December 2010 Archives
2010 MWC Bowl Central
The Mountain West Conference will be blogging live from the Rose Bowl throughout the Rose Bowl Game on Sat., Jan. 1. Visit 2010 MWC Bowl Central to participate!
Did you know?
No. 3 TCU (12-0) will have the opportunity to post its first unbeaten season since 1938 when it faces No. 5 Wisconsin (11-1) in the 97th edition of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Horned Frogs, coming off their second straight undefeated regular season, are making their first appearance in the Rose Bowl. It's the second straight year TCU has played in a BCS game.
TCU, which faced Boise State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last year, is the first school from a non-automatic BCS qualifying conference to play in a BCS game in back-to-back seasons. The Frogs are also the first non-AQ team to play in the Rose Bowl.
No. 3 TCU (12-0) and No. 5 Wisconsin (11-1) are a combined 23-1, and only the BCS National Championship Game (Auburn 13-0 and Oregon 12-0) has a match-up with more combined wins.
This year's Rose Bowl game will mark the first time the Mountain West Conference has faced a Big Ten opponent in the postseason. Since the league's inception in 1999, the MWC holds a 12-7 record in bowl games vs. opponents from AQ BCS Conferences, including wins over the Pac-10 (six), SEC (two), ACC (two), Big 12 (one) and Big East (one).
The Series - Tied 0-0-1
TCU and Wisconsin are meeting for just the second time. The teams tied, 14-14, in their first meeting on Sept. 26, 1970 in Madison.
Difference Makers (TCU - 12-0 Overall, 8-0 MWC)
* Senior quarterback Andy Dalton is the nation's active leader in wins (41). He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 20 consecutive games, the longest streak in MWC history. In the team's regular-season finale against New Mexico, in which he threw three first-quarter touchdown passes, he established a school record for touchdown passes in a single-season (26); became the MWC career leader in total plays (1,698); set the MWC record for total offense (11,678 yards); and passed the 10,000-yard mark in career passing yards (10,095 yards). Dalton, who has completed a career-best 66.2 percent of his passes this season, ranks third among active quarterbacks with an interception percentage of 2.32 (minimum 800 attempts).
* Sophomore tailback Ed Wesley, a semifinalist for the Doak Walker award, recognizing the nation's top running back, became the first TCU player to surpass the 1,000-yard mark since Robert Merrill (1,107) in 2003 when he rushed for a team-best 1,065 yards. A first-team All-MWC selection, Wesley averaged 88.8 yards per game, 6.6 yards per carry and posted four 100-yard games. He leads the team with 11 rushing touchdowns.
* Senior Jake Kirkpatrick was tabbed the top center in the nation this season when he was named the winner of the Rimington Award. Selected to two All-America teams and a first-team All-MWC pick, Kirkpatrick has started 25 straight games, anchoring an offensive line that has allowed the Frogs to rank fourth in the nation in scoring (44.3 ppg), seventh in total offense (491.5 ypg) and ninth in rushing offense (261.2 ypg).
* A first-team All-America selection by the America Football Coaches Association, junior linebacker Tank Carder spearheads a unit that ranks first in the nation in total defense (215.4 ypg) for the third consecutive season. A first-team All-MWC pick, Carder has posted 54 tackles this season, including 6.5 for loss. He also has 2.5 sacks. Carder ranks only behind senior safety Tejay Johnson (167) on TCU's career active tackles list with 148.
* A finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which recognizes the top defensive back in the country, senior safety Tejay Johnson was named to five All-America teams, including the Associated Press first team. Johnson leads the Frogs with three interceptions and is tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (2). A three-year starter, he is the team's third-leading tackler with 56 total stops.
* Tabbed a first-team All-America by the Football Writers Association of America, senior defensive end Wayne Daniels leads TCU with a career-high 6.5 sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss. Daniels, who has 12.0 sacks over the last two seasons, shares the team lead in fumbles recovered (2) with linebacker Tanner Brock.
The only player in MWC history to be tabbed the league's Special Teams Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons, senior wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Kerley is one of just two players to rank in the top 20 in the nation in both punt and kickoff return average. Kerley is averaging a career-best 28.0 yards on kickoffs and 13.8 yards on punts. As a receiver, he leads the team with a career-best 50 receptions for 517 yards and a team-high 10 receiving touchdowns.
Quote of Note
"I'd probably ask you guys this question: If we win, how are you going to write it? Are you going to write that TCU won the ballgame because Wisconsin didn't play well? Because that's what we've gotten for 13 years. When we've beaten somebody, it's because they haven't played well." --- TCU coach Gary Patterson, when asked about the matchup of a non-BCS school against an automatic BCS qualifier
Difference Makers (Wisconsin - 11-1 Overall, 7-1 Big Ten)
* Senior quarterback Scott Tolzien leads the nation in completion percentage (74.3 percent) and ranks fourth in the country with a passer rating of 169.8. During the Badgers' current seven-game win streak, he has completed 107-of-136 passes (78.7 percent) for 1,322 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
* Junior running back John Clay, the 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, is averaging 93.6 yards per game and has scored 13 touchdowns in 10 games. Clay, who suffered a knee injury against Purdue on Nov. 6, has rushed for 100 yards in 12 of his last 15 games.
* Senior tight end Lance Kendricks, a consensus first-team All-America, leads the Badgers in receptions (39), receiving yards (627) and touchdown catches (5). He ranks fourth in the country in receiving yards by a tight end.
* Junior defensive end J.J. Watt leads the Badgers, ranks second in the Big Ten and is third in the country with 21.0 tackles for loss. He also leads the team and is tied for second in the Big Ten with 7.0 sacks. Watt is tied for second on the team with 59 tackles.
* Cornerback Antonio Fenelus, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, has had a hand in seven of Wisconsin's takeaways this season (four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble). In the last four games, he has two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
* Free safety Aaron Henry has scored three defensive touchdowns this season, two of them coming on interception returns. He leads the team with 44 solo tackles.
Kick returner David Gilreath has 2,959 career kickoff return yards, tops in Big Ten history and second in the nation among active FBS players. In the last four games, Gilreath has been kicked to just seven times (16 total kickoffs). Gilreath, who is averaging 25.8 yards on kickoff returns and 11.5 yards on punt returns, ranks third in the nation among active players with 72 career punt returns.
Quote of note
"I'm a defensive coach by nature. I played on defense, I've coached on defense my entire life. The way (the Horned Frogs) play and the passion they play with really is fun to watch. ...The thing about TCU is they carry themselves and play the same way we do at Wisconsin. They play very hard, and I'm not just saying that. You watch it, it's awesome." --- Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema
•: Check out our photos from Rose Bowl Media Day and become a fan of the MWC on Facebook!
•: Video Interviews from Rose Bowl Media Day
Rules Are Meant To Be Broken
Rule No. 1 in the Handbook of Pressbox Etiquette: No cheering in the pressbox.
Well, at least not openly.
For the past two summers, TCU senior wide receiver Curtis Clay has worked as an intern in the university's sports information office, gaining insight to a future that includes a Master's degree in broadcast journalism. As such, he has developed a loyal following among fellow sports information interns, some of whom came dangerously close to violating Rule No. 1 in a game against San Diego State on Nov. 13.
Clay, filling in for an injured Jeremy Kerley, was seemingly en route to returning a punt for a touchdown when he stumbled inside the Aztecs' 30 following a return of 33 yards.
