2008 Mountain West Lookbacks/Recaps

Posted Feb 14, 2009

Taking a look back at every Mountain West team's 2008 season.

2008 Mountain West Lookbacks/Recaps

2009 Pages
Air Force | BYU | Colorado State | New Mexico
San Diego State | TCU | UNLV | Utah | Wyoming

2008 Pages
Air Force | BYU | Colorado State | New Mexico
San Diego State | TCU | UNLV | Utah | Wyoming
- 2008 CFN All-M-West Team
| 2008 CFN Preseason All-M-West Team
- 2008 M-West Lookback/Recaps | 2008 M-West Lookaheads

 - 2009 Mountain West Lookaheads

Air Force

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5   Final Record: 8-5

: It was another successful season for Tim Calhoun and the Falcons with an 8-5 record and an appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl. While they lost to Houston 34-20 (a team they beat earlier in the year) to close out the season with a three-game losing streak, an 8-2 start provided a nice buffer. There weren’t any real surprises, but they couldn’t beat any of the Mountain West’s better teams, losing to Utah, BYU, and TCU. However, they pushed the Utes and Cougars in close games. They settled in to a defined role as being just below the league elite, but just above everyone else as the conference’s fourth best team.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Tim Jefferson
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Jake Paulson

Biggest Surprise: Tim Jefferson. While he didn’t exactly light it up with the running game, the true freshman showed decent passing ability throwing for 655 yards and five touchdowns after being thrown into the job halfway through the season. He did a good job under the pressure, and now he appears to be the type of player the offense can build around for the next few years.

Biggest Disappointment: The losses to Utah and BYU. Air Force was never in the TCU game, losing 44-10, but the losses to the other Mountain West stars were tough. A big third quarter propelled BYU to a 38-24 win, while Utah scored with less than a minute to play to win 30-23. If the Falcons had been able to pull off either game, it would’ve made a good season great.

Looking Ahead: Expect more of the same. Air Force will have most of the key parts back in the backfield, while the defense, as always, will plug in the holes with more try-hard players who find ways to produce. The running game, led by Jefferson, will once again be among the nation’s best, helped by three returning starters to the line.


CFN Preseason Prediction: 10-2   Final Record: 10-3

: For almost anyone in America, a ten-win season would be a great year and something to get excited about. For BYU, a team that had been looking to be a part of the BCS, and a team that had to sit by and watch as Utah had a dream season, 2008 will be seen as a disappointment. At times, the offense was unstoppable, and finished first in the Mountain West, and 16th in the nation, in total offense, but it failed to produce in the biggest games. Beating Washington and UCLA early in the year provided a false sense of talent, and TCU showed that big-time with a nationally televised 32-7 drubbing. A meltdown by QB Max Hall, who couldn’t stop throwing interceptions, led the way to a 48-24 loss to Utah, and Arizona finished off the year with a 31-21 Las Vegas Bowl win.

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Austin Collie
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Jan Jorgensen

Biggest Surprise: Austin Collie. He was expected to be good after catching 56 passes for 946 yards and seven touchdowns in 2007, but he wasn’t expected to be the nation’s most productive receiver with 106 catches for 1,538 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was an unstoppable machine going over the 100-yard mark in each of the final 11 games.

Biggest Disappointment: Max Hall vs. Utah. The loss to TCU was somewhat acceptable, BYU was walking into a buzzsaw, but there was a chance to beat Utah. The Cougars were in the game, but Max Hall threw five interceptions and lost a fumble leading to Ute scoring runs. The Utah defense had a lot to do with it, but if Hall was merely average, BYU might have pulled it off.

Looking Ahead: BYU will be considered third in the league going into the season behind Utah and TCU, but it’ll be just as potent on offense and even stronger on defense. Hall returns to lead the attack that loses Collie, while the defense gets back almost everyone of note. The Cougars have to be thinking Mountain West title or bust, even if they might not be quite as good as the other top teams.

