Player of the Week: Brett Smith, Wyoming. Growing pains? Where the Cowboys' true freshman quarterback is concerned, step one was to win the starting job in fall camp. Step two was apparently to introduce skeptics to new and fascinating ways to eat crow. Smith, who has yet to give any indication that the step from high school to college football is supposed to be some Herculean hurdle, was outstanding in Saturday's 30-27 win at San Diego State. He had a hand in all four Wyoming touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) and accounted for 365 yards of total offense. Out of curiosity, is anyone still pondering the exit of Austyn Carta-Samuels?
Team of the Week: Wyoming. With a schedule that includes two victories over FCS teams, the Cowboys must win seven games instead of the required six to garner a bowl bid. Whether that feat can be accomplished remains to be seen, particularly with the likes of TCU, Air Force and Boise State on deck over the course of the coming month. Nonetheless, while Wyoming may be walking a tightrope, it's displaying little fear of heights and even less of heavily-favored opponents.
Take of the Week: While there have been a cavalcade of talented running backs to pass through the MW over the course of 12-plus seasons, we may be seeing the best of the best in 2011. Talk that San Diego State's Ronnie Hillman could bolt for the NFL following the season is unlikely to die down anytime soon given his performance on Saturday. The nation's leading rusher finished with 224 yards on 25 carries against Wyoming (305 all-purpose yards) in becoming the first Aztec record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk in 1992-93. In 20 career starts, Hillman has rushed for more than 150 yards 10 times. He has gained more than 100 yards in eight of his last nine games and in six of seven in 2011.
Stars and Stats of the Week
UNLV senior Phillip Payne's two touchdown receptions in the team's 38-35 win over Colorado State made him the Rebels' all-time leader in touchdown receptions. He tied the record held by Henry Bailey (24 from 1991-94) on an eight-yard pass from quarterback Caleb Herring in the second quarter, then broke it on a 31-yard reception in the third quarter.
UNLV true freshman running back Dionza Bradford posted his second straight 100-yard rushing game with a career-high 122 yards on 22 carries against Colorado State. It marked the first back-to-back 100-yard games by since Frank Summers accomplished the feat when he went for 103 yards at Arizona State and for 109 vs. Iowa State the following week. UNLV's rushing total of 244 yards was the team's best since gaining 275 yards against San Diego State on Nov. 10, 2007.
Air Force junior fullback Mike DeWitt rushed for a career‐high four touchdowns to post his second‐career multiple-touchdown game in the team's 42-0 win at New Mexico. DeWitt is the first Falcon with four touchdowns in a game since Chad Hall did it against Colorado State in 2007.
With its 38-28 win over BYU on Friday, TCU became bowl eligible for the seventh straight year and 10th time in 11 seasons under head coach Gary Patterson. The Horned Frogs have qualified for a bowl game in 13 of the last 14 seasons.
Wyoming had its most efficient offensive half of the year in the opening 30 minutes at San Diego State, starting out 8-for-8 on third- down conversions and racking up 396 yards. It was the Cowboy's highest total yardage in a first half since amassing 406 against Oklahoma State in 1995. Wyoming's 30 first-half points marked its highest total since putting up 31 against Utah State in 2003.
Colorado State sophomore linebacker Shaquil Barrett became the first Rams player to score twice on defense in a season since Luke Adkins in 2004. In addition to his 52-yard interception return against UNLV on Saturday, Barrett also scored on a 15-yard fumble at Utah State on Sept. 24.
Colorado State has at least one sack in all eight games this season. The Rams currently have 22, putting them on pace for at least 36 this year. The team set a school record with 38 in 1997.
New Mexico senior linebacker Carmen Messina, the league's leading tackler each of the past two seasons, recorded his fifth double-digit tackle game in the first half against Air Force when he collected 10 stops. He had a season-high 15 tackles for the game to move into sixth place all-time on UNM's career tackles list. He has 23 career double-digit tackle games.
Quotes of the Week
"It was just tremendous. I'm just so proud of these kids and the effort they're giving me and buying into the program. They're doing the things we're asking them to do and believing in each other and being accountable to each other. It's just a great victory. The bottom line is good football teams find ways to win games." --- Wyoming coach Dave Christensen
"It was one of those times where Tim (Jefferson) went down and I had to step up for my team. They all made it really easy for me to come in. They all did their part, which just makes my job that much easier." --- Air Force backup QB Connor Dietz, who rushed for 87 yards after Jefferson left the game with a broken nose in the first quarter.
"I'm nervous about every game, but for some unknown reason people didn't give Wyoming the credit they deserve. Wyoming is a good football team. I guess everybody knows it now. Nobody wanted to admit it going into the game. Whether you think the stuff that our players hear and see matters or not, it does. They hear the same things that I hear and they read the same things I read and they see the same things on the Internet and everything else. We have to be a more mature football team so none of that stuff bothers us." --- San Diego State coach Rocky Long
"I feel that I needed to slow down and relax. A lot of the time at quarterback you know what's going to happen and you see it, but when it comes to executing it at the snap, that's the hardest part." --- UNLV sophomore quarterback Caleb Herring, who scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:20 remaining to lift UNLV to a 38-35 victory over Colorado State.