And in the pressbox at TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium, sports information director Mark Cohen was keeping close watch on his flock.
"It was tough to keep the interns from cheering," Cohen said. "Curtis would have been the first guy from our office to score a touchdown."
He might also be the first guy to proofread his own profile in the team's media guide. As part of his internship, Clay has edited copy, developed video packages, written press releases, assisted in the production of publications and conducted interviews with TCU athletes from a variety of sports. He has intentions of pursuing a sports television career, but also has interests in coaching or becoming an athletic director at the high school level.
"I enjoy being around the players and coaches and being able to show people that side of a player that you don't see on a football field," said Clay, a former walk-on and native of Lockhart, Texas, who was not recruited out of high school. "It's a lot of fun. It's really natural for me to talk with other athletes at TCU, because all of have each other's backs, whether it's football, women's soccer, women's volleyball or men's basketball. We're all there for each other."
"I probably gave him twice as many duties, just because he was such a perfect fit for the job," Cohen said of Clay, who earned his bachelor's degree last spring. "He's the kind of guy you'd want as a son, and not just because of his talents as a football player. He's a very genuine, caring person with a great future."
Deja Vu All Over Again
If someone should catch TCU sophomore tailback Aundrae Dean pinching himself, it's only because he's temporarily dreaming.
Dean, who played high school football with Horned Frogs quarterback Andy Dalton at Katy High School in Katy, Texas, initially accepted a scholarship to UCLA, where he played in six games as a true freshman in 2008. The Bruins, of course, play at the Rose Bowl, where Dean scored his first collegiate touchdown and where TCU will face Wisconsin on Saturday in making its second consecutive appearance in a BCS bowl.
"It's almost surreal," Dean said. "Having played at UCLA and now coming back to the Rose Bowl, it's one of the most amazing things you could think of. It's crazy. When we went through our walk-through, it just brought all those memories right back. Hopefully, I can get out there and score another touchdown on a much bigger stage for TCU."
Dean was recruited by former UCLA coach Karl Dorrell, but said he began considering transferring when Dorrell was replaced by Rick Neuheisel in 2008. Dalton, who sensed Dean was disillusioned, made a pitch to his former high school teammate to come to TCU.
"Of course, Andy wanted me, but coach (Gary Patterson) was a big factor in my decision as well," Dean said. "He was excited about having me. He's such a genuine coach. He doesn't always tell you what you want to hear, but that's what I like about him. He lets you know what the situation is and it's up to you to make the most of the situation."
The Power of Education
Time was when TCU wide receiver Bart Johnson's family ran 2,000 angora goats on the family's ranch near Brownwood, Texas. Angora goats produce mohair, a fabric or yarn made from the goat's hair. The Johnsons have gotten out of the goat business and now run 500 head of cattle.
Asked if he had any interest in taking over the ranch following graduation, Johnson, who plans on attending law school, said: "That's why I went to college."
The Man in Charge
With Monday's victory over Georgia Tech in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun ran his career record with the Falcons to 34-18. He is the only coach in the history of service academy football to lead teams to at least eight wins and a bowl game in each of his first four seasons. This year, Calhoun also became the only coach in Air Force history to win at least eight games in each of his first four seasons.
Calhoun's accomplishments have drawn high praise from Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, who is only too happy that Calhoun recently announced his commitment to remain at the academy rather than entertain potential job offers.
"He's a leader at the academy in many ways," said Gould, who is in Pasadena this week for the Rose Bowl. "The example he sets for his players, and for all the cadets at the academy, they see one of our core values being lived out when you talk about selfless service. Coach brings players to the Air Force Academy so they can be educated and trained for our country, not specifically for athletics and certainly not for professional sports. He not only talks about it, he displays it in his own commitment.
"When you see the (head coaching) opportunities he's had in the past and will continue to have for bigger and better paying jobs, to turn that down says a lot about selfless service."
Change in the Wind
For naysayers forecasting the demise of the MWC due to recent changes in affiliation, Gould has a message:
"The Mountain West Conference has a bright future," he said. "There has been lots of turmoil across the country in terms of conference affiliation. While we may have lost a couple of teams, we've brought in some very strong teams right behind them.
"We're excited about the Mountain West Conference. It stands for more than just athletics. We take pride in our academics and our graduation rates and all those things that young men and women go to college for. It's something we look very closely at when we look at membership and expansion."
Rose Bowl Parking
Due to improving weather conditions in Southern California, Rose Bowl officials announced Thursday that additional general parking for Saturday's game will be available at adjacent Brookside Golf Course. It had originally been thought that the golf course would not be available due to extensive rain over the last 10 days.
Fans are still encouraged to carpool, arrive early to the stadium and utilize the Gold Line train service.
Quotes of Note
"I think the thing that's the probably the most awesome aspect of this whole experience is to just be mentioned along with all the names of the guys who have played in the Rose Bowl. The tradition is incredible." ---- TCU sophomore tailback Ed Wesley
"It's pretty easy to coach defense when you're standing on the sideline with your arms folded watching your offense pick up first downs." --- TCU coach Gary Patterson, on his team ranking No. 1 in total defense each of the last three years
• 2010 MWC Bowl Central
Did you know?
• Air Force (8-4) is headed to the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl to mark the Falcons' fourth straight and 21st bowl appearance overall. Air Force, the first service academy to play in the Independence Bowl since Army in 1996, will face ACC foe Georgia Tech (6-6). The Yellow Jackets will participate in their 14th-straight bowl game, which ties for the fourth-longest active streak in the FBS.
• Air Force's Troy Calhoun is the first head coach in Academy history to take his team to a postseason bowl game in each of his first four years.
The Series - Georgia Tech leads 3-0
This marks the fourth meeting between the teams, with all three previous outings occurring between 1977-79. The Yellow Jackets claimed victories in all three match-ups, including a 21-0 decision when the teams last met in Atlanta on Nov. 10, 1979.
Difference Makers (Air Force - 8-4 Overall, 5-3 MWC)
Junior quarterback Tim Jefferson's 769 yards rushing this season are the most by an Air Force quarterback since Chance Harridge amassed 914 in 2003. Jefferson has rushed for a team- and MWC-best 15 touchdowns, the most since Harridge set a then-NCAA record with 22 in 2002. Jefferson's 19.2 yards per completion this season rank as the fifth-best in school history, and his 145.95 career QB efficiency rating ranks second in school history. Running back Asher Clark, a second-team all-MWC selection, has rushed for 1,001 yards, becoming the 13th player in Air Force history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in a season. Clark ranks third in the MWC in rushing with an average of 83.4 yards per game. Fullback Nathan Walker has averaged 88 yards and a touchdown over the course of the last three games. Fullback Jared Tew has missed the last five games due to a leg injury and is questionable for the game. Wide receiver Jonathan Warzeka, who had two receptions for career highs of 116 yards and two touchdowns at Army on Nov. 6, is averaging 23.2 yards per catch.
Senior defensive lineman Rick Ricketts, selected to the all-MWC second team, leads the Falcons with 9.0 tackles for loss and is fourth on the team in tackles with 61. Ricketts ranks second among active Falcon players with 161 career tackles. His 18.5 career tackles for loss and 6.5 career sacks lead all active players. Junior cornerback Reggie Rembert, selected as a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, is just the sixth Falcon ever to earn first-team honors. A first-team all-MWC pick for the second straight year, Rembert ranks third in the conference in interceptions with three and is tied for second in passes defended with an average of 1.00 per game. He leads all active Air Force players with 179 career tackles and has been involved in 19 career turnovers (nine interceptions, five forced fumbles and five fumbles recovered).