Colorado State

CFN Preseason Prediction: 5-7   Final Record: 7-6

: The season was fumbling along with the Rams struggling to come up with any sort of a run, starting out the year 4-6, and then things started to click late with wins over New Mexico and Wyoming to earn a spot in the New Mexico Bowl against Fresno State. Gartrell Johnson ran wild and Colorado State came up with a 40-35 win for a winning season in the first year under head coach Steve Fairchild. Despite the losses, the Rams played some of the better teams tough, losing to TCU 13-7 and BYU 45-42, to go along with the blowouts against Cal and Utah.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Gartrell Johnson
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Ricky Brewer

Biggest Surprise: Gartrell Johnson exploding into a superstar. Fairchild said he was going to bring back the running game to the Rams, and Kyle Bell was supposed to play a big role after having a few years to get over a knee injury. Johnson turned into the Mountain West’s best runner finishing with 1,476 yards and 12 touchdowns highlighted by a 285-yard day against Fresno State. He ran for 100 yards or more in five of the final six games.

Biggest Disappointment: The defense didn’t improve enough. Fairchild wanted his defense to be far more physical, and while it had its moments, it still struggled way too much against the run and didn’t generate any semblance of a pass rush. The good performances against TCU and New Mexico were few and far between.

Looking Ahead: The Rams were able to turn around their season with a great finish, and now the warm fuzzies have extended into the off-season. While the pieces aren’t there to win the Mountain West title, CSU will be far more competitive and should grow into more of a player if some of the key skill players can be quickly replaced.

New Mexico

CFN Preseason Prediction: 8-4   Final Record: 4-8

: The Lobos were never able to find a groove, getting off to a 4-4 start before the wheels came off. There was a stunning win over Arizona and back to back wins over New Mexico State and Wyoming, but that was it for the fun. Starting quarterback Donovan Porterie suffered a serious knee injury in the fourth game of the year, and the offense was never the same outside of a 70-7 win over San Diego State. That victory was the only oasis over the second half of the season with five losses in the final six games. While the Lobos battled Utah in a 13-10 loss and lost to UNLV 27-0, the offense simply couldn’t do enough to pull out the wins. The dismal season cost head coach Rocky Long his job.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Rodney Ferguson
Defensive Player of the Year: CB Glover Quin

Biggest Surprise: The win over Arizona. Rodney Ferguson and the ground game powered for 221 yards, with Ferguson gaining 158 yards and two scores, and the Lobo defense was able to force five turnovers in the 36-28 win. Donovan Porterie only threw for 89 yards and an interception, but he completed 13-of-17 passes. This turned out to be a must-win with losses to TCU, Texas A&M, and Tulsa over the first four weeks of the season.

Biggest Disappointment: Porterie’s knee injury. He didn’t lead the team to much over the first four games, outside of the win over Arizona, and he threw five interceptions and no touchdown passes, but he completed 24 of his last 30 passes before tearing up his knee. Now he’ll have to battle for his job again, and will be at far less than 100%, leaving the New Mexico quarterback job up for grabs.

Looking Ahead: New head coach Mike Locksley has assembled a good staff with plenty of upside, but he and offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey will have to find an identity. Gone is the old New Mexico power game in favor of a more up tempo spread attack, but the team needs a quarterback to work around. The defensive front seven is all but starting from scratch.

San Diego State
CFN Preseason Prediction: 4-8   Final Record: 2-10

: It was a disaster. There was a 45-17 win over Idaho at the end of September, and a 42-21 win over UNLV to close out the year, and the Chuck Long era, but nothing else worked. The Aztecs lost to Cal Poly, a good FCS team, but an FCS team nonetheless. There were chances to beat Notre Dame, but they couldn’t hold on. Out of the ten losses, other than the Cal Poly and Notre Dame games, only the 38-34 defeat to Colorado State was close. The offense didn’t get going until the season final, and the defense was the worst in the Mountain West.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Ryan Lindley
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Russell Allen

Biggest Surprise: The defensive line. It was one of the worst in college football in 2006 and 2007, and while it wasn’t supposed to be anything great, it was supposed to be far improved against the run and it was expected to be athletic enough to get into the backfield on a regular basis. Nothing happened as the Aztecs were next-to-last in America against the run and was 108th in sacks.

