Around The MTN: A Stunner in the Valley
LARAMIE -- How on earth did Andrew Peasley not land Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week honors?
Wyoming's senior quarterback shredded the Hawaii secondary to the tune of 319 yards passing. That was a career high. He also completed 14-of-17 passes and connected on three touchdown tosses, all in the first half of a 42-9 dismantling of the Rainbow Warriors.
Peasley was even named to the Manning Award Stars of the Week.
Three words: Jacory Croskey-Merritt.
New Mexico's running back gashed Fresno State for a career-high 209 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-17 upset Saturday night inside Valley Children's Stadium. The Alabama State transfer averaged 10 yards per carry in the stunner. The Lobos rolled up more than 300 rushing yards for the first time in five seasons.
Croskey-Merritt's historic day leaves the senior just 43 yards short of the 1,000-yard mark. His performance against the Bulldogs was the 11th-best rushing day in New Mexico history.
It also knocked Fresno State right out of contention for a Mountain West title.
Here are some other news and notes from around the Mountain West, including the tie-breaking scenarios that await UNLV, Air Force, Boise State and San Jose State this weekend:
- With one week to play in the regular season, four teams are still in contention for spots in the MW Championship.
- Six Mountain West programs are bowl eligible and another two – Colorado State and Utah State – are still in contention to reach the threshold in the final week of the regular season.
- Three MW squads are receiving votes in the national polls. UNLV and Fresno State are receiving votes in both the Associated Press and AFCA polls, while Air Force is receiving votes in the AFCA poll. Air Force and Fresno State have both appeared in the national rankings this year. The Falcons have been as high as No. 17 in both the AP and AFCA polls and were No. 25 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. Fresno State has spent three weeks in the national rankings, topping out at No. 24.
- The MW has four wins over Autonomous 5 programs this season, the most of any G5 conference.
- The Mountain West has the No. 2 Schedule Strength Ranking among the Group of 5 conferences, according to SportSource.
- The Mountain West is the only FBS conference this season with all its teams averaging at least 19.0 points per game in conference play.
- UNLV, which has already clinched at least a share of its first MW regular-season championship, can claim the title outright with a win over San José State on Saturday. The Rebels, who would claim their first MW Football Championship appearance with a win, would also earn the right to host the Championship at Allegiant Stadium on Dec. 2 and would face either Air Force or Boise State.
- San José State can also earn a spot in the MW Championship and could potentially host it with a win over UNLV, pending the computer rankings that would come into play to break what would be a three-way tie atop the standings.
- The Rebels and Spartans are the hottest teams in the league, with UNLV having won three straight and eight of nine and SJSU riding a five-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the MW. All five wins in the streak have come by double figures, which gives the Spartans the longest active win streak in the FBS with every game being decided by 10-plus points.
- Air Force and Boise State square off on Friday in a championship elimination game. Both teams have paths to host, pending computer rankings.
- Boise State interim head coach Spencer Danielson got a win in his debut, as the Broncos downed Utah State 45-10 in Week 12. The BSU offense is rolling, as it has scored at least 30 points in nine straight games, the second-longest active streak in the FBS behind Oregon (11).
- UNLV quarterback Jayden Maiava earned his record fifth MW Freshman of the Week citation Monday after leading the Rebels to a 31-27 win at Air Force to take sole possession of first place in the MW standings. Maiava paced UNLV in passing and rushing for the second straight week, going 15-for-29 for 339 yards and two touchdowns through the air and adding eight carries for 36 yards on the ground. Sophomore linebacker Marsel McDuffie earned MW Defensive Player of the Week honors after logging a career-high 15 tackles (10) solo and forcing a fumble in the win. McDuffie helped UNLV hold Air Force scoreless after halftime, notably recording a stop for no gain on a second-and-goal try on the Falcons’ final drive. Senior placekicker Jose Pizano connected on a 39-yard field-goal try to extend his streak to 18 straight makes, which is tied for the third-longest streak in MW history.
- New Mexico running back Jacory Croskey-Merritt had 21 carries for a career-best 209 yards and two TDs to lead the Lobos past Fresno State, 25-17, and earn MW Offensive Player of the Week honors. Croskey-Merritt had scoring runs of 50 and 10 yards and needs just 43 more yards to hit 1,000 for the season. The senior helped New Mexico eclipse 300 yards rushing in a game for the first time since 2018.
- Croskey-Merritt is tied for third in the FBS with 17 scrimmage TDs this season, while Kairee Robinson of San José State is second with 18. The only season in which the Mountain West has had multiple players finish among the top three in the FBS in that category is 2013 (Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs and Fresno State’s Davante Adams).
- Colorado State graduate kicker Jordan Noyes scored 12 points on three field goals and three PATs in the Rams’ 30-20 win over Nevada to earn MW Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Noyes connected on field goals of 30, 42 and 31 yards in the win as CSU remained in contention to become bowl eligible. Rams graduate defensive end Mohamed Kamara had one sack to push his career total to 30.0, three back of BSU record-holder Clark Haggans (1996-99) and four back of MW career leader Curtis Weaver of Boise State (2017-19).