• Special teams
Jonathan Warzeka ranks second in the MWC and 10th nationally with a kickoff return average of 28.9 yards. Warzeka has two career 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns (vs. Houston in the 2009 Armed Forces Bowl and this season vs. Colorado State). He is one of only three MWC players with two kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career and is the only one with two for 100 yards. Air Force has blocked four kicks this season, with freshman Jamil Cooks responsible for three. Cooks blocked a field goal and a punt vs. Navy and a PAT vs. Colorado State.
• Quote of Note
"If you can pinpoint one bowl where there's a great lineage with the academy, it's this one. You feel like you fell in a bunch of four-leaf clovers." --- Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, noting the Falcons' record of 2-0 in the Independence Bowl and Shreveport's proximity to Barksdale Air Force Base.
Difference Makers (Georgia Tech - 6-6 Overall, 4-4 ACC)
If senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, the ACC's all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks, is unable to play, sophomore Tevin Washington will make his fourth straight start. Pressed into duty when Nesbitt suffered a broken right forearm against Virginia Tech on Nov. 4, Washington has gone 1-2 in his three starts, averaging 96.3 yards rushing while running for four touchdowns. Washington has completed 20-of-48 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back Anthony Allen (1,125 yards rushing) gave the Yellow Jackets at least one 1,000-yard rusher for the fifth consecutive season. Allen has five 100-yard games this season and has surpassed the 160-yard mark in each of his last two (165 vs. Duke and 166 at Georgia). Sophomore A-back Orwin Smith is one of Georgia Tech's biggest offensive threats, having rushed 49 times for 476 yards (9.7 ypc) while catching 11 passes for an average of 17.2 yards.
Senior inside linebacker and co-captain Brad Jefferson leads the team in tackles with 78. Jefferson also has 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Sophomore inside linebacker Julian Burnett has been Georgia Tech's leading tackler over the last eight games with 66. Burnett has four games with double-figure tackles, posting a career-high 13 stops at Virginia Tech. Junior outside linebacker Steven Sylvester leads the team in tackles for loss (10.5) and has a team-high three forced fumbles.
• Special teams
Senior Scott Blair, one of the most prolific field goal kickers and scorers in Georgia Tech history, made his first nine field goal attempts of the season and is 15-of-17 on the year. His field goal percentage of .882 is the highest in Yellow Jackets' history. Blair has made 41-of-56 career field goal attempts, giving him the highest career field goal percentage (.732) in the program's history. In a win over Duke, Blair kicked three field goals, all of them longer than 40 yards. He has scored 238 career points, fifth in Georgia Tech history.
• Quote of note
"They aren't going to be much different than us. It is what it is. You are optioning people and blocking people. You might do it with a little different formation, but it is not going to be like us lining up against Miami. There will be a lot of similarities and carryover." --- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, on Air Force and the Yellow Jackets both employing the triple option
It was early October 2008, and TCU football coach Gary Patterson, having summed up his team's loss the previous week to No. 2 Oklahoma, was asked about the Horned Frogs' upcoming opponent, San Diego State.
Specifically, the questioner was curious as to what Patterson thought of then Aztecs redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Lindley. One problem: the questioner couldn't remember Lindley's name.
Patterson, conversely, had no trouble.
"His name is Ryan Lindley," Patterson said. "And he's a guy who's going to cause this league a lot of problems as he gets older."
In adjudging talent, it is Gary Patterson's job to be perceptive. Turns out, he may also be a bit prophetic.
At San Diego State, where gloom has given way to the prospect of promise, Ryan Lindley has come of age, not only fulfilling Patterson's forecast, but potentially positioning himself to be tabbed the 2011 MWC preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
In helping lead the Aztecs to their first bowl appearance since 1998, ending the nation's ninth-longest active bowl drought, Lindley, a second-team all-MWC pick, has thrown 23 touchdown passes in his last nine games and leads the nation in passing yards per completion (15.77). Ranked sixth nationally in passing average (296.2 ypg) and 14th in total offense (292.9) ---- both No. 1 in the MWC --- the 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior will make his 31st consecutive start on Thursday when the Aztecs square off against Navy in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia at Qualcomm Stadium (5 p.m. PT, ESPN).
For Lindley, it has been a ride measured in fits of frustration (SDSU went 2-10 in his first year as a starter), to moments of magic (2010 marked the Aztecs' first winning season in 12 years). It has also been a tenure complicated by a coaching change. When current SDSU coach Brady Hoke replaced Chuck Long last season, Lindley, who had operated strictly out of a spread offense in high school and his first two seasons of college football, was asked to direct a pro-style offense, a transition hardly without trial. After throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 16 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman, he was suddenly being asked to forget all he had learned in favor of an offense as foreign as French at a West Texas hash house.
"I knew he had a big arm from playing against him when I was coaching in high school, but my biggest concern was how he was going to respond to operating in the pocket," said Aztecs quarterbacks coach Brian Sipe, a former SDSU quarterback who spent 12 seasons with the NFL's Cleveland Browns. "Some people can play in (a pro-style offense) and some can't, so there was no way of knowing whether Ryan could or not. We really had to start from scratch, teaching him new footwork and a different way of approaching the passing game. Quarterbacks in spread offenses are taught to get rid of the ball as soon as anybody gets close to them. In this offense, you have to operate with people right next to you, with bombs going off all around you. You have to be able to stand in there and wait for things to happen."
It didn't take long for Lindley to make them happen. In the past two seasons, he has thrown for 6,608 yards and 49 touchdowns. Against then No. 25 Utah on Nov. 20, he turned in one of the most prolific passing days in San Diego State history, throwing for a career-high 528 yards and a season-best four touchdowns. The 528 passing yards were the fourth most in school history and the highest total by any Aztec quarterback since 1991. Regrettably, he also threw two interceptions, the last one coming in the end zone with 1:22 remaining in a 38-34 loss. After throwing just nine interceptions as a redshirt freshman, he has thrown 30 over the last two seasons, prompting one local publication to define his play as being as "streaky as a $2 car wash."
"It comes with the territory," Lindley said. "I think it shows something that even after we've won this season we've been criticized. I know when I don't play well. My job is to put us in position to win, and for the most part, I think I've done a good job of that.
"The only thing that matters to me is wins and losses, especially after all that we've been through. When I look back at playing as a freshman, and you go 2-10, that's not fun. It doesn't matter how many touchdowns you throw or how many yards you throw for, it's all about winning and losing. We're 8-4 right now and we're getting ready to play our 13th game of the season. That's one of the best feelings I could ever have."
It's a sentiment shared by senior wide receiver DeMarco Sampson, who along with fellow senior wide receiver Vincent Brown was named to the all-MWC first team. Sampson has caught 65 passes for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns this season, while Brown, who has nine touchdown catches, has 61 receptions for 1,187 yards.