Biggest Disappointment: The offense never worked. That doesn’t go for just this year, but for the entire Chuck Long tenure. QB Ryan Lindley had a nice year, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome a lousy offensive line and no running game whatsoever. Long came to San Diego State as an offensive whiz after his time at Oklahoma, and he left with an attack that finished 99th in America and averaged a mere 19.25 points per game.

Looking Ahead: Out goes Long, and in comes Brady Hoke, fresh off his successful stint at Ball State. He needs to find a few good players he can count on early on, and if nothing else, he’ll have veterans on both sides of the ball to play around with. Success won’t come overnight, but it might not take too much tweaking to be far more competitive.


CFN Preseason Prediction: 9-3   Final Record: 11-2

: The Horned Frogs lost to two teams: Oklahoma and Utah. The Sooners played in the national championship, and the Utes went unbeaten, finishing up with a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. Along the way, the defense dominated every one outside of the Sooners, allowing 14 points or fewer in every game but two, with one of the games a 17-16 win over previously unbeaten Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl. It took a last-gasp drive for Utah to pull off a 13-10 win that turned out to propel the Ute season into something truly special, but the Horned Frogs rebounded with a 44-10 win over Air Force. The defense held BYU to seven points as part of a run of six games in eight allowing a mere touchdown in each.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Andy Dalton
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Jerry Hughes

Biggest Surprise: DE Jerry Hughes. Who was going to replace Chase Ortiz, and to a less extent, Tommy Blake? Hughes, a former high school running back and kick returner, made 29 tackles and a sack as a backup behind Ortiz in 2007, and then he became, arguably, the nation’s best defensive end. Hughes led the nation with 15 sacks, came up with 19.5 tackles for loss, and made 52 stops, highlighted by a four sack day to personally destroy BYU.

Biggest Disappointment: The final Utah drive. It’s not quite fair to pin the loss to Utah solely on the foot of Ross Evans, the TCU kicker who missed two key field goals, but they didn’t help. TCU had a chance to beat Utah, needing just one final stop, but Brian Johnson connected with Freddie Brown on a nine-yard touchdown pass with just 48 seconds to play. TCU lost 13-10, and lost the Mountain West title.

Looking Ahead: Why not keep the momentum going? Keeping head coach Gary Patterson in Fort Worth was a major plus, and getting Hughes back for the defensive front is a bigger bonus. The secondary returns three key starters, including CB Nick Sanders, and the offense welcomes back almost all the key skill players, outside of RB Aaron Brown.


CFN Preseason Prediction: 3-9   Final Record: 5-7

: it was a season of near-missed for both good and bad. The Rebels started out the year 3-1, highlighted by wins over Arizona State and Iowa State, with both of those wins coming in overtime. And then came the problem, losing five in a row when it came time to face the big boys on the schedule, including BYU, TCU, and Nevada. However, the Rebels lost to Air Force by one and BYU by seven. Able to rebound, they won two in a row against New Mexico and Wyoming to get to 5-6 and in a position to potentially go bowling, but they were blasted by a miserable San Diego State team, 42-21, in the season finale.

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Ryan Wolfe
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Jason Beauchamp

Biggest Surprise: The overtime win over Arizona State. Coming off a 42-21 loss to Utah, no one expected the Rebels to do much of anything on a road trip against what was supposed to be a solid Pac 10 team. UNLV hit its overtime field goal attempt, and Malo Taumua blocked ASU’s attempt to seal the stunning win. The Rebels came back from a 20-10 fourth quarter deficit with two late scores including an eight-yard, one-handed touchdown catch from Phillip Payne with 18 seconds to play to force overtime.

