucky. The 215 yards was the most by any player in the Sun Belt this season and the third-highest rushing total in the nation this week.

Defense: ULM Darius Prelow. Had six tackles and an interception in a 28-14 upset win against Troy. The defense held Troy to its lowest point total in a Sun Belt game since 2006.

Co-Special Teams: Louisiana kicker Brett Baer, North Texas kicker Zach Olen. Baer made a field goal and four extra-point attempts, and had two perfectly placed onside kicks in a loss at Ohio. Olen made two field goals, including a 48-yarder, the longest by a North Texas kicker since 2005.


Offense: Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz. Went 27-of-38 for 326 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-10 win against Idaho. He also rushed seven times for 43 yards and another score. Moniz is the first quarterback in the nation to reach 3,000 yards this season (3,247).

Defense: Hawaii S Mana Silva. Had nine tackles (six solo), including one for a loss of 13 yards, and intercepted a pass in the win against Idaho.

Special teams: New Mexico State kicker Tyler Stampler. Went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts in a 29-27 win against San Jose State. He made a 42-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and then added a 25- and a career-long 43-yarder in the fourth quarter of a tight game.

Non-AQ weekend rewind: Week 9

November, 1, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 9.

[+] EnlargeTulsa
Matt Cashore/US PresswireTulsa barely edged out Notre Dame in a historic win for the school.
The good: The BCS standings feature three non-AQ teams ranked in the Top 5 for the first time ever -- No. 3 TCU, No. 4 Boise State and No. 5 Utah. TCU or Utah will be out after their game this weekend. But they preserved their big matchup with wins this past weekend. … Tulsa won at Notre Dame 28-27. Though the Irish are struggling and Dayne Crist got hurt, the Golden Hurricane still posted one of the biggest wins in program history. Even coach Todd Graham said he wanted his players to remember the feeling to carry on the rest of the way. They need one more win to become bowl eligible. “This was such a team win, and it's really pulled our team together,” Graham told The Tulsa World. “We needed that.”

Army is also one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 1996, but what most people talked about afterward -- the camouflaged uniforms they wore.

FAU snapped a five-game losing streak with a 21-9 win over FIU in the “Shula Bowl.” The Owls held the Panthers without a touchdown for the first time all season.

The bad: Plenty of letdowns on Saturday. Western Kentucky went from scoring 54 points in its first win of the season to just six in a loss to North Texas. “It was a total embarrassment out there,” coach Willie Taggart said.

Navy went from a win over Notre Dame to a loss to Duke.

Sun Belt leader Troy had its 13-game Sun Belt winning streak snapped in a 28-14 loss at ULM. It was Troy’s third consecutive loss at Malone Stadium, which accounts for almost half of the Trojans’ eight league losses since the start of the 2005 season. Troy is 3-1 in conference and still atop the standings, but the door has been opened for somebody else to try and break its stranglehold on the league title.

UTEP lost its third in a row, dropping another road game to Marshall. Central Michigan lost its sixth straight, officially eliminating it from bowl contention.

The heartache: San Jose State has had its share of injury problems, losing one starter after another for the season. But the Spartans have not thrown in the towel, and nearly pulled off a come-from-behind win over New Mexico State on Saturday. Though both teams entered the game with one win, this was one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. San Jose State trailed 17-3 but came on strong in the second half. The Spartans took the lead with 3:47 to go when Jordan La Secla threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jalal Beauchman. But New Mexico State had the last say. Taveon Rogers caught an 8-yard touchdown pass as time expired to win 29-27. Perhaps the difference in the game: New Mexico State kicker Tyler Stampler made three field goals; San Jose State kicker Harrison Waid missed three.

The off balance: Talk about a dramatic turn of events for Navy. Coach Ken Niumatalolo worried about a letdown after a big win over Notre Dame, but he could not have envisioned his defense folding. Duke quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 314 yards and had only two incomplete passes. The Navy defense came into the game tied for 15th in the country in pass defense (174 ypg) and 19th in scoring defense (18 pg). It was the first time all year the Midshipmen gave up more than 27 points. Four of their previous seven opponents had scored fewer than 20 points.

A few more helmet stickers for career marks: Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs became the school’s career scoring leader (266 points) and all-time rushing touchdowns leader (44) in a 34-31 loss to Duke. … With 326 passing yards against Idaho, Bryant Moniz became the fifth quarterback in school history to surpass 3,000 passing yards in a season, joining Colt Brennan, Timmy Chang, Dan Robinson and Nick Rolovich. … Ohio quarterback Boo Jackson set the school record for touchdown passes (32) in a 38-31 win over Louisiana.

