conference full of upheaval at quarterback
This was supposed to be the Year of the Quarterback in the Mountain West.
It instead has become the Year of the Quarterback Change.
Some changes have worked out well, particularly at UNLV, where Caleb Herring is operating the Rebels’ best offense in more than 30 years.
Other schools haven’t been so fortunate, with Utah State’s loss of Chuckie Keeton to a knee injury possibly dooming the Aggies’ season.
A quick look at the quarterback changes:
■ Air Force is down to its third- and fourth-string quarterbacks after a knee injury to starter Kale Pearson and the dismissal of No. 2 Jaleel Awini. Karson Roberts now is considered the starter but might miss the Oct. 26 game against Notre Dame because of a head injury. Nate Romine showed promise in replacing Roberts in Thursday’s 27-20 loss to San Diego State, leading the Falcons to 20 consecutive points.
■ Hawaii went into the season expecting to rely on Ohio State transfer Taylor Graham, but his ineffectiveness and shoulder injury forced the Rainbow Warriors to use two other players. Senior Sean Schroeder appears to have settled the position with strong play the past three games, but coach Norm Chow is keeping his options open.
■ New Mexico might have to turn to third-team quarterback David Vega, a junior walk-on, for its game Saturday against Utah State. Starter Cole Gautsche (sprained knee) and backup Clayton Mitchem (concussion-like symptoms) could be sidelined.
■ San Diego State turned to junior college walk-on Quinn Kaehler after two games into the season, and he has remained the starter after original No. 1 Adam Dingwell struggled early.
■ UNLV’s move to Herring after Nick Sherry’s early difficulties helped turn around the Rebels’ season. They have won four in a row for the first time since 2000.
■ Utah State appeared set to challenge Boise State for the Mountain Division title, but Keeton’s injury Oct. 4 changed those expectations. Junior Craig Harrison and freshman Darell Garretson played against Boise State on Saturday, and Utah State was beaten 34-23. Garretson will start Saturday’s game against New Mexico.
The Mountain West, though, is fortunate some of the top quarterbacks still are playing and playing well. Fresno State’s Derek Carr, San Jose State’s David Fales, Wyoming’s Brett Smith and Boise State’s Joe Southwick rank in the top 27 nationally in passing yards per game.
But the field isn’t as crowded with top QBs as it once appeared.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
The Mountain West is one of five conferences with a tie-in to the Bahamas Bowl, which debuts in 2014. It will be the only bowl played outside the United States, and the conferences represented will be determined on a rotational basis, with the Mid-American Conference assured a spot the first four years. … An ankle sprain might sideline Colorado State linebacker Shaquil Barrett for this weekend. He is second nationally with 12½ tackles for loss, including 6½ sacks. … Gautsche’s interception in the fourth quarter at Wyoming on Saturday was the first thrown by a New Mexico quarterback this season. The run-based Lobos were the last team in the country to throw an interception. … San Jose State running back Thomas Tucker was carted off the field at Colorado State but later left on the team flight home. He was diagnosed with a concussion.
1. No. 17 Fresno State (5-0, 2-0 MW). Last game: Defeated Idaho 61-14. Next game: vs. UNLV, Saturday. Last meeting: Won 46-28 in 1997.
2. Boise State (4-2, 2-1). Last game: Defeated Utah State 34-23. Next game: vs. UNR, Saturday. Won 27-21 in 2012.
3. Wyoming (4-2, 2-0). Last game: Defeated New Mexico 38-31. Next game: vs. Colorado State, Saturday. Last meeting: Won 45-31 in 2012.
4. San Jose State (3-3, 2-1). Last game: Defeated Colorado State 34-27. Next game: vs. Wyoming, Oct. 26. Last meeting: Lost 30-10 in 1997.
5. UNLV (4-2, 2-0). Last game: Defeated Hawaii 39-37. Next game: at Fresno State, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 46-28 in 1997.
6. San Diego State (3-3, 2-0). Last game: Defeated Air Force 27-20. Next game: vs. Fresno State, Oct. 26. Last meeting: Lost 52-40 in 2012.
7. Utah State (3-4, 2-1). Last game: Lost to Boise State 34-23. Next game: at New Mexico, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 34-7 in 2003.
8. UNR (3-3, 2-1). Last game: Lost to San Diego State 51-44 in overtime. Next game: at Boise State, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 27-21 in 2012.
9. Colorado State (2-4, 0-1). Last game: Lost to San Jose State 34-27. Next game: at Wyoming, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 45-31 in 2012.
10. New Mexico (2-4, 0-2). Last game: Lost to Wyoming 38-31. Next game: vs. Utah State, Saturday. Last meeting: Won 34-7 in 2003.
11. Air Force (1-6, 0-5). Last game: Lost to San Diego State 27-20. Next game: vs. Notre Dame, Oct. 26. Last meeting: Lost 59-33 in 2011.
12. Hawaii (0-6, 0-4). Last game: Lost to UNLV 39-37. Next game: vs. Colorado State, Oct. 26. Last meeting: Lost 42-27 in 2012.
GAME OF THE WEEK
UNLV (4-2, 2-0 MW) at No. 17 Fresno State (5-0, 2-0). Sure, the Rebels are more than three-touchdown underdogs, but this game is for first place in the West Division.
MARK ANDERSON/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL