It's Week 6 of college football season, and we're presenting the sixth Mountain West football round-up - the conference's news delivered by the beat writers on the ground around the Mountain West.
There's some turmoil afoot that has nothing to do with scores: Air Force will likely miss its game against Navy on Saturday without some kind of conference intervention. Elsewhere in the Mountain Division, other teams will be taking planned byes: Colorado State, Wyoming and (Utah State's next opponent) Boise State.
What will these squads be worrying about during the break? Read on.
The Falcons athletic teams will not be allowed to travel during the government shutdown that began Tuesday. That means the football team won't be able to play Saturday at Navy - a game that was scheduled for broadcast on CBS.
"The Air Force Academy Falcons will attempt to play all home intercollegiate athletic contests but those may be canceled, as well," according to a statement on the school's website. "Academy officials are working with Mountain West Conference officials, those teams the Falcons were scheduled to play and officials at The Department of the Air Force to make up as many games as possible."
Air Force's next three games are at home, vs. San Diego State (Oct. 10), Notre Dame (Oct. 26) and Army (Nov. 2). It has two remaining road games other than Navy - at New Mexico (Nov. 8) and Colorado State (Nov. 30).
Notable: Wide receiver Myles Barnes was out this week following a knee injury at Nevada. Coach Troy Calhoun said it hasn't been determined if the injury is to the ACL, meniscus or both. ... Defensive back Chris Miller and wide receiver Ty MacArthur were doubtful with concussions. MacArthur has already missed two games with his injury.
Boise State experienced a topsy-turvy first five weeks of the season.
Now the Broncos get a break to try to fix some of the youthful errors that have plagued them and heal a long list of injured players, particularly on offense.
They also think they need to get some quality work done to prepare for what might be their most important game of the season. The Broncos return to action Oct. 12 at Utah State - a game they probably have to win to keep their Mountain West Mountain Division title hopes alive.
"We've definitely got to get better," coach Chris Petersen said. "We've got a really good team in Utah State that's going to be staring at us. If we don't play our best football of the year, we won't win."
The Utah State game is the start of a tough four-week stretch leading into the second bye. The Broncos also play Nevada on Oct. 19 in Boise, at BYU on Oct. 25 and at Colorado State on Nov. 2.
Two of those games are in the division (Utah State, Colorado State), one is against a longtime rival (Nevada) and one is against a budding rival (BYU). Three are on the road.
"October is going to be a big month for us," senior quarterback Joe Southwick said. "We've got some big games coming up for us. ... This bye week, we have to practice and get better."
The Broncos have hit their stride offensively, scoring 40-plus points in each of the past four games, and showed some improvement on defense last week with a 60-7 win against Southern Miss.
Still, Petersen isn't sure what he has with so many youngsters in the lineup and an injury list that now includes two key receivers, the top two tight ends, the No. 2 tailback and the starting right tackle.
"We're making progress, I think that," Petersen said. "If we can get some guys back healthy, we can take another step. ... Because we're so young and inexperienced, I'm still not exactly sure, but I do like them. They work hard, they go hard, they care about what they're doing."
Next game: Oct. 12 at Utah State
Notable: DE Demarcus Lawrence blocked two field goals last week against Southern Miss. ... The Broncos have scored at least 60 points twice this season - a first for the team since 2004. ... WRs Kirby Moore and Aaron Burks, TEs Gabe Linehan and Holden Huff and DT Tyler Horn missed the Southern Miss game with injuries. RB Aaron Baltazar and RT Rees Odhiambo left with injuries.
- Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
Colorado State's team sack total ranks middle of the pack nationally, and one player is doing most of the work.
Of Colorado State's eight sacks this season, linebacker Shaquil Barrett has been credited with 6 1/2 of them, tied for the NCAA FBS lead with Western Kentucky's Xavius Boyd. Barrett had three in Saturday's 59-42 victory over UTEP, helping to make him the Mountain West's defensive player of the week.
He's the only Ram with more than one sack this season, leading coach Jim McElwain to believe a lot of Barrett's plays come from other defensive linemen collapsing the pocket. The senior linebacker agreed, but did take half of the credit for his performance this year.
"I think it's about 50-50. (Nose guard Calvin) Tonga, I didn't recognize how good he was out there. He was at the line getting double-, triple-teamed and that leaves it open for me to get one on one on the edge," Barrett said. "Other times, my teammates flush (the quarterback) over to me, I'll be there to make a play and I have to take advantage of my opportunities."