"The thing about Ryan is that he's such a competitor," Sampson said. "If we're in the weight room, doing squats with a lot of weight, if he doesn't complete it the first time he stays in the room until he does. That's a testament to his character and the way he plays. I've seen plenty of times where he's gotten hit in the mouth out there on the field and he's gotten right back up and gotten us ready for the next play. People say his mental toughness has improved, but he's tough period. He's got a little of that cowboy swagger. He just takes the bull by the horns and says, 'Let's go.' We wouldn't be anywhere without him."
A fact obviously not lost on Hoke, who was named the MWC Coach of the Year.
"The critics that he's had out there really have no idea of what he's done for us as a team," Hoke said. "The only thing I know for sure is that I'm glad he's at San Diego State and I'm glad he's our quarterback. He's done a great job of running this offense, a great job of making decisions. He played the second half of our game at Wyoming this year where he took a real shot (suffering a high ankle sprain) while throwing a touchdown pass on the final play of the first half. We didn't think he was going to be ready for the second half, but you're not going to tell him that. He's a tough son of a gun. He's come so far and worked so diligently. He loves to play and he loves to work at playing."
• 2010 MWC Bowl Central
The Mountain West Conference will be blogging live from Qualcomm Stadium throughout the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Las Vegas on Thur., Dec. 23. Visit 2010 MWC Bowl Central to participate!
Did you know?
• San Diego State (8-4) is making its first bowl appearance since 1998 when it fell to North Carolina, 20-13, in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Aztecs will take on Navy (9-3) in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Making its sixth bowl appearance overall, SDSU is seeking its first bowl victory since defeating Boston University, 28-7, in the Pasadena Bowl on Dec. 6, 1969.
The Series - San Diego State leads 2-0
The Poinsettia Bowl marks the third meeting all-time in the series, with all three taking place in San Diego. The Aztecs won the previous two meetings, defeating the Midshipmen, 56-14 on Sept. 3, 1994 and 45-31 on Sept. 5, 1997.
Difference Makers (San Diego State - 8-4 Overall, 5-3 MWC)
Junior quarterback Ryan Lindley turned in one of the most prolific passing days in San Diego State history against then No. 25 Utah on Nov. 20, passing for a career-high 528 yards and a season-best four touchdowns. The 528 passing yards were the fourth most in school history and the highest total since 1991. Lindley, a second-team all-MWC pick, has 23 touchdown passes in his last nine games and leads the nation in passing yards per completion (15.77). Running back Ronnie Hillman, who was named the MWC Freshman of the Year and selected to the all-MWC first team, became just the third SDSU freshman to rush for 1,000 yards and the first SDSU player in any class to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a season since 2003. He is currently first in the MWC and 14th nationally (first among freshman) in rushing yards per game at 108.67. He has a 200-yard rushing game, five 150-yard rushing games and at least one rushing touchdown in nine of his 12 career outings. Senior wide receivers Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson were both named to the all-MWC first team. Brown has five 100-yard games in his last nine outings. In his last nine games, Brown has 46 receptions for 1,032 yards and nine touchdowns. Sampson leads the MWC in receptions per game (5.42) and is second to Brown in receiving yards per game (97.92, ninth nationally). Sampson has six 100-yard receiving games this season.
Junior linebacker Miles Burris, a first-team all-MWC selection, leads the team with 74 total tackles. Burris also leads the MWC in sacks (9.5, tied for 16th in nationally), tackles for loss (19.0, ninth nationally) and is tied for second in fumbles forced (0.33/g, fifth nationally). A first-team all-MWC pick, sophomore defensive back Leon McFadden leads the league with 14 pass break-ups (tied for 14th nationally). McFadden has two interceptions and ranks third on the team with 54 tackles.
• Special teams
Junior Brian Stahovich leads the MWC and ranks seventh nationally with a punting average of 45.7 yards. The 45.7 average is close to the single-season school record, currently held by Noel Prefontaine (46.54, 1996). Of his 50 punts, 16 have traveled at least 50 yards and 15 have been downed inside the opponent's 20-yard-line. He has six punts this season that have netted at least 50 yards and has 42 career punts that have traveled 50 or more yards. A first-team all-MWC pick, Stahovich broke school record and recorded the longest punt in FBS play this season with an 89-yarder that was downed at the 5-yard line at Wyoming on Oct. 30.
• Quote of Note
"We are excited to be playing a bowl game here in San Diego in front of our great students, fans and community. We enjoy playing (at Qualcomm Stadium), and playing in the Poinsettia Bowl will give us another opportunity to do that. It's great to play a 13th game and our senior class, with their leadership, has put us in this position. We are playing a great opponent in Navy. They are a well-coached, disciplined team and play a very physical style of football." --- San Diego State coach Brady Hoke
Difference Makers (Navy - 9-3 Overall)
Quarterback Ricky Dobbs has recorded 48-career rushing touchdowns, the fifth-most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NCAA history. He needs just two rushing TDs to pass Kareem Wilson of Ohio University for fourth. Dobbs has rushed for 40 touchdowns over the last two seasons, an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in consecutive seasons. He needs 140 yards rushing to become just the seventh quarterback in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in a season twice in a career. Senior wide receiver Greg Jones leads the Midshipmen with 30 catches for 577 yards and four touchdowns (19.2 ypc). His 30 catches and 577 receiving yards are the most by a Navy player since 1994. Junior fullback Alexander Teich regained his starting job at fullback after Vince Murray injured his knee in Week 5 against Wake Forest. Against SMU on Oct. 16, Teich rushed for a then career-high 95 yards before exploding for 210 yards on 26 carries against Notre Dame the following week. It marked the first time in Navy history that a fullback rushed for more than 200 yards in a game.
Senior safety Wyatt Middleton is tied for first in the nation in fumble recoveries (five), while senior linebacker Tyler Simmons is tied for 17th in tackles per game (10.3). Junior defensive end Jabaree Tuani is tied for 22nd in tackles for a loss per game (1.29).
• Special teams
The Midshipmen feature three players with kickoff return averages exceeding 20 yards. Teich leads the way with an average of 26.3 yards, while Gee Gee Greene and Marcus Thomas are averaging 25.3 and 21.8 yards per return respectively.
• Quote of note
"They have a great offense. Probably the best offense we've seen all season long. They are very balanced in terms of the running and passing game. They have a big-time quarterback and a great tailback." --- Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green on San Diego State
2010 MWC Bowl Central
The Mountain West Conference will be blogging live from Sam Boyd Stadium throughout the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Wed., Dec. 22. Visit 2010 MWC Bowl Central to participate!
Did you know?
The MAACO Bowl Las Vegas will feature two ranked teams for the second consecutive year as No. 19 Utah (10-2) faces No. 10 Boise State (11-1). Last year, No. 14 BYU handed a 44-20
defeat to No. 18 Oregon State.
The 2010 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas is the only bowl this year that pits two teams that have won multiple BCS bowl games (Utah: 2005 Fiesta Bowl, 2009 Sugar Bowl; Boise State: 2007 and
2010 Fiesta Bowls).
Utah boasts the longest active bowl win streak in the nation at nine games. The Utes' victories during the streak have come against Fresno State (1999), USC (2001), Southern Mississippi (2003), Pittsburgh (2005/2004 season), Georgia Tech (2005), Tulsa (2006), Navy (2007), Alabama (2009/2008 season) and California (2009). Utah's last postseason loss was to Wisconsin in the 1996 Copper Bowl (38-10).
The Utes are only one of two teams to have played in multiple Las Vegas Bowls and hold a perfect record. Both Utah and UNLV are 2-0.