A few injury items to note: Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin is out three to four weeks with a shoulder/collarbone injury, leaving the starting quarterback job to Terrance Owens. The backup did a mighty fine job against Eastern Michigan after Dantin got hurt, throwing four touchdown passes in the 42-7 win. But we’ll see how he does against tougher competition next Tuesday, when the Rockets play Northern Illinois in a critical West Division game. Both teams are 5-0 in league play. … San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley sprained his ankle against Wyoming but should be able to play this week. … Nevada running back Vai Taua sat out the game against Utah State with a sprained ankle, but coach Chris Ault said he could have played.

Week 10 look ahead: Do we need to even go here? No. 3 TCU at No. 5 Utah takes center stage not just for the non-AQs but for the entire nation as well. We all wait and see whether this can be the year a team from outside the power conferences can make it into the BCS national title game. No. 4 Boise State has a big home game against surging Hawaii (7-2), the first team in the nation to accept a bowl bid. Air Force (5-4) travels to Army (5-3). A win here would clinch the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Navy has won the past seven. Another big Conference USA game between division leaders: UCF at Houston.

Non-AQ Helmet stickers: Week 9

October, 31, 2010
Several late games involving the non-AQs are still ongoing but it is time to give out a few helmet stickers to the players who have already had big days:

North Texas RB Lance Dunbar. Ran for a season-high 215 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns in a 33-6 win over Western Kentucky. The game marked the debut of interim head coach Mike Canales, who took over for the fired Todd Dodge a little more than a week ago. Dunbar helped give the Mean Green their second win of the season, and first since beating FAU on Sept. 25.

Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish. Led Northern Illinois on a game-winning, 79-yard, seven-play drive with less than five minutes left in the game to give the Huskies a 28-21 win at Western Michigan. Harnish threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Willie Clark with 3:42 to play and led his team to its sixth straight victory, its longest winning streak since 2004. Harnish had three total touchdowns in the game. Western Michigan WR Jordan White had a career-high 14 catches for a career-high 180 yards in the loss.

SMU QB Kyle Padron. Threw for 354 yards and was the key in a 31-17 comeback win over Tulane. His 82 yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson broke a fourth-quarter tie. He also scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to close out the win. Robinson finished with 182 yards.

San Diego State WRs DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. The two combined for 12 catches for 319 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-38 win over Wyoming. Each had more than 100 yards, and the two touchdowns belonged to Sampson. It was the first time since Sept. 27, 2008 that San Diego State had two receivers have more than 100 yards in the same game. San Diego State is bowl eligible for the first time since 1998.

ULM defense. The WarHawks beat Troy 28-14, holding the Trojans to their lowest point total in a Sun Belt Conference game since 2006 and breaking their 13-game league win streak. ULM held Troy to just 285 yards, and Jerrel Jernigan had just 92 all-purpose yards. He entered the game averaging 178.3 ypg.

New Mexico State WR Taveon Rogers. Talk about a game winner. Rogers caught an 8-yard touchdown with no time left to give New Mexico State a 29-27 win over San Jose State. Rogers was making his first start of the season and had 90 yards and two touchdowns.

Non-AQ What to Watch, Week 9

October, 28, 2010
Come one, come all for your top-10 non-AQ storylines for Week 9:

1. Do No. 4 TCU and No. 8 Utah stay undefeated headed into their big showdown next week? TCU travels to UNLV and Utah travels to Air Force on Saturday. The Horned Frogs have been inconsistent in two true road games this season, trailing early to SMU and leading only 6-0 at halftime against Colorado State. TCU is a heavy favorite to beat lowly UNLV, but this is a good road test before its trip to Salt Lake City. Utah faces a much more difficult test at Air Force. The games between the two schools are generally close, and the Falcons are smarting after two straight losses. Many have complained about the “weak” Utah schedule to this point. A win here might answer some of those critics.

[+] EnlargeRyan Lindley
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireRyan Lindley and the Aztecs are on the brink of bowl eligibility.
2. Who becomes bowl eligible? Eleven non-AQ teams are one win away from becoming bowl eligible this Saturday, with some new faces scattered in there. San Diego State (5-2) has not been to a bowl game since 1998 and plays at Wyoming, a game it should win. Toledo (5-3) and UTEP (5-3) have not been to a bowl game since 2005. East Carolina (5-2) and UCF (5-2) play each other so only one will get to six wins. Hawaii (6-2), Nevada (6-1), Navy (5-2), Ohio (5-3) and Southern Miss (5-2) are all favored to win their games. Air Force (5-3) has a big game against Utah, as mentioned above.

3. Does UCF break through and beat East Carolina? The two rivals have combined to win each of the past three Conference USA championships and four of the past five East Division titles. Both have won all their league games, marking the latest that two undefeated teams have played since the league expanded to 12 teams in 2005. But East Carolina has won four straight in the series and holds an 8-1 overall edge. Many people thought this might be a rebuilding year for the Pirates, but they have won behind Dominique Davis. The UCF defense is going to have its hands full.

4. Navy has a chance to win four straight. The Midshipmen were down and out after losing to Air Force 14-6 earlier this season. A team that has known nothing but dominance over its fellow service academies has been strengthened because of that loss, running off three straight wins. None was more convincing than a 35-17 victory over Notre Dame last week that was vintage Navy. It hosts Duke on Saturday.

5. How does TCU quarterback Andy Dalton play on the road? In three neutral site/road games this season, Dalton has three touchdowns to four interceptions. At home: 11 touchdowns to one interception. TCU closes with three of its final four games on the road, starting Saturday. Coach Gary Patterson said earlier this week, “We’ll probably go as Andy Dalton goes. If he plays at a high level, we’ll have a chance to win more of those games than we lose.”

6. Can the Utah defense be as effective as TCU at stopping Air Force? A lot of people like to scoreboard watch as a way to measure teams against each other. TCU and Utah both are in the top 10 in the nation in total defense. So which will be able to handle the Air Force triple option better? TCU held Air Force to a season-low 184 yards rushing last week.

7. Ohio is asserting itself in the MAC. The Bobcats have won four straight games behind solid play from quarterback Boo Jackson. Of course, it has helped that they also got to beat up on Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green and Akron. But last week’s win over Miami (Ohio) was big. They have outgained five consecutive opponents on the ground for the first time since 2006. During the four-game win streak, Ohio has scored 151 points, the most points in a four-game stretch since 2002. They get Sun Belt Louisiana this week and Buffalo next before a huge game against East Division opponent Temple on Nov. 16.

8. Two of these teams are going to get to two wins on Saturday: San Jose State, New Mexico State, North Texas and Western Kentucky. The season has been especially unkind to San Jose State and North Texas, who have lost multiple players to season-ending injuries. The Mean Green have lost 10 starters, the Spartans 15 starters and key reserves. North Texas travels to play Western Kentucky, coming off its first win of the season, while San Jose State goes to Las Cruces.

9. How does Mike Canales fair in his first game as a North Texas interim head coach? Canales takes over for Todd Dodge, who was fired last week after winning just six games for the Mean Green. This is a job audition for Canales, who would love to become a head coach and has learned under some of the best. Most recently, he served as offensive coordinator under Jim Leavitt at USF before coming to North Texas this season.

10. The BCS standings will look how? Depends on what happens with everybody else. The big question moving forward: If TCU and Utah are undefeated next week and the Horned Frogs win, will that give them a boost toward climbing ahead of Boise State? They are just 0.0013 points behind Boise State this week. If Utah wins, will that give the Utes a boost? That is much less likely because they still have far to climb, especially in the human polls.

Non-AQ Did you know: Week 8

October, 22, 2010
Time for another edition of non-AQ Did You Know, Week 8 style. Thanks to the conference and school sports information directors, along with ESPN Stats & Information for some of these nuggets.
  • Utah State will unveil a bronze statue of Merlin Olsen in a ceremony Saturday a few hours before kickoff against Hawaii. Olsen, the greatest athlete in school history, died in March after a battle with cancer. He was a three-year lettermen on the offensive and defensive lines from 1959-61, earning All-American honors during both his junior and senior seasons. He went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL. The statue depicts Olsen in full uniform and pads, with his helmet under his arm. When set on its base, his gaze will directly face toward the Olsen family home in Logan where he grew up, roughly two miles in a direct line from where the statue will stand.
  • Earlier this week, Jonesboro, Ark., Mayor Harold Perrin issued an official proclamation at the city council meeting recognizing the first ever nationally televised home game in Arkansas State football history. The Red Wolves host Middle Tennessee on Nov. 2, in a game set to be shown on ESPN2. “This is Jonesboro’s opportunity to be in the national spotlight,” Perrin said. “The best way to make a significant impact is to fill the stadium. Not only will the Arkansas State football team be on display, the entire city will have a chance to show the nation what makes Jonesboro a great place to live.”
  • Ohio quarterback Boo Jackson has a chance to set the school record for career touchdown passes this weekend against Miami (Ohio). He currently has 29, tied with Cleve Bryant (1967-69) atop the list. Last week, receiver Terrence McCrae set the school record for career touchdown passes with 16, moving past the record Todd Snyder set from 1967-69. The Bobcats have won six straight MAC road games. With a win Saturday, they would tie the school record for consecutive MAC road wins, set from 1959-61.
  • Colorado State plays Utah on Saturday. The Rams’ last win over a ranked opponent came against No. 7 Colorado in 2002. The Rams have dropped their past 11 against AP ranked teams.
  • Tulsa’s Damaris Johnson is closing in on the Conference USA record for kickoff return yardage. He is now just 80 yards away from passing SMU’s Jessie Henderson for the mark. Henderson has 2,945 yards on 122 returns from 2005-08.
  • UCF defensive end Bruce Miller has 30 career sacks. He is the nation’s active leader in both sacks and tackles for loss (51).
  • New Mexico State has just three sacks on the season, tied for the fewest in the nation.
  • Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs needs just three rushing touchdowns to tie Chris McCoy for the school record for career rushing touchdowns. McCoy rushed for 43 touchdowns as a quarterback from 1995-97.
  • Utah kicker Joe Phillips is tied for the most consecutive field goals in the nation by an active player. Phillips has converted on his last 17 field goal attempts, a second record, tying him for first in the nation with David Ruffer of Notre Dame. Utah will play Notre Dame on Nov. 13.

