Midseason Report - WAC

Posted Oct 13, 2006

The best WAC players, coaches, surprises of the midseason and more

Offensive Player of the Midseason
Colt Brennan, QB Hawaii

Defensive Player of the Midseason
Dwight Lowery, CB San Jose State

Ten best WAC players in the first half of the season
1. Colt Brennan, QB Hawaii
2. Ian Johnson, RB Boise State
3. Dwight Lowery, CB San Jose State
4. Korey Hall, LB Boise State
5. Davone Bess, WR Hawaii
6. Jared Zabransky, QB Boise State
7. Chase Holbrook, QB New Mexico State
8. David Vobora, LB Idaho
9. Nate Ilaoa, RB Hawaii
10. James Jones, WR San Jose State

Biggest Surprise – San Jose State
San Jose State and bowl invite haven’t been uttered in the same sentence since 1990, but get used to hearing it because that’s where the program is headed.  The same school that won just three games a year ago has already matched that number in 2006, highlighted by an upset of Stanford and a three-touchdown Az-kicking of San Diego State.  Fueled by a defense that’s got 13 takeaways in four games, San Jose State will be trading places with Fresno State this December.

Biggest Disappointment – Fresno State
We’ve all grown used to the Bulldogs shocking the nation in the first-half of the season, but not for losing four straight games, including a hard-to-believe 13-12 loss to Utah State last Saturday.  It’s not even Halloween, yet a Fresno team with plenty of individual talent may have already played themselves out of the postseason for the first time since 1998. 

The WAC Champion will be ... Boise State
Boise State has been the WAC daddy since the opening kickoff, but winning the title became a slam dunk when Hawaii went in the win column and Fresno State and Nevada proved to be overrated.  The mystery surrounding the Broncos is not whether they’ll win the WAC in 2006, but whether a perfect season will be good enough to earn an invite to the Fiesta Bowl.

Best Game of the First Half 
Hawaii 41 ... Nevada 34, Oct. 7
In a wild game that had a little bit of everything, including 1.051 yards of total offense, it took a goal line stand by Hawaii to seal the win. The Wolf Pack recovered a Colt Brennan fumble on the Hawaii three with just over a minute to play. After a run was stuffed on first down, three straight Travis Moore passes fell incomplete and the Warriors held on. Hawaii got out to a 31-14 first half lead on four Brennan touchdown passes with two to Ian Sample, but Nevada stayed alive with a three-yard Brandon Fragger touchdown run and a three-yard Mike McCoy scoring grab. After a six-yard Brennan touchdown run put the Warriors up by 20, Nevada put in Travis Moore, who led the offense to two scoring drives with two touchdown passes to Anthony Pudewell before the final chances.
Second Best Game – Oregon 31 ... Fresno State 28, Sept. 9
Third Best Game – Boise State 41 ... Hawaii 34, Sept. 23

Worst Game of the First Half 
Boise State 45 ... Sacramento State 0, Aug. 31
The Chris Petersen era got rolling at Boise State with the Broncos cranking out 427 yards of total offense. Sacramento State only managed 82 yards of total offense and got killed on turnovers with two interceptions setting up two Bronco scores. Ian Johnson ran for two short first quarter scores and Jared Zabrasnky ran for a touchdown and threw for two others highlighted by a 52-yard play to Drisan James. Sacramento State only converted one of 12 third down conversions and came up with three first downs.

Coach of the Midseason – Dick Tomey, San Jose State
Chris Peterson has done a terrific job of keeping Boise State on the winning path, however, Tomey is coaching up a Spartan program that’s playing its best football in six years.  San Jose State takes a three-game winning streak into the conference opener, having beaten Stanford and Cal-Poly and routing similarly talented San Diego State.  If the Spartans maintain this pace, Tomey’s going to get some fringe support for National Coach of the Year honors.            