The Series - Boise State leads 4-2
While Utah and Boise State will face each other in a bowl game for the first time, it marks the seventh meeting between the two programs in a series that dates back to 1980. The Broncos have won three straight against the Utes, including a 36-3 decision in Salt Lake City on Sept. 30, 2006. Boise State won those three contests by an average margin of 10 points.
Difference Makers (Utah - 10-2 Overall, 7-1 MWC)
With starting quarterback Jordan Wynn having recently undergone season-ending shoulder surgery, the Utes will turn to senior Terrance Cain, who is 9-1 as a starter. Cain has played in nine games this season, including two starts when Wynn was out with a thumb injury. Cain directed Utah to victories over UNLV and New Mexico, but played sparingly following Wynn's return to the lineup. In the two games he started this season, Cain, who led Utah to a mark of 7-1 last season before giving way to Wynn, has passed for 455 yards. He set the school record for single-game completion percentage (86.95) against New Mexico on Sept. 18 by completing 20-of-23 passes. Cain, whose backup will be redshirt freshman Griff Robles, is currently completing 71% of his passes (51-of-72) with six touchdowns and two interceptions. At running back, senior co-starters Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata have rushed for 683 and 673 yards, respectively. Second-team all-MWC senior Jereme Brooks leads Utah in receptions (50) and ranks second on the team in receiving yards (628) and receiving touchdowns (four).
Junior middle linebacker Chaz Walker, a second-team all-MWC selection, leads Utah with 103 total tackles. Walker's 14-tackle performance in the season finale against BYU helped him become the first Ute to reach 100 tackles since 2007 and his 103 tackles with one game remaining ties him for the most in the past five years. Safety Brian Blechen, who earned freshman All-America honors, is tied for third on the team in tackles with 61. He has averaged seven tackles over the past five games, including a career-high nine tackles against Air Force and TCU. Blechen leads Utah and is second in the league in interceptions (four) and interceptions per game (0.33). He has two game-deciding interceptions this season. In the his first collegiate game, he intercepted a pass on the first play of overtime against Pittsburgh. His interception in the end zone with 1:22 remaining allowed the Utes to run out the clock for a 38-34 victory against San Diego State on Nov. 27.
Senior punt returner Shaky Smithson, who has been named to four All-America teams, leads the nation in punt return average (19.72), punt return yards (572) and 100-yard punt return games (four). He has returned two punts for touchdowns. Smithson, who also plays wide receiver, set a Mountain West Conference record for punt return yards in a season while also becoming the first Ute to record 500 yards in punt returns in a season.
Quote of Note
"He (Cain) is handling it well. He's in the film room watching film, just staying upbeat about it. I think it's ideal for him. Obviously, I wouldn't want to be hurt, but it's nice for him to be a senior and in his last game as a Ute be able to start in the bowl game and against a good team." --- Wynn, as told to the Deseret News
Difference Makers (Boise State - 11-1 Overall, 7-1 WAC)
Junior quarterback Kellen Moore, who finished fourth in the voting for the 2010 Heisman Trophy, is the nation's active career leader in passing efficiency with a mark of 166.93. His efficiency rating of 185.04 in 2010 ranks second nationally, behind only Cam Newton of Auburn (188.16). Moore became the first Boise State quarterback to eclipse 10,000 career passing yards against Nevada on Nov. 26. He is one of just six active players with 10,000 passing yards, and is the only junior among the six. Moore is the only player in Boise State history to throw for 3,000 yards in three different seasons. Junior running back Doug Martin turned in the 16th 1,000-yard rushing season in Boise State history. Martin's running mate, senior Jeremy Avery, is tied for the Bronco lead with 11 rushing touchdowns this season, including a career-high-tying three in two games. The duo of senior wide receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young rank among the national career leaders in each of the three major receiving categories. Pettis ranks eighth-nationally in catches (217), ninth in yards (2,691) and leads the nation in touchdowns (38), while Young ranks 14th in catches (198), fifth in yards (2,999) and 10th in touchdowns (25).
Senior defensive end Ryan Winterswyk, a former walk-on, moved into fourth place on Boise State's career tackle-for-loss list against Louisiana Tech on Oct. 26. Winterswyk now has 44.5 for his career, and trails third place by 5.5. He is also currently ranked fifth in career sacks (21.5), just 1.5 behind third place. Redshirt senior safety Jeron Johnson became the 13th player in school history to record 300 career tackles during the 2010 season. Johnson, who now has 318 career tackles, ranks 12th on the Broncos' all-time list.
Senior kicker Kyle Brotzman became the WAC's all-time leading scorer earlier this season against Idaho, passing Jason Elam of Hawaii (395; 1989-92). Against Fresno State the following week, he passed Boise State's all-time scoring leader Brock Forsey (408; 1999-2002) with a 15-point effort. Brotzman, who now has 431 career points, is two points shy of tying the NCAA's all-time leader in points kicking. Art Comody scored 433 points while playing for Louisville from 2004-07.
Quote of note
"You're excited early on when you get a team (Utah) and know their name. Then you put the tape on and go, 'I guess there's a reason they won so many games,' not only this year but in the past. They have very good players. They play extremely hard. It's very hard to dial them in. They have a lot of blitzes on defense. They have a lot of different schemes on offense." --- Boise State coach Chris Petersen, as told to the Idaho Statesman
2010 MWC Bowl Central
Did you know?
BYU will make its sixth consecutive bowl appearance and 29th overall, but its first trip to the New Mexico Bowl. The Cougars will face Conference USA opponent UTEP (6-6), which is bowl-eligible for the first time in five seasons.
The Series - BYU leads 28-7-1
BYU and UTEP will meet for the first time since Nov. 14, 1998, when BYU earned a 31-14 victory in El Paso. The series began on Nov. 22, 1946, when the Cougars earned a 14-13 decision in El Paso.
Difference Makers (BYU - 6-6 Overall, 5-3 MWC)
Over the course of the Cougars' last four games, quarterback Jake Heaps has completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception. Coming into the New Mexico Bowl, Heaps ranks No. 1 in wins (six), win percentage (.556) and fewest interceptions (eight), and No. 2 in yards per completion (10.6), completions per game (16.2), yards per attempt (5.9) and passing yards (2,052) among true freshmen with at least 310 passing attempts. Junior running back J.J. Di Luigi, a second-team All-MWC selection, ranks second in the league with a combined rushing/receiving average of 103.4 yards per game. Di Luigi, the conference's fourth-leading rusher at 68.2 yards per game, led BYU in rushing in eight of its 12 games this season.
Senior safety Andrew Rich, a first-team All-MWC pick, leads the Cougars in total tackles with 106. Rich ranks second in the league with an average of 4.9 solo tackles per game. Rich has had four games this season in which he's posted 10 or more tackles, including two 14-tackle games. He ranks fifth in the MWC and 46th nationally with an average of 8.8 tackles per game.
Senior kicker Mitch Payne set a new MWC record for most kicking points in a career against New Mexico on Nov. 20. Payne passed his brother and former BYU kicker Matt for first all-time and now has 324 career points after kicking three field goals and an extra point against Utah in the regular-season finale. He is 16-of-20 overall on field goals this year and 30-of-32 on PATs. He is also 10 points away from scoring the most points of any Cougar player in BYU history, a record currently held by kicker Owen Pochman (1997-00).
