Western Athletic Conference football teams playing in Japan?
It may sound far-fetched, but Hawai'i and Fresno State have discussed the possibility of playing a season-ending nonconference game some time in the future.
"It was introduced last spring," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said. "Coaches were talking about scheduling issues. June (Jones, Hawai'i coach) introduced the notion. It wouldn't be the first time. In the Big 10 back in the early '90s there was a regular-season game played there. There is nothing to prohibit it as long as it's played inside the NCAA's 12-game window."
Fresno State's Pat Hill has had problems getting quality opponents to come to Fresno. In fact, he couldn't get Cal to play him this year at home or on the road.
The situation will get worse next year when teams are allowed 12 games, and Division I-AA games count toward bowl games. In the past, you could only count I-AA wins once every three years.
And the chance to play a Pac-10 school will dwindle after this year. By going to 12 games, the Pac-10 has decided to adopt a schedule where all the schools play each other.
Bigger conferences, according to Hill, can offer big appearance money to smaller schools, much more than Fresno State could. Hill said he would prefer to stay with Division I-A opponents, but he would schedule a I-AA opponent as a last resort.
Fresno State running back Bryson Sumlin, Idaho linebacker Mike Anderson and Boise State cornerback-special teams standout Orlando Scandrick were named the Xbox Live offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week respectively.
Sumlin rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 41 yards and a touchdown in Fresno's 44-14 win over previously unbeaten Toledo last Tuesday night.
Anderson had seven tackles and returned a fourth-quarter interception 71 yards in Idaho's 27-13 win over Utah State. The interception came in the final minute when Utah State had driven to the Idaho 34 on a potential game-tying possession.
Scandrick returned two blocked kicks for scores in Boise's win over Hawai'i. He returned a blocked field goal 69 yards for a TD to give Boise a 7-point lead in the fourth quarter, and followed that with a return of a missed PAT for two points.
HAWAI'I (1-3, 1-1)
The Rainbows are off to a 1-3 start after losing a thriller to Boise State at home over the weekend, but Jones claims this could be the best team he's had in his tenure there.
"I think we're better," said Jones, whose team won seven games last year and played in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. "Jerry Glanville has made a huge difference with the defense. We're better. We're physically better than we've ever been.
"We have three or four freshmen starting on offense, and we're living through errors out there."
Jones also thinks that until somebody beats Boise State that they are still the class of the WAC.
"I definitely think they are," Jones said. "Fresno State will give them all they want. I think Fresno State can knock them off."
LOUISIANA TECH (1-2, 1-0)
The Bulldogs, who knocked off New Mexico State 34-14 last week, are getting more production than ever from their freshman class.
"Without a doubt," Bulldog head coach Jack Bicknell said. "Maybe one freshman (would start or play a lot)."
Bicknell has been getting plenty of production from tight end Anthony Harrison, who caught three passes for 16 yards, including two touchdowns. Wide receiver Josh Wheeler caught three balls for 60 yards, running back Patrick Jackson carried 12 times for 62 yards and Weldon Brown has played at both receiver and running back.
The quarterback position remains unsettled as both Matt Kubik and Donald Allen have split time. During the Bulldogs' bye week, Bicknell settled on Kubik, and the senior responded nicely against New Mexico State, completing 17-of-28 for 173 yards and two TDs.
"I thought he did a great job," Bicknell said. "He missed a couple (of passes) and he forced one that was a bonehead play. Other than that, he did a great job running the offense."
NEW MEXICO STATE (0-5, 0-1)
First-year coach Hal Mumme continues to be disappointed with his offense after five games and now he faces Fresno State this weekend. The only savior is that the game will be in Las Cruces.
"Offense has be the biggest disappointment so far," he said. "We're not moving the ball."
Mumme benched QB Royal Gill, and elected to start Joey Vincent, who played poorly. Gill came off the bench to throw for 192 yards and a score. He led the Aggies to both of their touchdowns.
"I don't know what I'm going to do this week," Mumme said. "Maybe I'll tell them both they aren't going to start. They both play better coming off the bench."
Mumme was asked if he would "dummy down" the offense, making it simpler for both Gill and Vincent.
"We've already done that," Mumme said. "The two quarterbacks we have, Vincent hasn't played before and Gill played JC. We've taken out as much as we can."
Mumme has liked the way the defense has played. Even though Louisiana Tech scored 34 points, the Aggies' defense played a on a short field some of the time. Linebacker Jimmy Cottrell, the heart and soul of the defense, injured an ankle and he's questionable for this weekend.
SAN JOSE STATE (1-3, 0-1)
The Spartans continue to struggle with their third-down offense and defense. After going 0-for-17 against San Diego State, the Spartans were 2-for-15 against Nevada. Conversely, Nevada was successful on 11-of-17 third-down attempts. Simply put, the Spartans' offense can't stay on the field and the defense is having trouble getting off the field.
Coach Dick Tomey said he isn't close to making a decision on reserve quarterback Chad Bozzo, a freshman. Bozzo has a torn labrum in his right shoulder and didn't play against Nevada.
Since he's only played three games, Bozzo could be red-shirted.
"We're just hoping he gets better," Tomey said. "We'd love to get Chad back."
The Spartans are working out each morning at 7:30. Hawai'i is the other WAC team that works out in the morning. Tomey said he had some morning workouts in the middle and end of his tenure at the University of Hawai'i.
UTAH STATE (1-2, 0-1)
Coach Brent Guy's biggest concern is finding a capable running back to take pressure off quarterback Leon Jackson III.
Jackson was the Aggies' leading rusher against Idaho, carrying 18 times for 74 yards. He also completed 14 of 26 passes for 157 yards, but threw three interceptions.
Guy said that Jackson seems to have problems passing when he's forced to run the ball a lot. Guy said all three interceptions were "preventable".
The Aggies got a 51-yard scoring run by Chris Forbes, who collected eight yards on his other four carries. Ryan Bohm only got two carries.
"We haven't given it 25 times to somebody like we want," Guy said. "We're still trying to find that guy."
IDAHO (1-4, 1-1)
The Vandals, despite not having nine starters, picked up their first win of the season last week against Utah State, 27-13.
Coach Nick Holt has been pleased with the play of Rolly Lumbala, who was the target of some Holt criticism earlier this year. Lumbala carried 21 times for 73 yards and a score. He also caught three passes for 21 yards and a a score.
"He's had two good weeks of practice," Holt said. "He's doing a better job of falling forward."
BOISE STATE (2-2, 1-0)
For the second time in four weeks, quarterback Jared Zabransky had problems with cramps.
Zabransky managed to complete 18-of-33 for 207 yards and three TDs in the 44-41 win over Hawai'i and he rushed for 59 yards. He never had to leave the game, however.
"We need to clean things up and get better," Boise State coach Dan Hawkins said.
The Broncos face Division 1-AA power Portland State from the Big Sky Conference and you can bet that Hawkins won't let his team look past the opponent.
The Broncos blocked a field goal that was returned for a score and they blocked a PAT that was returned for two points. Both kicks were blocked by Daryn Colledge, the Broncos' outstanding offense tackle.
Hill was ecstatic about the play of Sumlin.
"He's a very durable running back," Hill said. "He's always getting us the tough yard. The first two weeks of the season we didn't use him much. We rode him pretty hard (against Toledo) last week."
Sumlin gained 106 yards. Hill stayed with the running game because special teams and defense gave the offense excellent field position.
And with New Mexico State's rushing defense not especially strong, Sumlin could be headed for another big game.
"We adjust to what the defense dictates," Hill said. "We like to run. We had the short field against Toledo and didn't throw it much."
n Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or (775) 881-1281.