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Colorado State sends message to Mountain West

Colorado State finally provided the Mountain West with a notable out-of-conference victory on Saturday.

But the Rams did more than that.

With their dramatic 24-21 victory at Boston College, the same Eagles team that earlier beat Southern California, the Rams sent a message to the other Mountain West schools.

“That was a hard-fought victory and one that could go down in time to come,” Colorado State coach Jim McElwain said Monday at his weekly news conference.

In light of this past weekend’s scores, Colorado State’s 37-24 loss to Boise State on Sept. 6 looks especially bizarre. After the Rams rallied from 14-0 down at Boston College, Boise State fell into a 28-0 hole and lost at Air Force 28-14.

Maybe Boise State caught the Rams at the right time and a rematch would yield a different result. It should at least be a closer game because Colorado State is the one Mountain West team with a victory that means anything on a national scale.

The Rams got it the hard way, too, scoring the winning touchdown with 1:02 left on fourth-and-11. Quarterback Garrett Grayson couldn’t find an open receiver, finally turning to his fifth option on the play, Charles Lovett, for the 12-yard TD.

“This was a game every person on that trip really gave their all,” McElwain said.

McElwain sounded like a proud coach in making that statement, and no doubt he was, but beating Boston College was big personally for him, too.

The divide between the power conferences and the other leagues is only growing, the victory at B.C. aside. McElwain, who was Alabama’s offensive coordinator before taking the Colorado State job in 2012, knows what the big time looks like.

If the Rams build on the victory over the Eagles and contend for the Mountain West championship, some power-conference schools probably will show interest in McElwain. He would be foolish not to listen.

AROUND THE MOUNTAIN WEST

Air Force safety Weston Steelhammer was named the national defensive player of the week by Football Writers Association of America/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week. He intercepted three passes and registered two tackles for loss, including a sack, against Boise State. … Boise State coach Bryan Harsin is sticking with quarterback Grant Hedrick after he threw four interceptions for the second time this season. How long Hedrick will play remains to be seen because he was replaced by Ryan Finley at Air Force, and led the Broncos on their two touchdown drives. … All five of Fresno State’s touchdown drives against New Mexico were at least 75 yards, and four of those were from 80 and beyond. … San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler injured his throwing shoulder Saturday against UNLV and will miss Friday’s game at Fresno State. Freshman Nick Bawden will take his place. … Utah State coach Matt Wells hasn’t announced who will start at quarterback against Brigham Young on Friday. Chuckie Keeton hopes to return after injuring his left knee Sept. 13 against Wake Forest.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Colorado State (3-1, 0-1 MW). Last game: Defeated Boston College 24-21. Next game: vs. Tulsa, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 30-27 in 2013. Line: Colorado State -14.

2. UNR (3-1, 1-0). Last game: Defeated San Jose State 21-10. Next game: vs. Boise State, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 34-17 in 2013. Line: Boise State -2.

3. San Diego State (2-2, 1-0). Last game: Defeated UNLV 34-17. Next game: at Fresno State, Friday. Last meeting: Lost 35-28 in overtime in 2013. Line: San Diego State -1.

4. Air Force (3-1, 1-1). Last game: Defeated Boise State 28-14. Next game: vs. Navy, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 28-10 in 2013. Line: Navy -4½.

5. Boise State (3-2, 1-1). Last game: Lost to Air Force 28-14. Next game: at UNR, Saturday. Last meeting: Won 34-17 in 2013. Line: Boise State -2.

6. Utah State (2-2, 0-0). Last game: Lost to Arkansas State 21-14 in overtime. Next game: at Brigham Young, Friday. Last meeting: Lost 31-14 in 2013. Line: Off.

7. Fresno State (2-3, 1-0). Last game: Defeated New Mexico 35-24. Next game: vs. San Diego State, Friday. Last meeting: Won 35-28 in overtime in 2013. Line: San Diego State -1.

8. Wyoming (3-2, 1-0). Last game: Lost to Michigan State 56-14. Next game: at Hawaii, Oct. 11. Last meeting: Won 59-56 in overtime in 2013. Line: N/A.

9. Hawaii (1-3, 0-0). Last game: Lost to Colorado 21-12. Next game: at Rice, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 41-29 in 2004. Line: Rice -6½.

10. San Jose State (1-3, 0-1). Last game: Lost to UNR 21-10. Next game: vs. UNLV, Saturday. Last meeting: Won 34-24 in 2013. Line: San Jose State -7½.

11. UNLV (1-4, 0-1). Last game: Lost to San Diego State 34-17. Next game: at San Jose State, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 34-24 in 2013. Line: San Jose State -7½.

12. New Mexico (1-3, 0-1). Last game: Lost to Fresno State 35-24. Next game: at Texas-San Antonio, Saturday. Last meeting: Lost 21-13 in 2013. Line: Texas-San Antonio -16.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Boise State at UNR. The Wolf Pack have the chance to all but knock Boise State out of the Mountain Division race while continuing to stake its claim as contenders in the West. These two programs seem to be going in opposite directions, even if the Broncos are slight road favorites. After they committed seven turnovers in a 28-14 loss to Air Force, however, it’s clear this isn’t the same powerful Boise State team.

MARK ANDERSON/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

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