Stevens: MW Football Race Has a Few Surprises
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  09/25/2013

New Mexico Lobos Football – vs. UNLV Rebels

When/Where: 6 p.m., (MT) – Branch Field – University Stadium

On The Air: ROOT Sports; 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network, ESPN Deportes (1450-AM)

GoLobos.com: Game Story, Complete Statistics, LoboTV

Promotions: UNM Homecoming; Postgame Balloon Glow Courtesy of Rainbow Ryders, Hot Air Balloon Ride Company

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com


The New Mexico Lobos jump into the Mountain West race Saturday on Branch Field vs. UNLV and if you are looking for surprises in the early stages of chase, there are a few.

Boise State has a loss.

Air Force has three losses – and the Falcons might have four before Colorado State even plays a league game.

There is only one ranked team in the Mountain West and it’s not Boise State.

It’s possible that the Mountain West already has seen the best game of the year.  Fresno State beat Boise State 41-40 in a thriller and that one-point edge sent the Bulldogs into the Top 25.   They are No. 23 in the USA/Today Coaches’ poll and No. 25 in the opinion of The Associated Press. It’s been five years since the ‘Dogs made an AP poll.

The Bulldogs obviously are good and that win over Boise State has the ‘Dogs 1-0 in the MW West.   Of course, Boise State isn’t happy with the loss, but it doesn’t hurt as much as it could have.

Boise State is not in the MW West. The Broncos are 1-1 in the MW Mountain and still have a shot at that division’s crown – a division that also includes Lobos. Fresno State and Boise State were the preseason picks to win those two divisions.

So, are the Broncos still the favorites to win the MW Mountain?   That’s a yes and no depending on who you talk to, but you can’t help but glance at the upcoming MW schedule and see when and where Boise State plays Wyoming.  It’s Nov. 16 at Boise. The Broncos play New Mexico Nov. 30 in Boise.

The Wyoming Cowboys are looking good so far in 2013.  They lost 37-34 at Nebraska and since then rolled off three wins averaging 44.3 points per game.  The Cowboys are coming off a 56-23 roll of Air Force – a loss that dropped the Falcons to 0-3 in the MW Mountain division.

CSU and San Diego State do not open MW play until next weekend, but UNM, UNLV and San Jose State hit the league wars this week.

MW Championship Scenario:  Fresno State’s win over Boise might have more significance than simply the numbers on the scoreboard.  The win helped propel Fresno State into the Top 25 The site of the 2013 Mountain West Championship Game to be played on Saturday, Dec. 7.,  will be the team that has the highest BCS ranking.

Right now, that’s Fresno State.

A Trio Of Hot Arms:  The Lobos actually play against one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league on Saturday in UNLV’s Caleb Herring. However, Herring is only looking at his second start of the season against UNM and is behind the red-hot trio of Chuckie Keeton of Utah State, Brett Smith of Wyoming and Derek Carr of Fresno State.

That trio has combined to help produce 246 points. Smith is coming off a 373-yard, four-TD performance against Air Force. Smith has scored by the air or by the run in 27 straight games. He also ran for 138 yards vs. the Falcons for a 511-yard total. It was the highest total offense output in Wyoming history.

Carr made a name for himself by tossing for four TDs vs. Boise State. Fresno had 466 passing yards against Boise State. Utah State’s Keeton has thrown for five scores in two games this season: vs. Weber State and vs. Air Force.

Those quarterbacks are the only MW arms to go over 1,000 passing yards on the season. Carr has 1,121 (12 TDs), Smith has 1,315 (13 TDs) and Keeton is at 1,102 (14 TDs).

Broncos Still Have A Kick:  Boise State might have lost by a point at Fresno State, but that doesn’t mean the Broncos can’t move the football.  Boise had 561 yards in offense against the Bulldogs.  Fresno State also had 537 yards against Rutgers.

The Broncos are averaging 37.8 points per game and 478 yards. The Broncos have been more vulnerable on the other side of the ball.  They yield an average of 440.8 yards per game and 28.2 points.

Carrier Leads The Pack:   UNM’s Kasey Carrier is still the No. 1 runner in the Mountain West, but there are two other MW ball carriers on his tail.  Carrier had the lead with 367 yards followed by Wyoming’s Shaun Wick at 353 and Boise State’s Jay Ajayi at 352.  However, those two runners have played in four games and Carrier has played in only three, thanks to a bye week.

Carrier is averaging 122.3 yards per game while Wick is at 88.2 and Ajayi is at 88.0 per game.

Editor’s Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune.  You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.