Mountain West Football Report: News and notes from around the league

MOUNTAIN DIVISION

AIR FORCE

Air Force is through with a stretch that was believed to be as rough as any in team history.
It went as bad as feared.

“It didn’t kill anybody,” coach Troy Calhoun said. “It wasn’t fun, in terms of we want to play better. What it can do is build a little more mettle.”

The Falcons dropped seven in a row in facing Utah State, Boise State, Wyoming, Nevada, Navy, San Diego State and Notre Dame. It’s the program’s first seven-game losing streak since 1979.

The Falcons have started four quarterbacks during the stretch and have broken in first-time starters at many positions. Dating back two years ago to a trip to Notre Dame, only three current Falcons who played in that game saw significant action Saturday.

“You’re going to have some guys now who have been through some battles,” Calhoun said. “You have to be exposed to as many situations as can arise in football. You don’t get that in one game, you don’t get that in four games.”

Next game: vs. Army, 10 a.m. Saturday (ESPNU)

Notes: Wide receiver Sam Gagliano (concussion) and strong safety Dexter Walker (deep thigh bruise) missed practice Monday and are questionable for this week. … Calhoun has not said if freshman Nate Romine will start again at quarterback or if Karson Roberts will return to the spot after missing time following a concussion.

— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette (Colorado Springs)

BOISE STATE

In the Broncos’ last two losses — to Fresno State and BYU — they have committed six turnovers and forced zero. They were minus-four in the turnover battle last Friday at BYU, which led to a 37-20 loss.

“We’re putting our defense in too much harm’s way,” coach Chris Petersen said. “There’s no way they can hold up that long against a good BYU team. Four turnovers, we had no chance.”

The loss started with the Broncos’ worst first half — a 24-3 deficit — since the last game of the Dan Hawkins era. It was Petersen’s 100th game.

Now the Broncos are 5-3 for the first time since 2001.

“(Morale) is kind of down but we’re trying to pick it up,” sophomore safety Darian Thompson said. “It’s not going to be easy. We don’t lose very often. When we do, we take it to the heart.”

Many factors have contributed to the Broncos’ uncharacteristic record — injuries (six starters missed the BYU game), youth on defense, slow starts and fourth-down failures among them. The margin for error was small with this team, which makes the turnover problem more pressing.
The Broncos have lost seven fumbles this year. They averaged 8.5 over the past two seasons.
All three of the fumbles against BYU occurred when players were trying to extend already successful plays.

“I don’t think they should be fighting for extra yards,” Petersen said. “They (should) hit creases and go forward and try to fall forward. I don’t think guys should be dancing and pulling and spinning because bad things are going to happen. You watch (wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes), who is a heck of a playmaker. He’s starting and stopping and looking great, but he gets very few extra yards.”

Next game: at Colorado State, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Petersen said backup QB Grant Hedrick was “solid” in his first start but “we need darn good.” The Broncos traveled two quarterbacks to BYU. … Starting QB Joe Southwick (broken ankle) is expected to return near the end of the regular season. … Safety Dillon Lukehart was ejected for targeting against BYU and will miss the first half against Colorado State. … Redshirt freshman Travis Averill is expected to start at right tackle this week. He’s the fourth player used at that spot. Starter Rees Odhiambo is week to week. … Running back Jay Ajayi leads the Mountain West with 917 rushing yards, cornerback Bryan Douglas is first with four interceptions and defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is tied for first with 7.5 sacks based on totals, not per-game averages.

— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman

COLORADO STATE

It’s been awhile since Colorado State has played in a November football game that mattered.
But Saturday night at Hughes Stadium, the host Rams (4-4, 2-1 Mountain West Conference) will have just as much on the line as visiting Boise State (5-3, 3-1). Both are locked in a tight race, along with Utah State (4-4, 3-1), for the Mountain Division title and a spot in the first MW championship game against the West Division champion.

While conference titles are a way of life at Boise State, which has won 11 in the past 14 seasons, they’ve been a bit scarce at Colorado State in recent years. The Rams haven’t won a conference title since 2002 and haven’t even had a winning record in league play in a season since 2005.

After back-to-back road wins at Wyoming and Hawaii, the Rams still have a lot to play for as this season winds down. A head-to-head win over Boise State would give CSU a tie-breaking edge over the Broncos should the two tie for the Mountain Division title, and the Rams still have a chance to take down Utah State, too, when those teams meet Nov. 23 in Logan, Utah.