Quote of Note
"It is hard to explain. I remember I was playing junior college football and we were traveling, the only time we got to travel by airplane at Snow College. We were traveling to play Northeast Oklahoma and Tulsa, and (UTEP) Coach (Mike) Price and Coach (Dave) Arslanian from Weber State were flying on the same plane. It was a charter plane and they were sitting next to my parents and I remember that like it was yesterday. That's over 20 years ago. Coach Price has seen a lot of players since then, and now to think I am coaching against Coach Price, it's bizarre." --- BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall
Difference Makers (UTEP - 6-6 Overall, 3-5 C-USA)
Miners senior quarterback QB Trevor Vittatoe ranks 15th on the all-time FBS passing list (12,194 yards), 18th in total offense (12,089 yards) and is tied for 18th in passing touchdowns (94). In the Conference USA record book, Vittatoe is third in passing TDs and fourth in passing yards and total offense. He has started all 48 games of his collegiate career and is tied for second among active FBS quarterbacks in career starts behind Minnesota's Adam Weber (50). TCU's Andy Dalton also has 48 career starts. Vittatoe played through injuries to his ankle and non-throwing shoulder and averaged 155.7 yards passing with eight interceptions over the last six games. Senior wide receiver Kris Adams has made a catch in 36 straight games, tying for the ninth-longest streak in the nation.
Senior safety Wiston Jeune is the Miners' leading tackler despite making just six starts. During the past seven games, Jeune has been credited with 63 of his 79 tackles -- an average of 9.0 per outing. He posted 14 and 13 tackles in back-to-back games against Tulane and Marshall, respectively, in late October. Jeune's team-leading tackle total is the lowest at UTEP since the statistic was first kept in 1969. It ends a run of 25 consecutive seasons in which at least one UTEP defender has posted 100 or more tackles. It also marks only the fourth time since 1969 that UTEP hasn't had a 100-tackle player.
Sophomore kick returner Marlon McClure has 1,328 all-purpose yards this season. His 805 kickoff return yards rank second in the UTEP single-season record book behind Cedric Johnson's 1,039 in 1995, and his 29.8-yard average ranks second behind Roy Ross' 30.6 in 1990. McClure has recorded kickoff returns for touchdowns in back-to-back games, the first UTEP player to accomplish the feat.
Quote of note
"It's amazing isn't it? (BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall) was 18-19 years old and his brother was on my team at Weber State and they were playing in a bowl game in Tulsa. We didn't have the rules like we do now, so I just jumped on the team plane with him, bought a ticket from the boosters club and went to Tulsa to watch the game, because I was trying to get a bunch of players off their team. I sat with his parents, got to know them and I got an offensive tackle and defensive back out of the deal. Not him, but I did pretty good. Now all of a sudden he grew right up in front of me and hopefully not past me. I still got a little gas in the tank." --- UTEP coach Mike Price
The latest Top-25 rankings have San Diego State moving yet again into uncharted territory, at least in one poll. The 11-0 Aztecs are listed at No. 10 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll (No. 11 by the Associated Press), marking the program's first foray into the Top-10. BYU (10-0) climbed to No. 16 and 18 in the AP and Coaches' polls, respectively, while UNLV (9-1) slipped to No. 23 in the AP and No. 22 in the Coaches' rankings. The Mountain West is one of four conferences (Big 12, Big East, Big Ten) to have at least three teams ranked in both polls.
Pride Cometh Before a Fall
The Pac-10 is no longer in position to look down its nose at the Mountain West Conference. In addition to going 5-7 against MWC teams in football over the course of the last three seasons (1-5 in 2008), the Pac-10 is 1-4 in men's basketball this season vs. the Mountain West. No. 16/18 BYU (10-0) posted the latest win, pounding Arizona 87-65 on Saturday, four days after No. 11/10 San Diego State dispatched defending Pac-10 champion Cal 77-57 in Berkeley.
Down to the Wire
With the top four men's basketball teams in the MWC --- San Diego State, BYU, No. 23/22 UNLV and New Mexico having posted a combined record of 37-2 thus far, ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz writes:
"The Mountain West is going to be a sensational four-team race. San Diego State has the look of a potential second weekend NCAA tournament team. The Aztecs are off to a sensational start, regardless of venue. BYU dismantled Arizona and remains undefeated as well. UNLV did lose at Louisville over the weekend, but the Runnin' Rebels had been impressive up to that point with wins over Wisconsin and Virginia Tech. And New Mexico has only one loss (at Cal)."
Katz also says not to be surprised if the MWC, which sent a conference-record four teams to the NCAA Tournament last season, receives more bids than the Pac-10 for the second straight year.
What's Old is New Again
While many of the players may not be cognizant of the fact, BYU and UTEP squared off on a regular basis in football for more than 30 years as members of the Western Athletic Conference. The two schools will meet for the first time since 1998 on Saturday in the fifth annual New Mexico Bowl.
Keeping Up With the Joneses'
When Air Force meets Georgia Tech in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., on Dec. 27, a pair of brothers, Falcons tailback Darius Jones and Yellowjackets "A-back" Roddy Jones will give new meaning to the phrase "sibling rivalry."
The Same, But Different
While one might be inclined to believe that scheming for Air Force's triple option on an annual basis would give San Diego State an advantage against Navy in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23, Aztecs coach Brady Hoke isn't so sure.
Said Hoke: "What makes (Navy) so effective and efficient --- they're (fifth) in the country in rush offense --- is that they believe in the option game. They recruit to it and do a great job. They're different than Air Force, which has those elements but will also be more conventional in what they do with some two-back stuff and the passing game. Air Force had 163 formations that we had to look at; Navy has eight or nine. They're more committed to the triple option series, so they've gotten better at it. Their kids are disciplined in what they're doing; they're the least penalized team in the country."
The Other Side of the Story
While No. 20 Utah is fully aware that its opponent in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Dec. 22 is more than capable of matching any team in the nation touchdown for touchdown, it's the other facet of No. 10 Boise State's game that has the attention of Utes coach Kyle Whittingham.
"That is the most overlooked phase of their game," Whittingham told the Salt Lake Tribune. "Their defense is outstanding. They've got 45 sacks and are giving up 13 points a game. It's probably the phase of the game that is the primary reason for their success."
The Utes will be without starting quarterback Jordan Wynn, who recently underwent season-ending surgery on his left shoulder. Backup Terrance Cain is 9-1 as a starter.
Going, going, gone
According to the Dallas Morning News, TCU has sold its additional allotment of Rose Bowl tickets and is unlikely to receive more. The school's initial allotment of 20,000 tickets sold out in four days.
"We're very grateful to the Rose Bowl for allowing us to take care of our fans that didn't get tickets during the original allotment," said athletic director Chris Del Conte. "We are completely sold out. We have exhausted all of our options."
Among my favorite oxymorons is "consistently inconsistent," a "clearly ambiguous" phrase that at times can prove "oddly appropriate."
Here's another one: "mid-major." As in, "Of the four mid-majors currently ranked in college basketball's Associated Press Top 25 poll, three are undefeated."
While I'm unsure of its origin, be it with the sports media or so-called "power conferences" that would rather skip barefoot through broken glass than face a highly touted "mid-major" on the road, I am certain of this: It is a term in dire need of demolishing.