Biggest Disappointment: The 42-21 loss to San Diego State. A bowl bid would’ve been tough to get, but a 6-6 record would have made the discussion interesting. With everything on the line, UNLV turned out to be one of two teams, Idaho being the other, who couldn’t handle San Diego State’s offense. An 82-yard interception return for a touchdown from the Aztec’s Corey Boudreaux snuffed out a late drive and killed UNLV’s season.

Looking Ahead: Head coach Mike Sanford and the Rebels will keep on pushing the boulder up that hill. They were close last year to finally getting over the hump, but failed late. The 2009 team gets back seven starters on offense while the defense gets back eight starters. There’s still a big gap on this team between experience and production, but with the veterans returning there’s no reason to hope for anything less than a bowl.

CFN Preseason Prediction: 10-2   Final Record: 13-0

: Everything went right for the Utes in their dream season, starting out with a win at Michigan (which looked great at the time) and continuing through with victory after victory, including a 31-28 win over the Oregon State team that beat USC, on the way to a 9-0 start. And then came the November 6th date with TCU. Down 10-6 late in the game, Brian Johnson led the offense on one of the greatest drives in team history, culminating in a last-minute touchdown and the win. That was the last real test of the season with a blowout win over a turnover-plagued BYU to earn a perfect regular season and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl. In a dominant performance, the offense clicked, the defense swarmed, and Utah stunned Alabama 31-17 for the win and the perfect season.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Brian Johnson
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Paul Kruger

Biggest Surprise: The Fiesta Bowl win over Alabama. The Tide was without its superstar offensive tackle, Andre Smith, and wasn’t nearly as sharp as it was throughout the season, but there were no real excuses … Utah was the better team in the Superdome. The passing game was ultra-efficient and the pass rush was too much for the Bama offensive front. It was the biggest and most important win in the program’s history, and it was the one that gave Utah a legitimate claim to be considered for the national title … at least in popular opinion.

Biggest Disappointment: Not being able to play for the national championship. Was Utah as good, or better, than Florida or Oklahoma? That’ll always be debatable as there wasn’t a chance to prove it. The Utes finished as the nation’s lone unbeaten team with six wins over teams that went to bowl games and was legitimized by the win over the Tide.

Looking Ahead: There are several key losses, primarily in the offensive backfield, to expect another unbeaten season, but Utah is clearly among the favorites to win the Mountain West again. The BCS win will bring more national respect coming into the season, and there will be a chance to earn a high ranking with a road trip to Oregon in mid-September.


CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6   Final Record: 4-8

: On the plus side, the disaster could’ve been a lot worse. The Cowboys only won four games, but three were by a touchdown or less beating Ohio by one, North Dakota State by three, and Tennessee by six. Fine, so beating the Vols in Knoxville was impressive no matter what the score, even if the one-time superpower was down, but the team needed to do a lot more to save Joe Glenn’s job. The Cowboys only came up with one Mountain West win, coming against San Diego State, and suffered a midseason run of five losses that killed the year before it could really get going.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Devin Moore
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Ward Dobbs

Biggest Surprise: The defense. Lost in the overall record and all the disappointments was a defense that came up surprisingly strong even with the big points hung on the board by BYU, Bowling Green, and TCU. Considering there wasn’t any help from the offense of any sort, the stats weren’t bad allowing just 330 yards and 28 points per game. There wasn’t a pass rush, but the pass defense was fine and the front seven was solid against the run.

Biggest Disappointment: The offense. There was a time when Wyoming had one of the best attacks that few had been able to see. In 2008, the Cowboys finished dead last in the nation in scoring and 108th total offense. The passing game was abysmal with nothing working to offset a great year from Devin Moore and the running game. Over the first eight games, UW scored a total of 17 points in five of them and scored more than 16 points just three times all year.

Looking Ahead: New head coach Dave Christensen is being brought in to step up the offense and turn around a program that used to be a player in conference races. He’ll have most of the defense back, with a little work needing to be done on the line, while the offense will have to replace the top runners and has to find a quarterback.