Hard to believe for a team that was just 1-3 five weeks ago.

“It’s something I haven’t ever seen around here since my time at CSU, so it’s going to be big for us,” junior receiver Charles Lovett said Monday. “It’s a game that really matters.”

It’s not just about keeping the Rams’ hopes of playing for the conference title alive, though. It’s also a chance for them to pick up another key win toward bowl eligibility. With a 13-game schedule, the Rams need to win at least seven games, a total they’re three games shy of with five games remaining.

So instead of wondering if they can play the spoiler down the stretch, keeping another conference team from getting to the MW championship game or one of the six bowl games contractually obligated to take a MW team, the Rams still are playing to reach their own goals as the season winds down. That hasn’t happened since 2008, when CSU also had to win three of its last five games to get to a bowl game in Steve Fairchild’s first season as coach.

It’s what football in November is supposed to be like. Players, on their Twitter accounts, have been urging fans to fill Hughes Stadium, which seats 32,500, for the game, and second-year coach Jim McElwain said he’d like to see a large and loud crowd there to cheer on his team. CSU averaged just 19,895 fans for its first three home games this season.

“I’ve always said I’ve got to give the people a reason to come,” McElwain said. “We’re playing a meaningful game in November that obviously a hometown, home-stadium crowd can help. I’m not sure I’ve given them enough to come yet, but I do know how hard our guys are playing.

“And we’re putting ourselves in a position now where late-season games are becoming relevant.”

Next game: vs. Boise State, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Starting QB Garrett Grayson sprained an ankle in the final minutes of Saturday night’s game at Hawaii and wore a protective boot on the flight home, McElwain said. Grayson continued to play after suffering the injury, and McElwain said he was told the quarterback can practice on it “as tolerated” this week. Backup QB Conner Smith started four games after Grayson was injured last season but has only played two series this season in mop-up duty, handing the ball off six times at Wyoming. The Rams didn’t practice Monday and pushed back their usual afternoon meetings to the evening to help players recover from the trip to Hawaii and back — a trip that had them crossing four time zones Friday and again Sunday. … RB Kapri Bibbs, No. 3 on the depth chart coming into the season, had his third 100-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance in four games at Hawaii with 137 yards on 33 carries. Bibbs has 767 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. …G Brandon Haynes injured a foot in the second half of the Hawaii game and didn’t return. His status for Saturday’s game against Boise State will be determined later this week.

— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan

NEW MEXICO

Coach Bob Davie and his players are hoping for a November to remember.

Odds are, it will be a November to forget. Starting Saturday at San Diego State, the Lobos (2-5, 0-3) stand to be decided underdogs in four of their five remaining games. Only a victory over Air Force (Nov. 8 in Albuquerque) would be less than a major upset.

Still, the Lobos are conceding nothing.

“I’m confident that we can win out,” senior center Dillon Farrell said, “if we really play as hard as we can, if everybody’s clicking and on the same page. It’s definitely possible.

“There’s always a chance. That’s the great thing about college football. On any given Saturday, any team can win. That’s what’s exciting about it.”

Davie, for his part, notes that the Lobos are healthy and well-rested coming off their second bye week of the season.

“There’s an old saying: ‘They remember November,’” he said. “The good news is that we still have five games to play and we’re still relatively healthy.

“It’s about finishing this season and remembering how we finished.”

The Lobos went 0-for-November (0-4) last year, Davie’s first at UNM.

Next game: at San Diego State, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (Root Sports/MW Digital Network)

Notable: San Diego State coach Rocky Long held the same position at UNM from 1998 to 2008. He remains the program’s all-time winningest (65 games) and losingest (69) head coach. … Sophomore quarterback Cole Gautsche, who saw limited action during UNM’s 45-10 loss to Utah State due to a knee injury suffered the previous week at Wyoming, is expected to be 100 percent for San Diego State.

— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal

UTAH STATE

Some weighty questions hang over Utah State late in the regular season: Can the Aggies get a bowl bid? Can they win out? Could they still get a berth to the Mountain West championship game?
Coach Matt Wells isn’t ready to look that far ahead. Even with winless Hawaii coming to Logan this week, Wells is thinking about one goal, and one goal only.

“We’re in a tunnel right now: We don’t see anything but Hawaii,” Wells said Monday. “Right now our goal is to be 1-0 against Hawaii. That’s all we’re talking about this week.”

The 0-7 record isn’t lulling Utah State to sleep. Wells has been rubbing his eyes after watching tape of the Rainbow Warriors and their close games in the past four weeks. Hawaii has lost by single digits in three of its last four.

One thing to be concerned about is the passing attack: The Aggies’ secondary has been leaky for much of the season. That unfortunate flaw was on full display as Joe Southwick and Boise State threw all over the defense earlier in October.

Although Utah State is leading the conference in passing defense, the statistic is deceptive given games against Air Force, New Mexico and Weber State. In each of the team’s four losses, it has given up at least 278 passing yards.

“It will be put to the test on Saturday,” Wells said. “We’re going right from a run-heavy team in New Mexico to a throw-it-every-down team in Hawaii. The jury is out on our back end, so we’ll see.”

Hawaii comes in with a somewhat confusing quarterback situation, but nonetheless boasts the No. 21 passing offense in the nation. Wells is expecting something tricky from Norm Chow, whose name recognition is not lost on the former offensive coordinator.

“Being a quarterback guy I have an added respect for him for what he’s done with quarterbacks at the college level and at the pro level,” Wells said. “He’s coached some Heisman Trophy winners, that’s a pretty neat deal. You’ll never take that away from him.”

Next game: vs. Hawaii, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: Wells rested most of his two-deep from padded practice during last week’s bye, and held a scrimmage Thursday for most of his younger players. The coaching staff took a week to focus on recruiting. … Utah State has four players from Hawaii, including two who should see time Saturday: starting safety Brian Suite and defensive tackle Elvis Kamana-Matagi.

— Kyle Goon, The Salt Lake Tribune

WYOMING

Coach Dave Christensen announced Tuesday morning the firing of defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Tormey.

Wyoming (4-4 overall, 2-2 Mountain West) lost its last two games, and the defense gave up 103 points and 1,151 yards.

Defensive line coach Jamar Cain, who joined the staff this season, will be the interim defensive coordinator the rest of the season. Cornerbacks coach Renaldo Hill will also coach the safeties the rest of the season.

Out of 123 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, UW is 93rd in scoring defense (31.6 points per game), 105th in total defense (465.8 yards per game) and 116th in rushing defense (236 ypg). Its pass defense was ranked first in the MW (190.7 ypg) prior to the San Jose State game. But in the 51-44 loss, Spartans quarterback David Fales was 27 of 37 for 482 yards and five touchdowns. Three of those scoring throws went for 76, 60 and 30 yards, and there were four more completions of 26 yards or more.

“It’s not something you ever want to do, but I thought at this point and time we needed to make a change in leadership at the defense side of the ball. That’s why I decided to make the change at this point and time,” Christensen said after Tuesday morning’s practice.

Cain said he was told of the change late Monday night. The team was told prior to Tuesday’s practice.

“This late in the season you have to get back to fundamentals and technique,” Cain said. “We’re going to get back to the basics on form tackling, pursuit to the ball, things like that. We’re going to slow it down a little bit in practice. A lot of kids these days are visual learners. They have to see it happen and do it again to get it right.

“We’re going to try and simplify some things on defense.”

Next game: Nov. 9 vs. Fresno State

Notable: Another factor in Wyoming’s consecutive losses has been its turnover margin. It was minus-3 in a 52-22 home loss to Colorado State and minus-1 at San Jose State. Those are the only two games this season the Cowboys have had a negative turnover margin. … Christensen expects sophomore Rafe Kiely and junior Albert Perez to continue to platoon at center, as well as juniors Chad Reese and Jesse Sampson at free safety. … Christensen’s Monday news conference was pushed back from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. because he was traveling back from the funeral of former Washington coach Don James, who died last week at the age of 80. Christensen was an offensive lineman for James in the 1980s and also a graduate assistant for James.

— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle

WEST DIVISION

FRESNO STATE

Fresno State has won four games by seven points or fewer, beating Rutgers 52-51 in overtime, Boise State 41-40, Hawaii 42-37 and on Saturday San Diego State 35-28 in overtime.

To get that last one, against the Aztecs, they had to block a last-second field goal at the end of regulation and went back to three players that had played key roles in 2011 when they had blocked 10 kicks in tight end Marcel Jensen, guard Cody Wichmann and tackle Austin Wentworth.

With a new staff, new approach and new scheme, none of the three had been used on field-goal block this or last season. But they had been bugging the Bulldogs’ coaches about getting an opportunity for the past 18 months, when coach Tim DeRuyter and his staff came in.

And as the Aztecs were driving to set up their attempt, Wichmann had looked at Wentworth and Wentworth had looked at Wichmann, and said, they’re going to have to kick a field goal.

“We knew exactly what to do,’’ Wichmann said.

They strapped on their helmets and tried to be as conspicuous as possible, which in the heat of the moment and with everything at stake, was not as easy as it might sound even for offensive linemen that go 6-6 and 311 pounds and 6-5 and 306 pounds. Jensen, the 6-6, 270-pound tight end, joined them. “We were all standing there on the sideline and me and Cody and Austin, we just kind of grouped up and said, ‘Let’s see if they’ll let us do it,’ ” Jensen said.

“We were trying to talk to Coach (Pete) Germano for quite a while and we were on very thin ice,’’ Wichmann said. ‘’They obviously were focusing on the drive that was at hand.’’

Germano happened to turn around. “I’m watching the play and the play is over with and all three of those guys are standing right there waiting for an opportunity but not wanting to interrupt me and I looked at them and they said to me, ‘If you want us, we’re ready to do it,’ ” he said.

Fresno State needed a jumper because safety Derron Smith, who usually fills that role, got dinged on that last drive and had to come out of the game. Jensen had his spot.

The two linemen were not going to be left out. “I saw Coach (Jordan) Peterson come up and grab Marcel and he’s like, ‘Marcel, we need you on this field-goal block’ and I was like, ‘Wait, wait, wait a second, you have to take me and Austin in there with him,’ ” Wichmann said.

Seamus McMorrow, who had not attempted a field goal before the Fresno State game, went out there with 3 seconds remaining and hit the ball.

The middle of the line cratered the Aztecs’ front, allowing Jensen to not only see the snap and McMorrow move to the ball, but to inch closer and time his jump.

He got it. “Maybe three, three fingers,’’ Jensen said.

But that was not the end of it.

“I heard it hit his hands and I was looking for it to go left or right, but it kept going and I thought, ‘Oh, no, this thing is going to land on the crossbar and fall in,’ ” DeRuyter said.

But the kick fell short, the game went into overtime and the Bulldogs won it there.

Next game: vs. Nevada, 8:30 p.m. MT (ESPNU)

Notable: Fresno State could have to make some schematic changes defensively after losing cornerback L.J. Jones with a left leg injury in the victory at San Diego State. The Bulldogs are not deep in the secondary, and for a while at least (Jones is to have an MRI on Tuesday) will be without both cornerback starters from a year ago with Sean Alston already out for the year. JC transfer Curtis Riley and redshirt freshman Jamal Ellis are expected to start against Nevada. “What we have to do is do a good job teaching them their fundamentals so they can rely on it so that they don’t question their ability, and then you have to go out there and actually do it,’’ DeRuyter said. “That’s the deal with it. You have to not just know it, you have to experience it. We’re going to be getting them a bunch of experience in the next couple weeks so they feel comfortable. I’d like to be able to just get them up to speed, but obviously you get into a situation you may have to change things schematically and we’ll do that.’’ … The Bulldogs’ Davante Adams caught two more touchdown passes in the victory at San Diego State, bringing his career total to a school-record 27 in just 20 games. He is third in the all-time Mountain West list and just three away from the record held by Austin Collie (Brigham Young), who is followed by Jovon Bouknight (Wyoming). Collie played in 36 games, Bouknight in 47.

— Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee

HAWAII

After another one-possession loss, this time to Colorado State, the Rainbow Warriors are 0-7 for the first time since the 0-12 season in 1998. They are one of five winless FBS teams this season.

Against CSU, the Warriors imploded early when wideout Chris Gant soared for what appeared to be a touchdown grab only to have the possession stolen during the landing. CSU then drove for a touchdown. On UH’s ensuing possession, quarterback Sean Schroeder fumbled on a sack. CSU’s scoop-and-dash touchdown made it 14-0.

Head coach Norm Chow said quarterback Taylor Graham would have an expanded role for Saturday’s road game against Utah State. Graham was 3 of 7 for 37 yards this past weekend. It was the first game he played since suffering an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder on Sept. 28. Graham had started UH’s first three games.

