Dec 022003
 
Authors: Steve Latuda

UNLV’s 35-24 victory over Wyoming last week wrapped up the 2003

MWC season.

As of Tuesday the MWC is sending three teams to bowl games.

Utah, the conference champion, heads to the Liberty Bowl. The MWC’s

runner-up New Mexico travels to the Las Vegas Bowl and CSU has

accepted an invitation to play in the San Francisco Bowl.

A fourth team, Air Force, is still waiting to hear from a bowl

but has not yet been invited.

Air Force Falcons (7-5, 3-4 MWC)

In his 20 years at Air Force, Fisher DeBerry has guided the

Falcons to 12 bowl games, and a 13th is still up in the air. Air

Force is battling with several other teams for an at-large opening

in the Fort Worth Bowl.

The Fort Worth Bowl, which is reserved for the eighth place team

out of the Big 12 conference, is looking for a team to face off

with Texas Christian. If Texas gets a Bowl Championship Series

invitation, all the eligible Big 12 teams would move up one place

leaving an opening for an at-large team from another conference.

Air Force could be that team.

Brigham Young Cougars (4-8, 3-4)

The Cougars completed a disappointing year by having their NCAA

record of 361 games without being shutout came to an end in the

regular-season finale against Utah. Prior to the Utah game, which

they lost 3-0, the Cougars were last shutout during the 1975

season.

“It was a disappointing year for us this year,” said head coach

Gary Crowton. “We are going to have to regroup and hopefully put a

better product on the field next season.”

New Mexico Lobos (8-4, 5-2)

New Mexico will make its second straight appearance in the Las

Vegas bowl against Oregon State on Christmas Eve at 5:30 p.m. on

ESPN.

“I think we’re getting the best team in the Mountain West

Conference,” Las Vegas Bowl executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy

said in a press release.

New Mexico head coach Rocky Long has coaching ties to the

Beavers, as their former defensive coordinator, and is excited to

match his star running back DonTrell Moore against the Beavers star

back Steven Jackson.

The Lobos hope to avenge last year’s 27-13 loss to UCLA in the

2002 Las Vegas Bowl.

San Diego State Aztecs (6-6, 3-4)

The Aztecs concluded an up-and-down season by winning two of

their last three games and not allowing an offensive touchdown in

both wins.

The problem for the Aztecs came when they dropped their first

three MWC games, two of which came at home.

Freshman running back Lynell Hamilton, who averaged 108.7 yards

a game, was a welcome surprise to the Aztecs. The freshman took the

pressure off of a passing game, which was crippled by injuries to

starting quarterback Adam Hall, and top receiver Jeff Webb.

“I wish we were healthy all year long,” said head coach Tom

Craft. “If we were, I think we would still be practicing

today.”

UNLV Rebels (6-6, 2-5)

The Rebels opened up the season in impressive fashion by

defeating Toledo, Wisconsin and Hawaii. But once the Rebels hit

conference play, the season took a turn for the worse.

The Rebels only conference victories came against the bowl-bound

New Mexico Lobos and in the conference finale against Wyoming. The

Rebels had CSU up against the ropes, but the Rams were able to pull

out a come-from-behind victory two weeks ago.

Utah Utes (9-2, 6-1)

Utah claimed its first out-right conference championship since

winning the Skyline Conference in 1957, and will be making its

first Liberty Bowl appearance since 1964.

Utah will play a Southern Mississippi team that brings a big fan

following to Memphis, Tenn. Southern Miss knocked Texas Christian

from the ranks of the unbeaten and was perfect in Conference-USA

play. The Liberty Bowl will be played on New Year’s Eve at 1:30

p.m. on ESPN.

The Utes will have the services of star tailback Brandon

Warfield, who was injured for three games during the season, but

did return for the snow bowl against BYU.

“It sure is nice to look in the backfield and see Brandon back

there,” said head coach Urban Meyer. “It takes so much pressure off

of me as a coach.”

Wyoming Cowboys (4-7, 2-4)

The Cowboys were in the hunt for a bowl birth at the beginning

of November, but three straight losses in conference play quickly

killed that hope.

The one bright spot in Wyoming’s season was that this was the

first season since 1988 that they beat both CSU and BYU in the same

season.

Head coach Joe Glenn, a former coach of the University of

Northern Colorado, brought a positive approach to the Cowboys and

gave the fans in Laramie some hope for the future.

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