Around The MTN: No. 22 Falcons in ‘Catbird Seat’
* Mountain West press release contributed to this report
LARAMIE -- If it looked like Zac Larrier was a track star through the first three quarters of Air Force's 34-27 victory over Wyoming last Saturday night, your eyes weren't deceiving you.
The Falcons' quarterback was a three-time champion in the 400-meter run at Monterey Trail High School in Youngstown, Ohio. He also claimed gold in the 200-meter, twice, and was part of a 4x100-meter state championship, too.
Larrier was dubbed an All-American.
It's easy to see why.
The senior torched the Cowboys on the ground, busting runs of 15, 26 and 18 en route to a team-leading 111-yard day in the rushing department. He picked up those maddening yards only an Air Force signal caller can do, carrying the ball 20 times.
With just under 12 minutes remaining in the final frame, Larrier ran to his right before diving to the turf inside Falcon Stadium. Easton Gibbs and Isaac White combined for the stop. Larrier appeared to clutch his right knee as trainers came out to check on him.
He never returned to the lineup.
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Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said Monday, Larrier will "likely be out for a while." That's not good news for the frontrunners, who were forced to go with Jensen Jones the rest of the way last Saturday night. A fumbled exchange capped his first drive under center. Gibbs also stripped him on the next possession.
Jensen orchestrated one scoring drive, placing the perfect option pitch into the hands of John Lee Eldridge III, who raced 58 yards for a score down the west sideline.
Calhoun said he didn't "know how long that's going to be" when asked about Larrier's injury, but said the team has full faith in Jones.
"I don't think any of us are perfect in what we do," Calhoun added. "I make all kinds of mistakes. He'll get better. I think more than anything else, no matter what somebody does, (it's about) hanging in there with them. They've shown the capability and aptitude and there's plenty there, (so) let's keep plugging away. Whatever a guy's first two at-bats are doesn't mean that's the way he's going to hit for the rest of the season."
The Falcons will put their 11-game winning streak on the line in Annapolis, Md., Saturday when they take on rival Navy (3-3, 2-2), a team that has won two straight, including a 14-0 blanking of Charlotte on the road last week.
The Midshipmen haven't knocked off Air Force since 2019.
Here are some other news and notes from around the Mountain West Conference:
- Nine Mountain West squads are in action in Week 8, with league-leading and 22nd-ranked Air Force stepping out of conference play to visit Navy in the first game in the battle for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. Four MW league games complete Saturday’s schedule.
- The Falcons (6-0, 4-0 MW) entered both the Associated Press and AFCA polls at No. 22 this week to earn their first ranking since appearing in the final 2019 polls. Air Force is riding an 11-game winning streak, tied for the second-longest in program history and tied for the fourth-longest active streak in the FBS.
- Three other MW teams are receiving votes in the national polls this week. Fresno State (6-1, 2-1) and Wyoming (5-2, 2-1) are receiving votes in both the AP and AFCA polls, while UNLV (5-1, 2-0) picked up votes in the AFCA poll this week for the first time this season. Fresno State and Wyoming are both idle this week, while UNLV hosts Colorado State.
- Air Force won a battle for first place against Wyoming in Week 7, getting a game-winning 58-yard touchdown run from John Lee Eldridge III with 2:17 left in the 34-27 victory. The Cowboys had been poised to take the lead with 6:14 left on Andrew Peasley’s 7-yard TD pass to Treyton Welch, but the Falcons’ Trey Taylor blocked the point-after try, leaving the contest tied at 27. Taylor also had 10 tackles on the day, including a 12-yard tackle-for-loss, and earned MW Defensive Player of the Week honors. Air Force quarterback Zac Larrier had 20 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown and completed six of his nine passes for 58 yards and a score. Larrier is one of five FBS players to have at least four TD passes with zero interceptions in 2023, and only Penn State’s Drew Allar (12) has thrown for more than four TDs without an INT.
- Undefeated in league play but two back of Air Force in the win column, UNLV will look to close the gap when it hosts Colorado State on Saturday. The Rebels cruised to a 45-27 win over Silver State rival Nevada in Week 7, with senior running back Donavyn Lester rushing 10 times for 99 yards and three TDs and junior wide receiver Ricky White III making eight catches for 174 yards, including TD grabs of 59 and 82 yards. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava went 20-for-25 for 257 yards and two touchdowns, setting a program freshman record for completion percentage in a game (80 percent), and was named the College Football Network Freshman Player of the Week. UNLV is 5-1 for the first time since 1984.