BYU-Georgia Tech set series

October, 18, 2010
BYU and Georgia Tech have agreed to a four-game series, starting with the 2012 season.

The teams will play in Atlanta on Oct. 13, 2012, and Oct. 11, 2014. Two games are also scheduled for Provo on Oct. 12, 2013, and Oct. 14, 2017.

“This should be a great series for our football program,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said. “As we fill our schedules for the coming years, we want to play storied football programs like Georgia Tech. It’s a great opportunity for Cougar fans in the Southeast to see our football team play.”

BYU is making progress in scheduling its games as an independent. So far, it has future games set with Oregon State, Texas, Utah, UCF and Boise State, in addition to WAC teams Utah State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, Idaho, San Jose State and New Mexico State. It has 10 games set for next season, its first as an independent.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 18, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 7.

[+] EnlargeTCU
AP Photo/Jeffery WashingtonTCU (No. 5) is one of three non-AQ teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS standings.
The good: The non-AQ teams made history in the BCS standings with three teams ranked in the Top 10. Boise State is No. 3, TCU is No. 5 and Utah is No. 9, but the big unknown is whether any of them will have a shot at the BCS national championship game. Boise State has scored 48-plus points in three straight games. Meanwhile, TCU has allowed just one field goal in its past three games. The last team to score a touchdown on the Horned Frogs was SMU in Week 4, when Zach Line ran in from 29 yards out at the 11:24 mark. … Miami (Ohio) is en route to one of the best turnarounds from the non-AQs. The RedHawks had a thrilling 27-20 comeback win against Central Michigan and are now 4-3 after going 1-11 last season. They have a critical game at home against Ohio this Saturday, then winnable games against Buffalo, Bowling Green and Akron before closing the season at home against Temple. At 3-0, Miami is on top of the East in the MAC. … Eastern Michigan won its first game of the season. … Rice won its first conference game with a 34-31 win against rival Houston to not only grab a hold of the Bayou Bucket, but to avenge a 73-14 loss to the Cougars last season – one of the most embarrassing losses in school history.

The bad: A week after picking up its first win of the season, New Mexico State lost to Fresno State 33-10 in part because it went 1-of-13 on third downs. … Akron dropped to 0-7 after a 38-10 loss to Ohio. The Zips had six penalties, two interceptions and failed to get their run game going once again. The Zips are averaging just 15.9 points a game, ranked No. 114 in the nation. … Idaho gave up 683 yards of total offense in a loss to Louisiana Tech in yet another inconsistent performance for the Vandals. In three losses, Idaho has given up 450-plus yards of total offense. In two wins against FBS teams, Idaho is allowing 145.5 total yards a game.

The heartache, Part I: Bowling Green has lost three games this season on the final possession. The latest heartbreaker happened Saturday in a 28-27 loss to Temple. Coach Dave Clawson decided to go for the 2-point conversion and the win with no time remaining. But Matt Schilz’s pass for Calvin Wiley was broken up on the goal line. The Falcons also lost the season opener 30-27 to Troy when the Trojans kicked a field goal to win with 4 seconds left. In a 28-26 loss to Buffalo, Bryan Wright missed a 40-yard field-goal try on the final play of the game.

“There’s really two ways of looking at it,” Clawson said Monday morning on the MAC coaches call. “We’ve lost three games this year on the last play of the game. From a positive -- with as young a football team as we are and with all the new starters, we’re not that far away. On the other hand, there’s certainly a frustration level when you get in that many close games you need to find a way to win your share. A year ago we did.” Last season, the Falcons won two games by one point.

The heartache, Part II: Western Kentucky took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter at home against ULM. What could go wrong? Well, when you have lost 25 straight games, plenty. The Hilltoppers allowed 28 unanswered points and lost 35-30 to extend the nation’s longest losing streak to 26 games. They had a similar chance to win in the 2009 finale, but blew a 20-3 lead late in the third quarter and lost 24-20 to Arkansas State.

One more helmet stickers: Colorado State nose tackle Guy Miller had a truly dominating performance in a 43-10 win against UNLV. Miller set a school record with 4 sacks, breaking the mark of four shared by 1995 WAC Defensive Player of the Year Brady Smith and Mike Bell, a consensus All-American and the No. 2 overall selection in the 1979 NFL Draft. He also broke the Mountain West record of four. Miller has started 20 straight games for the Rams and has 6 sacks on the season the most at the school since Bryan Save had seven in 2003.

A few injury items to note: Air Force has lost running back Jared Tew for six weeks with a broken fibula, putting a serious hurting on the team. Tew had been a huge part of the success of the triple-option, with 540 yards and three touchdowns this season. ... San Jose State has now lost 12 starters for the season after several more injuries in a 48-0 loss to Boise State. Leading rusher Lamon Muldrow is out after tearing his ACL, and linebacker Ryno Gonzalez (foot) is also out. LB Wade O’Neill suffered a concussion, but won’t be out for the season.

Week 8 look ahead: Plenty of good matchups this weekend from the non-AQ teams. Air Force continues its tough four-game stretch with a game at No. 5 TCU. Houston travels to SMU in a game that could shift the balance of power in the Conference USA West Division. Meanwhile, Notre Dame plays Navy. The Midshipmen have won two of the past three games against the Irish.

Lunchtime Links

October, 14, 2010
More Thursday night football, with USF at West Virginia and Kansas State at Kansas.

UCF had another good day in front of a national television audience Wednesday night, this time beating Marshall. At 4-2, UCF is off to its best start since 1998.

More on the botched replay in the San Diego State-BYU game -- one of the three replay booth staffers was a BYU athletic department employee.

Fresno State running back Tracy Slocum will face former teammate Frank Padilla when New Mexico State plays the Bulldogs on Saturday.

The Lumbee Indian tribe senses a kindred spirit with the Boise State football team.

Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch is known for his speed, but has impressed with his strength this season.

Utah's special teams have been special.

BYU running back JJ Di Luigi has proven to be a strong rusher.

The paths of Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly changed on one night.

Louisiana freshman Darryl Surgent made a huge first impression on special teams last week against Oklahoma State.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 11, 2010
Here are your players of the week from all the non-AQ conferences:

Conference USA

Offense: UTEP WR Kris Adams. Had five catches for 134 yards with three touchdowns in a 44-24 win over Rice. He tied his career high for touchdown catches and also extended his streak of games with a reception to 30.

Defense: UCF FS Kemal Ishmael. Made seven tackles, had an interception and forced a fumble to lead UCF’s defense to a 42-7 win over UAB.

Special teams: Southern Miss K Danny Hrapmann. Made a school-record five field goals (tying the C-USA mark), hitting them from 28, 39, 39, 49 and 49 yards in a loss to East Carolina. He has now converted 16-straight field goal attempts dating back to last season.


East Division

Offense: Ohio QB Phil Bates. Ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries also completed a 47-yard pass to Donte Foster for 191 yards of total offense in a 49-25 win over Bowling Green.

Defense: Kent State DL Roosevelt Nix. The freshman had five tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a pair of hurries in a 28-17 win over Akron. His 6.5 sacks and 10.0 TFL on the year both rank in the top 10 in the nation.

Special Teams: Kent State P Matt Rinehart. Averaged 41.2 yards on nine punts in a 28-17 win over Akron. Six of the nine kicks were downed inside the 20 yard line, including a season-long 64-yarder.

West Division

Offense: Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish. Had 282 yards of total offense with 211 yards passing and 71 rushing in a 31-17 win over Temple. Harnish had a season-high 20 completions in 25 attempts and threw touchdown passes of 10 and 4 yards.

Defense: Western Michigan DB Lewis Toler. Intercepted Ball State QB Keith Wenning and ran 24 yards for the Broncos' second TD in the first minute of the game in a win over Ball State.Toler has three interceptions in the past three games.

Special Teams: Western Michigan K John Potter. Made five field goals, six extra points and scored a touchdown on a fake field goal in the win over Ball State.

Mountain West

Offense: Utah QB Jordan Wynn. Led Utah to its highest point total in 27 years in a 68-27 road win over Iowa State. In three quarters of play, Wynn went 23-of-31 for 325 yards and two touchdowns.

Defense: Air Force CB Reggie Rembert. Made a season-high seven tackles, had an interception, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery in a 49-27 win over Colorado State.

Special Teams: Utak PR/KR Shaky Smithson. Returned five punts for 145 yards and finished the game with 261 all-purpose yards. He had the longest punt return of his career, going 78 yards down to the Iowa State 2-yard line.

Sun Belt

Offense: Troy QB Corey Robinson. Went 26-of-37 for 259 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Middle Tennessee.

Defense: Troy LB Kanorris Davis. In his first collegiate start, Davis led the team with nine tackles, including three for losses. His first quarter sack and forced fumble led to the Trojans’ second TD of the game.