Chow said Graham or Schroeder, who has thrown for more than 320 yards in each of the past four games, will start. Ikaika Woolsey is considered to be the wildcat and not an every-down quarterback.

The Warriors also are seeking to improve their tackling. They missed 20 tackles against CSU, and have averaged 19.25 missed tackles the past four games. They averaged 9.0 missed tackles in the first three games.

Safety Marrell Jackson, who missed the past game after undergoing thumb surgery, is expected to start against Utah State.

Next game: at Utah State, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

Notable: The Warriors depart Thursday afternoon for a two-game, 10-day trip. They play Utah State this Saturday, remain on the mainland, and then play Navy on Nov. 9. The Warriors will tour Washington D.C. during the Navy trip. They could not arrange a visit with a former Hawaii resident who lives in a white house.

— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser

NEVADA

Coach Brian Polian still had his sense of humor following the 27-22 loss to UNLV on Saturday – the Rebels’ first win in the series since 2004, a span of eight games — when he addressed his weekly luncheon crowd Monday.

It was the team’s third straight loss, it dropped its record to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the Mountain West, and it cost Nevada possession of the Fremont Cannon, the rivalry’s 545-pound trophy.

And as he walked off the field after finishing his weekly post-game TV show about an hour after the game, a few fans let him have it.

“I was walking off the field … and we’re getting the ‘Fire Polian’ chants, and when that happens I’m usually looking for my dad,” Polian said, referring to Bill Polian, who was the general manager of three NFL franchises. ” ‘Geez, Dad, they’re (peeved) at you.’ And that’s OK. That comes with the job. I’m prepared for that.”

The discrepancy in penalties — UNLV, three for 35 yards, and Nevada, 13 for 105 — was a major topic of conversation during the luncheon, mostly because fans asked a few questions about them, and while Polian said he sent a few video clips into the MWC office for clarity, he also said the penalties his team committed cost them the game, not anything the officials might have missed.

“It’s a game we could have won. I’m not going to say should have won,” he said. “… More games are lost than are won in college football. And I feel we lost the San Diego State game (a 51-44 overtime loss on Oct. 4), and I feel like we lost the UNLV game as opposed to just being outplayed by a better opponent.”

Next game: at Fresno State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU)

Notable: The Wolf Pack picked up a verbal commitment from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly defensive back Elijah Moody on Sunday; Moody is expected to be a safety. … The Wolf Pack are expected to be at full strength for the Fresno State game, aside from two players who are lost for the season, starting tight end Kolby Arendse and backup quarterback Devin Combs. … Fresno State is coming off of a 35-28 overtime win at San Diego State in which the Aztecs had a 37-yard field-goal attempt blocked in the final seconds of regulation. Polian said his defensive front has played well the last two games, and he thinks it might have a matchup advantage on Saturday. “I do think we can make some hay with our defensive front against their offensive line, and that’s what San Diego State did,” he said. “They hit Carr. They got after him. They got physical with him. And they made the ball come out a little bit quicker than he’s used to.”

— Dan Hinxman, Reno Gazette-Journal

SAN DIEGO STATE

It’s never fair to pin an entire game on the kicker’s shoulders because, as most football coaches will tell you, dozens of plays led to the moment in which a kicker was called upon to make a game-winning field goal.

Still, San Diego State (3-4 overall, 2-1 Mountain West) could have beaten Fresno State in regulation if sophomore placekicker Seamus McMorrow had made either one of the two failed field goals he attempted Saturday night.

McMorrow missed a 40-yarder in the first quarter, which prompted the question: Why did the Aztecs send him out again late in the fourth for a second field-goal attempt with the game tied at 28-28?

More than 40 seconds remained on the clock after Adam Muema’s crucial fourth-down conversion that gave SDSU first-and-10 at Fresno State’s 24.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to go for a touchdown?

“Seamus had made four extra points, and it would have been a short field goal,” Aztecs coach Rocky Long said. “And a few minutes before that, he’d made that onside kick. I figured he was hot.”

But McMorrow’s 37-yard attempt was blocked, and the Bulldogs’ ensuing overtime win reemphasized the fact that the Aztecs’ kicking issues have now cost them a game.