- UNLV has scored 40+ points and gained 400+ total yards in each of its last four games. The only two longer single-season streaks in MW history are a six-game stretch by Utah in 2004 and a five-game streak by TCU in 2009.
- Colorado State (3-3, 1-1) pulled off an incredible comeback against Boise State in Week 7, rallying from a 20-point deficit in the final 4:01 to claim a 31-30 win and its first-ever victory over the Broncos. Redshirt freshman quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi went 32-for-54 for 359 yards and three TDs on the day, with 207 of those yards and all three touchdowns coming in the fourth quarter. Fowler-Nicolosi found three different receivers for touchdowns in the waning minutes of the contest, starting with a 12-yard strike to Louis Brown IV with 4:01 left on the clock. The rookie QB connected with Dylan Goffney for a 2-yard score with 1:53 left to make it a one-score game before launching a 33-yard Hail Mary that tight end Dallin Holker corralled as time expired to tie the game at 30. Jordan Noyes then hit a personal-foul adjusted 35-yard point-after with no time on the clock for the win. Junior safety Jack Howell paced the defensive effort with a game-high 15 tackles and a pass breakup that led to an interception.
- In addition to being named the MW Freshman of the Week, Fowler-Nicolosi earned a spot on the Davey O’Brien Award Great 8 List and was one of the Manning Award’s Stars of the Week. He is now on the midseason watch list for the O’Brien Award.
- San José State (2-5, 1-2), which welcomes Utah State in Week 8, picked up its first league victory of the season with a 52-24 win at New Mexico in Week 7. Senior running back Kairee Robinson accounted for four total touchdowns for the first time in his career, rushing 15 times for 126 yards and three scores and adding two catches for 63 yards and a TD en route to being named the MW Offensive Player of the Week. Junior running back Quali Conley had 10 carries for 123 yards and a TD and hauled in a 61-yard catch, making Robinson and Conley the first FBS teammates this century to each have 120-plus rushing yards and 50-plus receiving yards in the same game.
- Utah State (3-4, 1-2) dropped a 37-32 decision to Fresno State in Week 7, despite graduate quarterback Cooper Legas throwing for 363 yards and three touchdowns. The Aggies led 32-31 on Rahsul Faison’s 24-yard touchdown run with 4:42 to play, but the Bulldogs got the go-ahead score with 2:19 left and Utah State was unable to mount one last rally in a game it trailed by 11 after three quarters. Faison had a team-best 75 rushing yards on 12 carries, while receivers Jalen Royals and Terrell Vaughn each went over 100 yards on seven catches apiece. Royals finished with 125 yards and two TDs, while Vaughn had 119 yards and a score.
- College Football News named Utah State’s Ike Larsen its Midseason Safety of the Year last week. Larsen shares the FBS lead with two blocked kicks this season and is tied for 12th with three interceptions.
- Hawai‘i (2-5, 0-2) overcame a 17-point second-quarter deficit and held a 24-20 fourth-quarter lead before falling to San Diego State by a 41-34 count in Week 7. Junior quarterback Brayden Schager had a banner night, completing 29 passes for a career-best 427 yards and three touchdowns. Receivers Steven McBride and Nick Cenacle each hit the century mark in receiving yards, with McBride hauling in five catches for 157 yards and Cenacle making three catches for an even 100 yards and a score. McBride has had at least five catches and an average of 30.0+ yards per reception in each of his last two games. The only other Mountain West player ever to have two such games in the same season was Nevada’s Romeo Doubs in 2020. Sophomore defensive back Peter Manuma and junior defensive back Meki Pei had nine tackles apiece to lead the Rainbow Warriors, who visit New Mexico in Week 8.
- New Mexico (2-4, 0-2) held a 17-14 halftime lead over San José State before seeing the Spartans explode for 38 second-half points in the 52-24 setback. The Lobos got a season-long 41-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Luke Drzewiecki in the first quarter to open the scoring, while senior running back Jacory Croskey-Merritt finished his day with two touchdowns and 68 yards on 17 carries. Freshman quarterback Devon Dampier had an efficient day, completing five of his six passes for 75 yards and a TD to senior wide receiver D.J. Washington.