Special Teams: North Texas K Zach Olen. Made all five of his kicks against Arkansas State, going 4-of-4 on field goals and 1-for-1 on extra points. No North Texas kicker has been perfect in at least four attempts since North Texas returned to FBS in 1995.


Offense: Nevada RB Vai Taua. Ran for 196 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries in a 35-13 win over San Jose State. It was his fifth straight 100-yard game.

Defense: New Mexico State DE Donte Savage. Had nine tackles, including two sacks, forced two fumbles and broke up two passes in a 16-14 win over rival New Mexico. His forced fumble late in the game set up the winning field goal.

Special teams: New Mexico State K Tyler Stampler. Made three field goals, including a 22-yarder with 1:56 left to win the game.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 11, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 6.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/Jeffery WashingtonTCU quarterback Andy Dalton has been outstanding at home this season.
The good: The elite non-AQ teams have done their jobs midway through the season. TCU put together an impressive 45-0 win. Quarterback Andy Dalton, who has been up and down this season, was 14-of-17 for 270 yards with three touchdowns. In three home games this season, Dalton is 50-of-61 (82 percent) for 719 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. … Utah trailed Iowa State 14-10, but then the second quarter started. The Utes outscored the Cyclones 31-0 and have now outscored opponents an eye-popping 101-7 in the second quarter this season. … Bryant Moniz continues his incredible rise. He came to Hawaii as a walk-on last season, and now is leading the country with 2,245 passing yards – the only quarterback with more than 2,000 yards so far this season. Hawaii has the top ranked passing offense in the country. Greg Salas leads the country in receiving yards, and teammate Kealoha Pilares ranks third. … UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe set new school career records for touchdown throws (89), passing yards (11,260) and total offensive yards (11,117).

The bad: Ball State coach Stan Parrish said his team played one of the worst games since he became head coach, in a 45-16 loss to Western Michigan. His team fumbled the opening kickoff, then had an interception returned for a touchdown on the second series. It was downhill from there, with three more turnovers erasing any chance to win. … Utah State had one of its best wins a week ago against BYU, beating its in-state rival 31-16. But the Aggies had their worst game of the season on Saturday in a 24-6 loss to Louisiana Tech. They had just 73 yards passing and 195 total yards of offense, a week after racking up 434 yards of total offense against the Cougars. Coach Gary Andersen said his team is much better at handling adversity than success.

The heartache: FAU fought back from a 12-0 deficit to take a 20-17 lead against ULM. But a fumbled snap gave ULM the ball at its own 45 with 4:51 remaining. Kolton Browning led the team down the field, and Jyruss Edwards ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 2:43 remaining, handing the Owls their fourth straight loss. … New Mexico clung to a 14-13 lead over in-state rival New Mexico State, but Stump Godfrey fumbled late, setting up Tyler Stamper’s 22-yard field goal to win it for the Aggies. New Mexico turned the ball over four times, and leads the nation with 20 turnovers this season. … San Jose State might have lost 35-13 to Nevada, but it was the first game all season where the Spartans didn’t lose a player to a season-ending injury. Those injuries have taken a toll, but so has the brutal start to the season, with games at Alabama, Wisconsin, Utah and Nevada.

A few more helmet stickers: Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch and running back Vai Taua have had excellent back-to-back games. Moch has a combined 18 tackles, eight tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble in the past two games, and Taua has 35 carries for 382 yards and eight total touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving). … Air Force cornerback Reggie Rembert had a season-high seven tackles, an interception, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery in a 49-27 win against Colorado State. … In his first college game, North Texas kicker Zach Olen was perfect on all five of his kicks against Arkansas State, making 4-0f-4 field goals and his only extra-point attempt.

A few injury items to note: Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin is questionable after being carted off the field in a loss to Boise State last week. Dantin took a hard hit following a run in the fourth quarter and was motionless on the field, but coach Tim Beckman said his quarterback was coherent and he was put on a stretcher as a precautionary measure. Terrance Owens would get the nod if Dantin can’t play. … Temple offensive lineman Steve Caputo (leg) is out for the season. Ohio has lost its two best players -- receiver LaVon Brazill (leg) is out for the season, and linebacker Noah Keller (foot) is doubtful to return this season. North Texas quarterback Riley Dodge (wrist) will have a pin inserted in his broken wrist, and the team is hoping he can return as early as Oct. 30 against Western Kentucky.

Week 7 look ahead: There are some really interesting games in the Mountain West and WAC. Nevada is at Hawaii in a matchup of contrasting offenses. The Wolf Pack love to run, the Warriors love to pass. This is going to be a very big test for Nevada, no question. Air Force plays at San Diego State to start a brutal four-game stretch. Following that game, the Falcons are at TCU, home to Utah then at Army. BYU is at TCU, and there might not be any love lost here. TCU coach Gary Patterson was critical of the Cougars’ move to go independent before the season started.