When San Diego State, ranked No. 14 in the AP poll, leveled Pac-10 Cal by 20 points on Wednesday, Golden Bears coach Mike Montgomery didn't preface his praise of the Aztecs by saying, "As a mid-major..." Instead, Montgomery, regardless of its shrillness, opted to face the music.
"San Diego State is good," Montgomery told the San Diego Union-Tribune. ..."They made big shots, tough shots, late-clock shots. They just didn't even seem concerned that we were there."
Why would they? Because they've been defined as a "mid-major" out of the media's need to affix labels to teams and conferences to sway opinion?
For the record, there are 335 teams playing Division I basketball this season (345, if you count the 10 institutions that are currently in the reclassification process and will be included in the Ratings Percentage Index calculations), and the NCAA makes no distinction between so-called "major" and "mid-major" programs.
In addition to San Diego State, MWC brethren BYU and UNLV are also ranked in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls. All three are unbeaten, and also are listed among ESPN's Top-25 Power Rankings. However, that same trio ranks first, second and third, respectively, in the ESPN Top 25 "mid-major" poll. Apparently, these "mid-majors" are a major thorn in the side of the well-heeled, having gone 4-0 thus far against teams from "power conferences."
Conversely, per CollegeInsider.com, neither UNLV, BYU nor San Diego State is even considered a candidate for its Top 25 "mid-major" poll, whose voting panel includes some of the top coaches in the nation. Just so I'm clear here, does that leave the Rebels, Cougars and Aztecs as "mid-high majors," "better-than-average mid-majors" or not "mid-majors" at all? Majorly confusing.
Of course, there are also those who prefer the label "non-BCS" to "mid-major." If we learn one lesson this college basketball season, let it be this one: The BCS has absolutely nothing --- zero, zilch, nil, nada, zip --- to do with basketball. It is strictly a football term. Whereas the BCS does not provide equal access to postseason play, basketball throws its doors open to all, even going so far as to stage something as outlandish as a postseason tournament.
The Mountain West is one of seven conferences to have received multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament each of the last nine years. Last season, the MWC sent a record four teams to the tournament, or 44.4 percent of its member institutions. Only four other conferences boasted a better percentage, all of them having 11 or more teams. If that's "mid-major," it's also demeaning, and diminishes the conference's achievements.
At least one reference source cites the term "mid-major" as having been coined in 1977 by Jack Kvance, then the head coach at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., who now serves as the athletic director at George Washington University. Catholic University is a Division III school.
And, for all I know, an up-and-coming "mid-major."
Hoke Gets Contract Extension
San Diego State football coach Brady Hoke, who guided the Aztecs to their best finish in MWC history this season, has agreed to a new contract through the 2015 season.
In just his second season at San Diego State, Hoke led the Aztecs to an overall mark of 8-4, matching the team's highest win total since 1996. SDSU posted its best record in league play since the conference's inception in 1999, finishing in third place with a mark of 5-3.
The Aztecs, who received votes in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' polls for the first time in six years, will face Navy in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23. It is SDSU's first bowl appearance since falling to North Carolina 20-13 in the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl.
Hoke has led his teams to bowl games in three of the last four years (2007 and 2008 at Ball State). In 2008, Ball State held a ranking of No.12 in the nation.
"We're losing some teams in this conference that kind of held the league together, but now it's our turn," Hoke said. "It's our responsibility, the responsibility of San Diego State and the Aztec Nation, to hold this league together. And that's what we look forward to doing."
Wisconsin, which averaged a whopping 67.0 points in its final three games of the regular season, is likely to find the going a bit more difficult when it faces No. 3 TCU in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
While the No. 5-ranked Badgers rank No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring offense at 43.33 points per game, the Horned Frogs are No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of 11.42 points.
The kicker? Wisconsin's scoring average on offense is tied for fourth-highest in the country --- with TCU.
The Badgers' trio of running backs --- John Clay, James White and Montee Ball --- all have rushed for more than 800 yards while combining for 44 touchdowns. TCU counters with a defense that ranks No. 1 in the nation against the run and is allowing fewer than 90 yards per game on the ground.
"You know what they're going to do and they do a great job of running the football," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "They're not one of those teams that are going to try to fool you. They come after you and say, 'Are you better than us?' And, for us, we've got to go out and get ready to play and we're going to have to tackle and tackle some more and tackle some more and get ready to go."
The Horned Frogs (12-0) and Badgers (11-1) will be meeting for the first time since a 14-14 tie at Wisconsin in 1970.
Wynn Faces Extended Absence
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday that not only will starting quarterback Jordan Wynn miss the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Dec. 22, but that the sophomore signal-caller will also miss all of spring practice after he undergoes surgery on his left shoulder on Dec. 13. Whittingham said Wynn, who initially hurt his shoulder against Iowa State on Oct. 9, is facing a six-month rehab.
Backup Terrance Cain will be under center when No. 19/20 Utah squares off against No. 10 Boise State. Cain's backup will be redshirt freshman Griff Robles.
"We feel good about Terrance," Whittingham said. "Everyone in the country deals with injuries. We will never use injuries as an excuse; that's not our deal. We have confidence in Terrance; he's got a proven track record."
Cain is 9-1 as a starter, having gone 7-1 last year before Wynn moved into the starting role. He directed the Utes to wins against UNLV and New Mexico in September, but has played sparingly since.
The Benefits of Working Overtime
Earning a trip to a bowl game allows coaches and players to extend their seasons, sometimes as long as a month. It's an invaluable period of time that allows younger players to make impressions in advance of the following season.
Perhaps nowhere, however, is that time more valuable than at a service academy, where limitations on players' time makes it a whole different ballgame.
"Because we don't redshirt kids, because we don't have our kids during the summer months or have players enroll early out of high school, the practice time we have right now is even more valued," said coach Troy Calhoun, who will lead the Falcons against Georgia Tech in the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., on Dec. 27. "Anything we can do with our younger guys to expedite their development is paramount to the long haul of our program."
Calhoun has led Air Force to a bowl game in each of his four seasons.
UTEP coach Mike Price may not know everything he needs to about BYU's players, but he's certainly familiar with the head coach.
While serving as head coach at Weber State, Price recruited Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall out of Utah's Snow College. He also coached Mendenhall's brother, Marty, at Weber State.
"I was being fairly highly recruited, but not rightly so because I wasn't a very good player," Mendenhall said. "Coach Price came to the national championship game (Snow College) played against Northeast Oklahoma. I certainly remember those experiences."
Mendenhall, a defensive back, ultimately accepted a scholarship to Oregon State.
BYU, which overcame a 1-4 start to earn a bowl bid for the sixth straight season, will face UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque on Dec. 18. Price has been the head coach at UTEP since 2004.
There was no coin flip involved, but Brady Hoke opted to defer nonetheless.
To his players. To his staff. To the families of his players and staff. To the anonymous. To the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.
Brady Hoke couldn't toot his own horn in a soundproof booth.
"When awards are given, those are team awards," Hoke said of being named the MWC Coach of the Year. "For us and the way we look at things as a team, from the guys who are marking the balls for us, to our managers during practice, to the people who are taping ankles; those are all team things. I'm not real big on the individual awards; they all go toward this team and the program and how the kids and seniors have responded to the (coaching) transition."
If you've witnessed San Diego State football over the course of the last decade, and I was subjected to enough of it to consider initiating contact with a counselor, Hoke's use of the word transition falls about as short as a 92-yard field goal. What Hoke has done in two seasons as the head coach at SDSU transcends tradition and might trump transformation.