Player who'll step up in the second half – Jeff Rowe, QB Nevada
Rowe was okay in the first half of the season, but he’s about to go on a salary run.  The 6-5 senior with the mid-rounds draft grade will face four defenses during the stretch run that are ranked 100th or lower in pass defense.  Rowe’s begun developing a rapport with his young receivers, particularly sophomore Mike McCoy, which will translate into gaudy statistics for the quarterback.

Best performance so far – Boise State RB Ian Johnson ran 22 times for 240 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-14 win over Oregon State on a nationally televised ESPN Thursday night  game..       

Top Freshman – Nevada RB Brandon Fragger
Just a true freshman, Fragger has elevated to No. 2 on the depth chart, emerging as quite an understudy to senior starter Robert Hubbard.  When Hubbard was shelved with a bum knee two weeks ago, Fragger ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries to help crush rival UNLV.  Despite playing sparingly or not at all in three games, Fragger has 223 yards rushing and four touchdowns.     

Coach who needs to have a big second half – Louisiana Tech head coach Jack Bicknell
Forget about Fresno’s Pat Hill, who’s an institution in the Valley.  From Dennis Erickson at Idaho to Hal Mumme at New Mexico State, the WAC is seeing some good coaching jobs in 2006, so no one is in trouble.  Bicknell raised expectations after winning six games last year, and after taking their lumps from a brutal September schedule, the Bulldogs need to regroup and play competitive football now that conference play has begun.           

Players who need to have a big second half – Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater
The Bulldogs are 1-4 for a variety of reasons, but the play under center is near the top of the list.  Fresno State has been uncharacteristically feeble in the passing game, averaging just 154 yards and a touchdown per game.  If for nothing else, Brandstater better get his act together immediately, or else he’ll spend the rest of 2006 watching Sean Norton do his best impersonation of Doug Flutie.    

Best remaining conference game – Boise State at San Jose State, Nov. 11
If there’s going to be a single game in the second-half of the season that decides the WAC champion, this might be it.  The upstart Spartans with their scrappy, ball-hawking defense will get a swipe at high-powered, heavily-favored Boise State, while gauging just how far along they’ve come in Dick Tomey’s second season in San Jose.    

Team Mid-Season MVPs & Predictions  
Boise State – LB Korey Hall
predicted wins: at New Mexico State, at Idaho, Fresno State, at San Jose State, Utah State, at Nevada
predicted losses: none
predicted record: 12-0

Fresno State – RB Dwayne Wright
predicted wins: New Mexico State, Idaho, at Louisiana Tech
predicted losses: Hawaii, at LSU, at Boise State, at San Jose State  
predicted record: 4-8

Hawaii – QB Colt Brennan
predicted wins: at Fresno State, at New Mexico State, Idaho, at Utah State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, Oregon State
predicted losses: Purdue
predicted record: 10-3

Idaho – LB David Vobora
predicted wins: at Louisiana Tech
predicted losses: Boise State, at Hawaii, Nevada, at Fresno State, San Jose State
predicted record: 4-8

Louisiana Tech  - LB Quin Harris
predicted wins: Utah State, at North Texas,
predicted losses: Idaho, at San Jose State, at Hawaii, Nevada, Fresno State, at New Mexico State 
predicted record: 3-10

Nevada – QB Jeff Rowe
predicted wins: San Jose State, New Mexico State, at Idaho, Utah State, at Louisiana Tech
predicted losses: Boise State
predicted record: 8-4

New Mexico State – QB Chase Holbrook
predicted wins: at Utah State, Louisiana Tech
predicted losses: Boise State, Hawaii, at Nevada, San Jose State, at Fresno State 
predicted record: 4-8

San Jose State – CB Dwight Lowery
predicted wins: Utah State, Louisiana Tech, at New Mexico State, at Idaho, Fresno State
predicted losses: at Nevada, Boise State, at Hawaii
predicted record: 8-4

Utah State – RB Marcus Cross
predicted wins: none
predicted losses: at San Jose State, at Louisiana Tech, Hawaii, at Nevada, at Boise State, New Mexico State
predicted record: 1-11