Lunchtime Links

October, 11, 2010
Could Utah be better than the teams that went undefeated in 2004 and 2008?

Fresno State coach Pat Hill says there is no need to panic after losing to Hawaii.

San Diego State was on the losing end of a questionable officiating call against BYU.

Southern Miss has to regroup following a tough loss to East Carolina.

Air Force will be without two defensive starters when it plays San Diego State this weekend.

Houston is sticking with David Piland at quarterback despite a loss to Mississippi State.

Navy is back in business with a win over Wake Forest.

New Mexico State basks in the glow of its first win of the season.

Non-AQ helmet stickers: Week 6

October, 10, 2010
Time to give out some non-AQ helmet stickers:

Air Force KR Jonathan Warzeka. Tied an NCAA mark with a 100-yard kickoff return in a 49-27 win over Colorado State. Incredibly, Warzeka also had a 100-yard kickoff return against Houston in the 2009 Armed Forces Bowl. The NCAA doesn't add the yards in the end zone so 100 yards is the maximum anyone can return a kick.

Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn. Went 23-of-31 for 325 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 68-27 win over Iowa State. The Utes had their highest scoring output since beating Wyoming 69-14 in 1983. Seven different players scored for Utah, which scored 31 unanswered points in the second quarter to blow the game open again. Shaky Smithson deserves mention, too. He threw for a touchdown pass and caught another for 293 total yards.

Western Michigan kicker John Potter. Recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff, had a field goal, hit six extra points and scored his first career touchdown on a second quarter fake field goal from 8 yards out in a 45-16 win over Ball State. Potter also had another tackle Saturday to extend his own record to 21 career tackles -- the most by a kicker in school history.

SMU quarterback Kyle Padron. Went 27-of-40 for 381 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 21-18 win over Tulsa. Padron has thrown for more than 370 yards in back-to-back victories. SMU (4-2) is off to its best start since 1986, when the Mustangs started 5-1.

Hawaii WR Greg Salas. Had nine catches for 148 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-27 upset win over Fresno State. The Warriors have the nation’s best pass offense behind Bryant Moniz, who threw for more than 300 yards again, and won their third straight game.

New Mexico State coach DeWayne Walker. Down to his third quarterback, the Aggies were able to win their first game of the season 16-14 over rival New Mexico in the Land of Disenchantment Bowl. Matt Christian sat out with an injury. His replacement, Tanner Rust, got hurt, and Andrew Manley led the team to the win. Manley completed both of his pass attempts to set up Ryan Stampler's 22-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining to win the game.

FIU coach Mario Cristobal. His team racked up 235 yards rushing to win its first game of the season 28-21 over Western Kentucky. A late defensive stand preserved the victory.

Non-AQ Did You Know, Week 6

October, 8, 2010
Time for a little non-AQ Did you Know, Week 6 style. Thank you to the school and conference public relations departments for these wonderful nuggets.

Arkansas State has scored at least 24 points in each of its first five games, marking the first time since 1995 it has scored 20 or more points in five straight games. The Red Wolves play at North Texas on Saturday.

Wyoming plays at No. 5 TCU, marking the third time in six weeks the Cowboys will be facing a Top-5 team. Wyoming is the only team in the country that will face three Top 5 teams through the first six weeks of the season. The Cowboys played at Texas, then ranked No. 4 on Sept. 11, and faced then-No. 3 Boise State in Laramie on Sept. 18.

Air Force has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter this season. The Falcons have outscored their opponents 54-0 in the fourth quarter through the first five games. Air Force and Oregon are the only teams in the nation that have held their opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter this season.

Quarterback Andy Dalton broke two more TCU passing records in a 27-0 win at Colorado State. Dalton became the Frogs’ career leader in both touchdown passes (50) and pass attempts (1,122). He already holds TCU marks for completions (681) and passing yards (8,364). Dalton broke Max Knake’s former school record of 49 touchdowns, set from 1992-95, with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Young in the fourth quarter.

Colorado State quarterback Pete Thomas has thrown for 1,197 yards through five games and is 8 yards shy of the school freshman record for passing yards. Caleb Hanie holds the record with 1,204, set in 2004.

Big home test for Houston this weekend. The Cougars have won a league-record 18 straight home games, the fourth-longest active home winning streak in the NCAA. In 10 of those 18 wins the Cougars have scored 50 or more points. Houston hosts Mississippi State on Saturday.

Marshall senior DE Vinny Curry continues to lead the nation in sacks with eight. He posted two more at Southern Miss last week. Teammate Mario Harvey leads the nation in tackles, averaging 13.0 per game.

