Christensen: Beginning of the Separation
By Todd Christensen, The Mtn. InsiderOctober 5, 2011
This past weekend was a tough one for the Mountain West. At Fort Collins, the Rams were unable to stop the running game of the San Jose State and while Pete Thomas threw for nearly 400 yards, they were one-dimensional with no running game of consequence. The result was a 38-31 defeat in front of a disappointed Homecoming crowd that saw the Spartans win their first road game against a non-conference opponent in nine years.
George Barlow was the new coach for the New Mexico Lobos and appeared to have some momentum coming into the rivalry game with New Mexico State. Evidently the defense didn’t share his enthusiasm as they gave up over 500 yards and 42 points in another home loss.
The most surprising home loss happened in Fort Worth, where the Horned Frogs saw their 22-game home-winning streak end at the hands of the SMU Mustangs 40-33 in overtime. Like the Baylor loss before, the defense failed to do their job as a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver victimized the heretofore, stalwart TCU defenders. Even in victory, it was taxing as Air Force needed a rare unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Midshipmen to eke out a one-point win after blowing an 18-point fourth quarter lead.
Boise State won 30-10, but it was the worst performance statistically in the stellar career of Kellen Moore. Wyoming, San Diego State, and UNLV had the week off.
It’s Colorado State and New Mexico's turn to lick their wounds and regroup. But the road for the others does not get any easier. Boise State travels to Fresno State, and Pat Hill's group is capable of being problematic for the Broncos. UNLV travels north for their rivalry game against Nevada. Wyoming matriculates to Logan, Utah where the Aggies may be the unluckiest team in the FBS, being less than minute from being undefeated instead of 1-3. The Cowboys will have their hands full. Meanwhile, Air Force catches Notre Dame at a bad time. Earlier in the season the Irish was a turnover machine, losing their first two games while turning the ball over in double digits. That ship has been righted with three straight wins, and now the Falcons will have to bring their A-game to South Bend.
Probably the most intriguing match-up is TCU traveling to San Diego State. Following the Baylor defeat, the Horned Frogs showed their resilience by marching into Colorado Springs and taking measure of Air Force. But the Falcons don’t possess a Ronnie Hillman or Ryan Lindley, who have to be licking their chops watching the film in which Cowtown gridders gave up 92 points and over a thousand yards of total offense in two games. This will be certainly be considered a separation game in terms of which direction teams may be going in their quest for a Conference title.
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