- San Diego State (3-4, 1-2) will look to even its overall and league records when it welcomes Nevada in Week 8. The Aztecs rallied past Hawai‘i with a 21-point fourth quarter in Week 7, scoring twice within minutes of each other early in the final frame to go ahead for good. Senior quarterback Jalen Mayden found junior wide receiver Mekhi Shaw for a 69-yard TD with 13:33 to play to put SDSU ahead 27-24 and redshirt freshman running back Lucky Sutton made it a two-score game with his 2-yard TD just 1:06 later after a Hawai‘i fumble deep in its own territory. Sutton had a pair of scores on the day, while Shaw finished with 126 yards. Senior kicker/punter Jack Browning was named the MW Special Teams Player of the Week after scoring 11 points on a pair of field goals and five PATs and punting four times for an average of 56.0 yards per punt, including a pair over 60 yards.
- Nevada (0-6, 0-2) got a career day from Brendon Lewis in its 45-27 setback to UNLV in Week 7. The sophomore quarterback threw his first two touchdowns in a Wolf Pack uniform, completing 16 passes for a career-high 287 yards. He also rushed 15 times for a career-best 115 yards and a TD, marking the first time a Nevada QB had rushed for 100 yards since 2019. Lewis directed the Wolf Pack to a season-high 474 yards of total offense on the day, including a season-best 187 yards on the ground. Senior wide receiver Dalevon Campbell had three catches for 93 yards and a TD, while senior defensive back Emany Johnson paced the defense with a game-high 12 tackles.
- Boise State running back Ashton Jeanty had 31 carries for a career-high 212 yards and three touchdowns in the Broncos’ setback at Colorado State, also adding five catches for 42 yards. The sophomore is the first FBS player with multiple games with at least 250 scrimmage yards this season. No Mountain West player has ever had more than two such games in a single season. The Broncos (3-4, 2-1) are idle this week.
San José State senior running back Kairee Robinson has been tabbed the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week, while Air Force senior defensive back Trey Taylor has been named MW Defensive Player of the Week. San Diego State senior kicker/punter Jack Browning earned MW Special Teams Player of the Week honors and Colorado State quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi was selected as the MW Freshman of the Week.
The weekly honor is the fourth of Browning’s career and the second of Fowler-Nicolosi’s. It is the first in the careers of Robinson and Taylor.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
KAIREE ROBINSON, SAN JOSÉ STATE
Senior, Running Back, Antioch, Calif. / De La Salle HS
- Scored four total touchdowns to lead San José State to a 52-24 win at New Mexico.
- Had 15 carries for 126 yards and three touchdowns and two catches for 63 yards and another score.
- It was Robinson’s second 100-yard rushing game of the season.
- Ran for three touchdowns for the first time in his career and scored four total touchdowns in a game for the first time in his career.
- His 55-yard TD catch was the longest of his career.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TREY TAYLOR, AIR FORCE
Senior, Defensive Back, Frisco, Texas / Frisco Lone Star HS
- Had a season-high 10 tackles, including seven solo stops, in Air Force’s 34-27 win over Wyoming.
- Had one tackle for loss for 12 yards on what was Wyoming’s only third-quarter possession, which ended in a punt.
- Blocked what would have been the go-ahead point-after with 6:14 remaining for the first blocked kick of his career.
- Air Force scored the go-ahead touchdown on the following drive.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JACK BROWNING, SAN DIEGO STATE
Senior, Kicker/Punter, Lakeside, Calif. / West Hills HS / Grossmont College
- Scored 11 points in San Diego State’s 41-34 win at Hawai‘i, converting field goals of 22 and 24 yards and five extra points.
- Punted four times for 224 yards, a career-high average of 56.0 per punt, which is tops in the FBS this season for a player with at least four punts.
- Had three punts over 50 yards and two over 60 yards, including a career-long 66-yarder.
- Placed three punts inside the 20-yard line.
- Kicked off eight times for an average of 64.9 yards and six touchbacks.
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
BRAYDEN FOWLER-NICOLOSI, COLORADO STATE
Redshirt Freshman, Quarterback, Aledo, Texas / Aledo HS
- Went 32-for-54 for 359 yards and three touchdowns in Colorado State’s 31-30 win over Boise State.
- Turned in his fourth 300-yard passing game of the season, the most by a freshman in school history.
- Threw for 207 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone, helping the Rams rally from a 20-point deficit in the final 4:01.
- His 33-yard Hail Mary touchdown to tight end Dallin Holker as time expired tied the contest at 30 and capped the second-largest comeback in program history to give CSU its first-ever win over the Broncos.
University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players
Gallery Credit: 7220Sports.com
- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players