- Wyoming graduate quarterback Andrew Peasley was 14-for-17 (82.4 percent) for 319 yards and three touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 42-9 win over Hawai‘i, earning recognition as a Manning Award Star of the Week. His passing TDs went for 44, 89 and 40 yards as Wyoming built a 35-0 halftime lead and finished 7-0 at home this season.
- Air Force boasts one of the top defenses in the FBS, ranking 13th in scoring defense (17.1 ppg), fourth in total defense (265.3), seventh in rushing defense (88.6) and 11th in passing defense (176.7).
- With 13,283 yards of total offense in his career, San José State senior quarterback Chevan Cordeiro is just 201 back of MW career leader Brett Rypien of Boise State, who logged 13,484 in his career from 2015-18.
- Nevada senior Brandon Talton hit a pair of field goals in the 30-20 setback to Colorado State in Week 12, extending his MW record to 81 career makes. Boise State senior Jonah Dalmas connected on his only field-goal attempt in the Broncos’ 45-10 win over Utah State to push his career total to 72, good for second in MW history. Dalmas is the league’s career leader with an 87.8 career field-goal percentage.
- Five MW coaches are nominees for the Broyles Award, which honors college football’s top assistant coaches. Air Force defensive coordinator Brian Knorr, Colorado State tight ends coach James Finley, San José State offensive line coach/run game coordinator Josh Oglesby, UNLV offensive coordinator Brennan Marion and Utah State co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Kyle Cefalo represent the MW among the 61 nominees for the 2023 award.
- If UNLV beats San José State, it hosts the winner of the Air Force/Boise State game in the MW Championship.
- If SJSU beats UNLV, there will be a three-way tie between UNLV, SJSU and the winner of the AF/BSU game. The three-team round-robin tiebreaker wouldn’t break either tie. The selected computer rankings will identify the two highest-ranked tied teams to participate in the championship game. Once those two teams are identified, the head-to-head result will determine the host. If the teams did not play each other in the regular season, the highest-ranked team in the computer rankings will host the championship game.
New Mexico senior running back Jacory Croskey-Merritt has been named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week, while UNLV sophomore linebacker Marsel McDuffie has been tabbed MW Defensive Player of the Week. Colorado State graduate kicker Jordan Noyes earned MW Special Teams Player of the Week honors and UNLV quarterback Jayden Maiava was selected as the MW Freshman of the Week for the third straight week.
The weekly honor is the fifth of Maiava’s career and the first for Croskey-Merritt, McDuffie and Noyes.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JACORY CROSKEY-MERRITT, NEW MEXICO
Senior, Running Back, Montgomery, Ala. / Lanier HS / Alabama State
- Carried 21 times for a career-high 209 yards and two touchdowns in New Mexico’s 25-17 win over Fresno State.
- Averaging 10.0 yards per carry in helping the Lobos to their first 300-yard rushing performance since 2018.
- Rushed for a 50-yard touchdown in the second quarter before adding a 10-yard TD in the third to put New Mexico on top to stay and record the sixth multi-touchdown game of his career.
- His 209 yards were the 11th-most in a game in Lobo history.
- Needs just 43 more rushing yards to hit 1,000 on the season.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
MARSEL MCDUFFIE, UNLV
Sophomore, Linebacker, Grand Prairie, Texas / South Grand Prairie HS
- Had a career-high 15 tackles, including 10 solo stops, in UNLV’s 31-27 win at Air Force in a battle of first-place squads.
- With his team protecting a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, McDuffie forced an Air Force fumble in UNLV territory that the Rebels recovered.
- Had tackles on all three downs to force an early three-and-out.
- Stuffed Air Force for no gain on second-and-goal on its final drive as UNLV kept the Falcons from scoring on the drive.
- Helped the Rebels shut out Air Force in the second half.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JORDAN NOYES, COLORADO STATE
Graduate, Kicker, Dartford, Kent, England / Gad's Hill
- Accounted for 12 points in Colorado State’s 30-20 win over Nevada.
- Connected on field goals of 30, 42 and 31 yards and converted all three point-after tries.
- Hit his first two field goals in the second quarter as CSU extended its lead to 20-3.
- After Nevada pulled within a possession in the third quarter, he hit his third field goal of the day to push CSU’s lead to 23-13.
- Helped keep the Rams in contention to become bowl eligible.
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
JAYDEN MAIAVA, UNLV
Redshirt Freshman, Quarterback, Las Vegas, Nev. / Liberty HS
- Went 15-for-29 for 339 yards and two touchdowns to lead UNLV past Air Force, 31-27.
- The win was the Rebels’ first over Air Force in a decade and moved UNLV into sole possession of first place in the MW standings.
- Added 36 yards on the ground to lead UNLV in rushing and passing for the second straight week and improve to 7-1 as a starter.
- Got the scoring started with a 78-yard touchdown pass on UNLV’s second play from scrimmage.
- Added a 6-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to put UNLV ahead to stay.