Collectively, McMorrow and senior Wes Feer are 16-of-19 on PATs and 8-of-13 on field goals.
They’ve missed five in a row, and haven’t nailed a successful field goal since Feer converted a 25-yard attempt on Sept. 28 against New Mexico State.

Still, there doesn’t seem to be much SDSU can do about the iffy kicking situation.

“We’ll have Seamus and Wes compete in practice again this week,” Long said. “We’ll keep working with them and hope they get better.”

Next game: vs. New Mexico, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (Root Sports/MW Digital Network)

Notable: Backup QB Adam Dingwell watched the Aztecs’ defeat to Fresno State from the stands at Qualcomm Stadium. Rocky Long said afterward that Dingwell is in good standing and is back with the team at practice. But he’s no longer the de facto backup QB.

— Stefanie Loh, UT San Diego

SAN JOSE STATE

David Fales’ best game as a Spartan earned him plenty of recognition. He was named the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the second straight game on the heels of his 482-yard, six-touchdown, no-turnover performance in a 51-44 win over Wyoming.

He also earned several national honors, including National Performer of the Week and Quarterback Performer of the Week from College Football Performance Awards. He was named a Manning Award Star of the Week, an honorable mention Quarterback of the Week by the Davey O’Brien Award and a Senior Bowl Player of the Week.

Fales’ coach is impressed by how his quarterback has handled all the extra expectations this season.

“When you’re a guy in the spotlight — the quarterback position comes with that territory — you’ve got to block out the noise,” said coach Ron Caragher, a former UCLA backup quarterback.

The noise this week is a game that didn’t look like anything special a month ago but now is a key battle in the MW’s West Division. SJSU (4-3, 3-1 MW) faces surging UNLV (5-3, 3-1) in a battle for second place.

For the Spartans, the game represents the opportunity to stay on the heels of first-place Fresno State. SJSU would like to remain no worse than a game back of the Bulldogs prior to the Nov. 29 showdown in Spartan Stadium to close the regular season.

Next game: at UNLV, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (MW Digital Network)

Notable: Fales did not practice Tuesday due to an illness, but his status for Saturday’s game is not in question. Caragher expects him to practice Wednesday. … WR Jabari Carr returned in the Wyoming game, but participated only on special teams. … True freshman DT Keenan Sykes made his debut against Wyoming, with the coaching staff deciding to pull him from his redshirt year. He’s now the listed starter for Saturday’s game against UNLV, replacing Tony Popovich, who is out with a shoulder injury.

— Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News

UNLV

UNLV celebrated the return of the Fremont Cannon after eight long years of losses to upstate rival Nevada.

The Rebels won back the series trophy Saturday with a 27-22 victory over the Wolf Pack.

UNLV players led the cannon, the nation’s largest and most expensive trophy, through campus Monday, and a crowd of about 300 watched as coach Bobby Hauck and the senior players painted it red. The previously blue cannon is valued at about $10,000.

“Seeing the reaction coming from the students here on campus, it’s definitely a good sign,” quarterback Caleb Herring said. “It’s good for us to be around this type of thing and know that people are behind us. A lot of the students have never seen the cannon in person, so it’s a really exciting atmosphere right now.”

The Rebels (5-3, 3-1 Mountain West) still have some goals, such as becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2000.

They would qualify for the postseason with a victory over San Jose State (4-3, 3-1) at home Saturday.

Hauck said he wasn’t concerned about his team not being properly focused, saying that was part of the reason for Monday’s celebration.

“I think doing this probably helps you (move forward) because there’s something we did to kind of put it to rest,” Hauck said. “Rather than sitting around talking about it all week, we can say, ‘Hey, we did that. … Now it’s time to go on to the next one.’ ”

Next game: vs. San Jose State, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (MW Digital Network)

Notable: UNLV is the nation’s fourth-most improved team, going 1-8 last season at this point compared to 5-3 this year. Auburn is first nationally, having gone from 1-7 to 7-1. … The Rebels are 5-3 for the first time since 1994. … UNLV has won multiple road games in a season for the first time since 2003, when the Rebels went 4-2 away from home. They are 2-2 on the road this season. … Devante Davis has 10 touchdown catches, just one short of the school single-season record. Sam Greene caught 11 TD passes in 1980.

— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Chadd Cripe has spent the past 12 years as the Boise State football beat writer. You can follow him on Twitter @IDS_BroncoBeat.

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