Boise State senior kicker Kyle Brotzman is about to become the WAC’s all-time scoring leader. Brotzman has 377 points in 44 games, 18 shy of Hawaii’s Jason Elam, who scored 395 points from 1989-92. Brotzman has made 60-79 field goals and 197-of-199 PATs in his career. He is also second in WAC history in field goals made, 19 shy of Elam’s record.

Winless New Mexico State has not recorded a sack, recovered a fumble or intercepted a pass this season.

Ohio earned its 500th victory in program history last week, improving to 500-519-48 overall, with a 30-17 victory at Eastern Michigan.

In addition to Kent State ranking first in the nation in run defense, the MAC also features three of the top 25 teams in the country in that category. Toledo (95.4 avg.) ranks 13th and Miami (106.8 avg.) ranks 24th.

Army has already reached the end zone more than it did in 12 games in 2009. Army scored 18 offensive touchdowns (13 rush, 5 pass) last season. In the first five games of 2010, the Black Knights have 21 touchdowns, including 18 rushing scores.

Since Kyle Whittingham became head coach at Utah, the Utes are 5-0 coming off regular-season bye weeks.

What to watch from non-AQs: Week 6

October, 7, 2010
Hot off the Internet stratosphere, we bring you our Top 10 non-AQ story lines for the week:

1. Does Boise State need to win 100-0 to get a little respect around here? The Broncos get Toledo this week in yet another game that is not going to win them any converts. The big question as the season rolls on is whether they continue to slide because of the level of competition. They already moved down one spot after Oregon beat Stanford, and they beat New Mexico, ahem, 59-0. This is going to be a continuing storyline, and one that is sure to grow more polarizing should Boise State continue to win.

2. Ditto for TCU. The Horned Frogs have not put up huge winning margins, either, beating SMU 41-24 and a pretty bad Colorado State team 27-0 last week. They led just 6-0 at halftime, and quarterback Andy Dalton struggled to get much going in the passing game. This week they get Wyoming at home. Coach Gary Patterson is not much interested in style points. Talk to him about winning games.

3. How big a test does No. 10 Utah face at Iowa State? Huge. The Utes have beaten up on some bottom feeders. Their four opponents so far have a combined record of 4-15. Yikes. But what those contests have done is allow a young defense to find its chemistry and come together. The unit is playing very well, particularly the front seven. Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud is the best player they have faced so far, so Utah better be up for the challenge.

4. How does BYU respond after losing four straight? No question the Cougars are at a crossroads, off to their worst start since 1973. Coach Bronco Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jamie Hill and said he wants to take a more active role. It might be a little too late for that with back-to-back games against San Diego State and TCU facing his already beleaguered squad.

5. Chad Spann vs. Matt Brown/Bernard Pierce. OK so the running backs technically do not go against each other, but they headline the matchup between Temple and Northern Illinois. Spann leads the Huskies ground attack and the MAC in rushing. Brown had 224 yards last week for Temple in place of Pierce. Whether the star Owls back plays is a question. He is still nursing a sprained ankle. But there is no doubt this is an early preview of a potential MAC title game.

6. Will we ever see the Ricky Dobbs of old? Maybe against a Wake Forest run defense that is not very good. But how Dobbs plays will really determine how Navy does this season. So far, the answer is mediocre on both accounts. Dobbs has been hobbled with ankle and groin injuries and is averaging just 2.4 yards a carry. There are some in Annapolis who believe he is not as explosive as he was in 2009, when he set the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 27.

7. Will Houston become more of a rushing team? The Cougars have the capability with Bryce Beall, who is tied for the national lead with nine touchdowns on the ground. Coach Kevin Sumlin hasn’t announced whether Terrance Broadway or David Piland will start against Mississippi State, but there is no question with two true freshmen quarterbacks they will have to rely more on the running game.

8. What else can go wrong for North Texas? The Mean Green are down to their fourth starting quarterback after injuries have taken down Nathan Tune, Derek Thompson and now Riley Dodge. Chase Blaine will make his first career start against Arkansas State. Receiver Tyler Stradford is out after a freak accident, too, and the team has lost upwards of 10 starters because of injuries. But the most tragic of all – the team is still reeling from the death of walk-on receiver Josh Rake following a car accident.

9. Bad football lives here. As in, the entire state of New Mexico, FIU and Western Kentucky. But hey, at least two of those teams will notch their first wins this week. New Mexico and New Mexico State play each other, and Sun Belt rivals FIU and Western Kentucky also play. These are can’t-miss games for anybody interested in football futility.

10. Is Air Force the marquee program in Colorado? It is an excellent question now that the Falcons are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time under coach Troy Calhoun. They play Mountain West foe Colorado State on Saturday, but it appears Air Force is on top of the college football mountain in the state – even after Colorado’s big win against lowly Georgia.