MWC Notebook: CSU’s Collin Hill relives painful Epps blast to the back
LAS VEGAS – Collin Hill never even glances to his left.
Standing in the shotgun, hands out in front of him in preparation for the snap, Colorado State’s quarterback had his mind made up. He was throwing a quick out to the right.
The Rams were trailing Border War rival Wyoming 10-0. Hill said he needed to make a play.
“I thought I had a 12-yard completion for a first down,” Hill joked Wednesday morning at Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas. “It was an easy play. I pump faked once …”
Cowboys safety Marcus Epps was lined up over the slot receiver on Hill’s left side. Right before the snap, Wyoming’s senior captain crept toward the line as if he was about to blitz.
Hill didn’t know if Epps was bluffing or not – he never even looked in his direction.
Epps came off the edge untouched, blindsiding Hill with a blow to his lower back right below his jersey number. Hill bent in half – the wrong way – and the ball popped up into the air out of his right hand and into the diving arms of UW defensive tackle Ravontae Holt.
Hill sat up on his rear end and watched Holt and the Cowboys celebrating 20 yards behind him.
He then dropped his head and slowly peeled himself up off the ground, looking over to his bench with a bewildered look on his face.
“He put a good lick on me,” Hill recalled.
The Cowboys capitalized on the next drive when Sean Chambers took the snap and bolted 12 yards untouched for the score. Wyoming went on to win the game, 34-21.
Hill agreed that was a turning point in that game. Wyoming went up by three scores. The Rams showed some life late, but it was too late.
Hill said that hit stung in more ways than one.
“That one was up there,” he said when asked if he had ever been hit that hard. “I was pretty sore for a while; I’m not going to lie. It was a big hit. It’s definitely up there.
Jordan Love is getting some serious love from his school.
Tuesday morning at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in the Las Vegas suburbs, the school laid out its Heisman campaign for its standout junior quarterback. There were some notepads with his image on them, covered in white hearts, of course.
Then, there were the little plastic baggies of white heart-shaped Candies.
I asked Love if they were delicious.
“Man, I haven’t tried them yet,” Love said with a smile. “I’m trying to keep as many of them as I can. You don’t see that every day. It’s something you dream of.”
He’s talking about the push for college football’s greatest individual trophy, not the tart candy that I’m sure is a big hit in Logan.
Bags of candy and your image littering everything that has a “U” on it has to add some pressure, right?
“I push the expectations aside,” Love said. “Everyone is obviously expecting something big, but all I can do is go out and play.”
Love, who was named the MW’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year Tuesday by the media, has thrown for 5,198 yards in his two seasons as the Aggies starter. He has tossed 40 touchdowns compared to just 12 interceptions in his young career. He has rushed for nine more.
USU’s head coach and most of the 2018 staff are now at Texas Tech after the Aggies went 11-2 overall last season. This year, a familiar face is leading the program in Gary Anderson, who coached in Logan from 2009-12. Love said the new coaching staff isn’t changing much as far as the offensive scheme goes.
The new coaches are learning the lingo and plays from last season’s team, not the players.
“We had a good thing, why mess it up? It’s been a real easy transition,” Love said.
The 6-foot, 4-inch signal caller said he missed the old staff but has embraced the change. According to Love, so has the team. But Love said he will really miss one former coach in particular.
“I’ll miss Bo,” Love said of former Wyoming standout Jovon Bouknight, who served as the Aggies wide receiver coach under Wells. “He was a great coach. He’s at Oregon now doing his thing. He will be missed a lot.”
Aaron Blackwell is well-spoken, funny and realistic.
New Mexico’s senior offensive lineman engaged with anyone in earshot Wednesday in Las Vegas, featuring a bright smile and a long blonde ponytail.
“Coach hates it,” he laughed. “I’m afraid one day he might come up behind me and just cut it off.”
Bob Davie and Lobos were picked to finish dead last in the Mountain Division standings. That is no surprise to anyone. Not even Blackwell. But the boys in Albuquerque could shock some “experts” this season.
Why? Because they are going to feature more triple-option offense. And for any Wyoming fan who remembers the 2016 meeting in University Stadium, that should give you the shakes.
See what I mean?
The Lobos made the Pokes look silly that night, gashing to defense for 428 rushing yards – in the first half. It took New Mexico just 12 offensive snaps to go up 21-0.
Remember, this is a Wyoming team that played for a conference championship the following week.
The Lobos finished with a conference-record 690 yards in the 56-35 rout. 568 of those came on the ground.
"It was a rough night," Craig Bohl told reporters following the game. "I think we really need to give credit to New Mexico. They finished off on a high note. In particular, their offense was more troublesome than what we anticipated. Their numbers were true (Saturday). The speed of the game, we could never get caught up to that. Obviously, it was something we need to prepare better for and we will."
Blackwell hopes to hear more of that from opposing coaches this fall.
“When it works, it’s great,” he said of the option attack. “When it doesn’t, it’s not good at all. Your defense is coming out onto the field every 30 seconds. It can be brutal. So, it will be interesting to see.”
New Mexico is not abandoning all aspects of the spread offense it ran last year, but hopes to incorporate more of that dynamic rushing attack, which led the country in 2016.
I asked Boise State safety Kekoa Nawahine arguably the most important question of the two-day media event – did he go see Garth Brooks at Albertson’s Stadium July 19?
“No, I didn’t make it, but I did get to go to his sound check the night before,” he said. “It was pretty awesome. He was up there singing for maybe 20 minutes. It was almost like a private show.”
More than 80,000 fans crammed into Boise State’s Stadium for the real deal, but when Nawahone and a few of his Broncos teammates saw Brooks, there were maybe a few dozen in attendance, according to the Idaho Statesman.
Was that a Wyoming question or what?
I wasn’t shocked by many things in Las Vegas, but one thing, well, floored me.
I asked Air Force senior defensive back Jeremy Fejedelem if Fisher DeBerry ever stops by practice or gives them words of advice before playing in big games, like the Falcons annual meetings with rivals Army and Navy.
“Who? I’m sorry, I don’t know who that is,” he told me.
I was stunned. He could see it all over my face.
DeBerry coached Air Force from 1984-2006. His Falcons squads won at least eight games in 11 seasons. In his first season on the sidelines in Colorado Springs, Air Force was ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation and won the Independence Bowl. The Falcons won three conference titles under DeBerry and won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy 14 times in his 21-year career.
“I am from Chicago,” Fejedelem laughed. “I didn’t even know what the Air Force Academy was.”
Sounds like Troy Calhoun needs to give his team a bit of a history lesson. I mean, this guy is a senior and doesn't know who DeBerry is?
Fejedelem wasn’t quite done shocking me yet, though. When I asked about the Wyoming-Air Force rivalry, he stopped me dead in my tracks.
“I don’t really consider that a rivalry,” he said. “Army, Navy and Colorado State, those are our main rivals. I mean, the Wyoming game always seems to be close and it’s a good game. Their fans definitely give us a hard time on the bench.”
Sounds like a rivalry to me.
I explained to him that Air Force held just a two-game lead in the overall series between the two schools, 28-26. The Cowboys had never beaten the Falcons more than three straight seasons. Air Force has a five-game winning streak against UW.
The two are just a few hours apart. Fans travel both ways.
His teammate, Kade Waguespack, saved the day. Well, kind of.
“It’s always a fun game,” he said. “We get up for that game. They have gotten us the last few years but it’s always close.”
You mean, like a rivalry?