Sep 092003
 
Authors: Vince Blaser

The Mountain West Conference nearly had one of the best Saturday’s in conference history. Instead, only the two Colorado teams notched wins in a week where every MWC team played a team from a Bowl Championship Series conference.

The MWC is trying to prove its champion deserves an automatic bid in a BCS bowl game after the current contract expires in 2005.

San Diego State nearly pulled off the upset of the year with their backup quarterback in a 16-13 loss to No. 2 Ohio State of the Big Ten.

“We are obviously very proud of the way we played,” said SDSU head coach Tom Craft after the loss. “It was a courageous performance on our part to take Ohio State to 16-13. We have come a long way in our second year.”

Brigham Young also challenged a top-5 opponent in a 35-18 loss to No. 4 Southern California of the Pac 10.

The conference looks to return to its success in week one with an easier slate of games this weekend. Here is a look at the games.

Air Force (2-0) vs. North Texas (1-1): Line – Air Force by 8

The Falcons remain the only undefeated team in the MWC after a 22-21 comeback win at Northwestern. MWC defensive player of the week Nate Allen started the comeback in the third quarter with a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown.

This week the Falcons host North Texas (1-1). The Mean Green bounced back from a 37-3 loss at No. 1 Oklahoma with a 52-14 trouncing of Big 12 doormat Baylor. Falcons quarterback Chance Harridge will play on Saturday despite being ejected from last week’s game for punching a Northwestern assistant coach after the coach hit Harridge with his forearm.

Brigham Young (1-1) at New Mexico (1-1): Line – BYU by 2 1/2

The first conference game of the year features two teams picked to finish near the top in conference standings.

BYU was within three points of USC in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s contest. Three Cougar turnovers proved costly as the Trojans turned them into 21 points. BYU extended its streak of consecutive games without being shutout to 352 against a nasty Trojans defense.

New Mexico’s defense had about as much success stopping Texas Tech quarterback B.J. Symons Saturday as CSU did against CU quarterback Joel Klatt. Symons threw for five touchdowns and ran for another in Tech’s 42-28 win over the Lobos in Lubbock, Texas. However, the Lobos offense continued to shine and are ranked third in the nation, averaging 570 yards in total offense.

BYU has won 28 of the last 33 meetings with New Mexico, but the Lobos ended a 14-game losing streak against the Cougars with a victory in Provo last year.

Utah (1-1) vs. California (1-2): Line – Utah by 2

Utah hopes to follow in CSU’s footsteps this week as they host California. Last week, Utah staged a ferocious comeback after falling down 21-0 against Texas A&M, but fell just short in a 28-26 loss. Running back Brandon Warfield shared MWC offensive player of the week for the second straight time, with a game high 181 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

Cal will be looking to bounce back after last week’s 23-21 loss against the Rams. Utah has lost to BCS opponents Michigan, Arizona and Texas A&M by a combined 11 points over the last two seasons.

San Diego State (1-1) at Texas El Paso (0-2): Line – SDSU by 19

If San Diego State plays anywhere near the level they did in Columbus on Saturday, they will walk out of El Paso with a blowout victory. The Aztec defense held Ohio State to 196 yards of total offense and no touchdowns. If not for a 100-yard interception return of a tipped pass by Will Allen, the Aztecs may have pulled off a monumental upset against the defending national champions.

Quarterback Matt Dlugoleki started last week for the injured Adam Hall and will continue duties against UTEP this week. The Miners were beaten 34-13 by Division 1-AA California Polytechnic State Saturday. They committed five turnovers in that game and could commit a few more against a tough Aztec defense.

Wyoming (1-1) vs. Kansas (1-1): Line – Wyoming by 4

Oklahoma State trounced Wyoming 48-24 in the match up of Cowboys, Saturday. OSU scored on six straight possessions, starting with Gabe Lindsey’s 55-yard punt return for a touchdown. Wyoming quarterback Casey Bramlet continued to look strong, completing 17 of 36 passes for 306 yards and no interceptions. Wyoming cornerback Derek Martin broke his left hand in the game and is out for the season.

The Cowboys come back to Laramie to face an easier Big 12 opponent in Kansas. The Jayhawks were picked to finish last in the Big 12 North Division and opened the season with a 28-20 loss to Northwestern. However, the Jayhawks beat up on MWC equivalent UNLV 46-24 last week.

UNLV (1-1) at Wisconsin (2-0): Line – Wisconsin by 20

UNLV needs to get a lot better real fast if they have any hope of staying in the game against Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin. After a good opening win against Toledo, UNLV was embarrassed by Kansas 46-24 last week in Lawrence. The Rebels led 17-13 just before halftime, but broke down in the second half as the Jayhawks reeled off 33 straight points.

The Rebels roll into Madison to face a Wisconsin team that has one of the greatest home field advantages in the country. The Rebels must ride the legs of running back Larry Croom, who has run for more than six yards a carry in the first two games. They must also stop Wisconsin’s star running back Anthony Davis, who has already run for 414 yards in two games this season.

Sources: MWC and wire reports

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