This is not a case of something going from bad to better. I saw a 70-7 loss at New Mexico in 2008 where it was 49-0 at the half and the only hope was that the world would wobble off its axis and collide with a comet. I was on hand for a 52-0 loss at TCU four years ago where an Aztec free safety, left completely alone in the middle of the field, was forced to decide which of two receivers to defend as both sprinted parallel toward the end zone at a speed roughly approximating that of a bullet train. I've seen 17,000 people at home games in a stadium that seats 70,000. I've seen tears of frustration rolling down players' faces and listened to coaches who tried to equate moral victories with major milestones. If you'd care to discuss moral victories with Brady Hoke, wear a helmet.
Before finishing 8-4 this season and earning a date with Navy in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, SDSU remained the only original member of the MWC never to have participated in a bowl game since the league's inception in 1999. The Aztecs this season posted their highest win total since 1996, matching the program's most in 33 years. With but one winning season to its credit since 1998, SDSU heads to the postseason having lost four games by a combined 15 points, three of the losses coming to nationally-ranked teams.
Naturally, with miracle workers ranking among the most sought-after job candidates, Brady Hoke is a wanted man. The suitors are circling, with University of Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi dropping by last week without even seeking permission from SDSU athletic director Jim Sterk. Hoke would likely be positioned to double his salary at Minnesota, maybe more.
But in the spirit of the season, an anonymous donor this week stepped forward to offer $5 million to persuade Hoke to stay put, an offer that would include a salary hike for his staff and further upgrade facilities that already rank among the finest on the West Coast.
At a time when college football's landscape is being fractured by seismic movement, here's hoping Brady Hoke drops anchor. For his players, for his staff, for the guys that tape the ankles...and for the Mountain West Conference.
When San Diego State men's basketball coach Steve Fisher arrived on campus in March of 1999, raising the bar of success didn't necessitate a stepladder; a footstool would have been more fitting.
The Aztecs had gone 4-22 in 1998-99 and been outscored by an average of more than 11 points per game. There was an 11-game losing streak, a 101-54 loss at USC and an 86-38 drubbing at Utah in which SDSU at least flashed a modicum of consistency, scoring 19 points in each half.
And the worst had yet to come.
In Fisher's first season, which also marked the Aztecs' first in the newly-formed Mountain West Conference, SDSU finished winless in league play (0-14) for just the second time in its 42-year history of Division I basketball. From Jan. 5-March 9, the Aztecs, who finished 5-23, did not win a game.
So when his team was picked to win this season's MWC title in the preseason media poll, it came as little surprise that Fisher opted to blend history with a heaping of humility.
"Being picked to come in first place in the Mountain West Conference reminds me of a story the infamous (former Michigan State coach) Jud Heathcote told about when he had a player transfer from USC who had tremendous hype," Fisher said. "The player sat out for a year and the hype continued to grow. Then, before the first practice of the season, Heathcote said, `If he never plays a game, he will be a lottery pick.' So, if we never play a game, we might get to the Final Four this year. But I do like our team and the fact that other people like our team, and I expect us to do well. I much rather would have it this way then back in October of 1999 when they asked me if we had a chance to win a conference game."
He can only be grateful that 1999 isn't 2010.
For the first time in the MWC's 12-year history, the league has three undefeated teams --- BYU, San Diego State and UNLV --- in the first week of December. All are ranked in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches' polls, with the Aztecs having entered the week with the highest ranking at No. 17 in the AP poll. Never in its history has the MWC had three teams ranked in the Top 25 this early in the season. BYU (7-0), SDSU (7-0) and UNLV (7-0) are three of 24 undefeated teams nationally and among 11 with records of 7-0 or better.
San Diego State, last season's MWC Tournament champion, is positioned to climb substantially. After posting a convincing 69-55 win on Wednesday over a Saint Mary's team that was receiving votes in both polls, SDSU, which knocked off then No. 11-ranked Gonzaga on the road in its second game of the season, hosts Wichita State (5-1) Saturday night in the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge. The Shockers' lone setback of the season came in a four-point loss to Connecticut (No. 7 AP, No. 9 Coaches) 12 days ago.
BYU entered the Coaches' poll for the first time this season thanks to a 77-75 double-overtime win against UCF and a 74-73 victory against Saint Mary's that gave the Cougars the championship of the South Padre Island Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend. In addition, the Cougars are the only team this season to have beaten Utah State, who was receiving votes in the AP poll at the time of the Nov. 17 meeting.
UNLV also used a holiday tournament last week to gain entrance into both polls for the first time in 2010-11, dispatching Tulsa, Murray State and Virginia Tech by an average margin of 11.7 points en route to the title at the 76 Classic in Anaheim. The Runnin' Rebels have the league's other win over a ranked opponent this season, defeating then-No. 25 Wisconsin (5-2) in Las Vegas on Nov. 20.
The MWC is an impressive 4-0 thus far in the MWC/MVC Challenge, with three of those wins coming on the road. BYU posted a 77-65 win at Creighton, a team that has made six NCAA Tournament appearances since 2000, while defending MWC regular-season champion New Mexico earned a 74-59 victory at Southern Illinois, a team which has also garnered an NCAA berth six times in the last decade. UNLV (No. 24 AP, No. 23 Coaches) picked up the league's other road win in Challenge play, rolling to an 82-51 triumph over an Illinois State team that is a combined 51-23 over the last three seasons. Colorado State (3-1), which is off to its best start since 2007-08, owns the league's other victory in the MWC/MVC Challenge, having beaten Drake 78-67 in Fort Collins.
Through the first three weeks of the season, the MWC, which sent a league-record four teams to the 2010 NCAA Tournament, is a combined 45-12. The league is one of five conferences (Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, SEC) to have three teams ranked in both polls.
"Obviously, last year was the best year in the history of the Mountain West, and a vast majority of players on those teams are returning," UNLV coach Lon Kruger told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "It points to a very exciting year and a very strong year. The level of play keeps going up."
Mick McGrane has covered the Mountain West since the league's inception in 1999. He spent 12 years at the San Diego Union-Tribune, where he served as the beat writer for San Diego State football and men's basketball. He currently represents the MW as a member of the Football Writers Association of America All-America Committee and is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. McGrane serves as senior writer to the Mountain West, providing readers with exclusive, in-depth information about the Conference by highlighting its 10 member institutions and contributing feature stories on student-athletes that participate in the league's 18 sponsored sports.
Have a question for Mick? E-mail him at mick@TheMWC.com or check him out on Twitter @MWCMick.
Mark Knudson is a Colorado State journalism school graduate and a 12-year veteran of professional baseball. During his playing career, Mark pitched for three major league teams, including the Colorado Rockies, where he was the first Colorado native to play for the hometown team. He recorded wins over three of the four legendary pitchers who make up the 4,000 strikeout club: Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens. His win over Ryan came for the Milwaukee Brewers on Opening Day in 1991.
Since his retirement, Mark has been a feature writer and columnist for Mile High Sports, a radio talk show host and TV analyst for numerous sports media outlets. For the past six years, he was a columnist and baseball analyst for The Mtn., along with being one of Colorado's six Heisman Trophy voters.
Have a question for Mark? Visit him at ElevationSportsNetwork.com or check him out on Twitter @MarkKnudson41.