The eight team sacks rank 62nd in the country.
Next game: Oct. 12 vs. San Jose State
- Matthew Stephens, Fort Collins Coloradoan
There will be no major overhaul of the UNM defensive scheme, coach Bob Davie said Monday, in the aftermath of the Lobos' 56-42 loss to UNLV last Saturday.
The defensive scheme that gave up eight touchdowns and 581 yards to the Rebels, he said, is every bit as good as the offensive scheme that produced 568 yards and six TDs.
The problems: UNM's defense is much younger than its offense, and defense is not offense.
"You can do some things schematically on offense that can take advantage of things," Davie said. "You can run the ball every down if you're not that good throwing the ball, or you can put the ball out on the perimeter if all of a sudden you're not that strong physically inside.
"On defense, your scheme can be as good as it can be, but the ball doesn't always go where you want it to go or where your strengths or weaknesses (are). And that's the reality on defense. It takes longer to build it. It takes longer to develop players."
The only change in the defense going forward, Davie said, will involve even more young players getting even more snaps. That's already the trend: True freshman inside linebacker Dakota Cox, Davie noted, got his first career start against UNLV and led the team in tackles with eight.
"We've got to keep developing guys," Davie said.
Next game: vs. New Mexico State, 5 p.m. MT Saturday, Root Sports
Notable: The Lobos' 497 yards rushing against UNLV vaulted them to third nationally with an average of 324.5 yards rushing per game. Running back Kasey Carrier ranks seventh nationally with 139.8 yards per game after going for 192 yards on 25 carries vs. UNLV. ... UNM ranks 110th of 123 FBS teams nationally in total defense with an average of 472 yards allowed per game. They can take some solace, perhaps, in the identity of defense No. 123: the Lobos' next opponent, New Mexico State (572 allowed per game). ... Davie, offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse and sophomore outside linebacker Richard Winston all celebrated birthdays on Monday. Davie is 59, DeBesse 54, Winston 20.
- Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
Many of Wyoming's struggles last season showed up in its 42-21 loss at Texas State last Saturday night.
The Cowboys allowed 256 rushing yards and five of the Bobcats' six touchdowns were scored via the run. Wyoming is 113th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing defense (236.2 yards per game). It was among the worst in the nation last season at 232.3 per game.
Wyoming also didn't tackle well, another issue last season when it finished 4-8.
"You are only as good as your last game," defensive coordinator Chris Tormey said. "We did some good things (against Texas State). We had six three-and-outs. But we have to get better against the run. It all starts up front. We have to have great knock-back, control the line of scrimmage and have great leverage in the secondary."
Tormey added that the defense gave up too many big plays. Texas State scored touchdowns on plays of 26 (pass), 22 (run) and 19 yards (run). It also had a 38-yard run and pass plays of 49, 33 and 25 yards. Tormey said that was as many big plays as the defense had allowed in its previous four games.
Offensively, the line struggled in most aspects. The Cowboys had a season-low 64 yards rushing. Junior quarterback Brett Smith was sacked three times and hurried three times.
"It was probably our worst performance (this season)," coach Dave Christensen said. "As a coaching staff we have to do a better job of putting them in better positions to be successful."
The game was delayed 3 hours, 28 minutes due to lightning. It was the third time in five games Wyoming has had a weather delay, but the others were only about an hour.
The Cowboys are off this week before they play their first home game in four weeks when they host New Mexico for homecoming.
Christensen said the starters will get some work early in the week, but also will get some rest. He hopes to get more of the backups reps and see who can help as the midway point of the season approaches.
Next game: Oct. 12 vs. New Mexico
Notable: Smith is ranked in the top 10 nationally in six statistical categories. He is second in total offense (377.8 ypg, behind only Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion at 390.2), third in passing yards (1,607), tied for third in touchdown passes (14), fifth in points responsible for (90), sixth in completions (28.2 per game) and ninth in passing yards per game (321.4). ... Junior receiver Dominic Rufran, who leads the team with 36 catches and six touchdowns and is second with 415 receiving yards, left the Texas State game in the first half with a left shoulder injury and was in a sling after the game. However, Christensen said he will play against New Mexico and was not in a sling Monday.
- Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle