Nobody said this would be easy.
It hasn’t been.
The Mountain West Conference’s three first-time head coaches — Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter, Hawaii’s Norm Chow, Colorado State’s Jim McElwain — are a combined 4-7 entering Week 4 of the college football season.
All three are coming off losses. Chow’s Warriors lost their Mountain West Conference debut to Nevada by 45 points. DeRuyter’s Bulldogs couldn’t hold leads of 13 and nine points and lost a heartbreaker at Tulsa. McElwain’s Rams are 1-3 after a 31-19 loss to Utah State in Fort Collins.
The Mountain West has another new head coach this season. But New Mexico’s Bob Davie is not a first-timer, having coached Notre Dame from 1997-2001.
Chow, an assistant for 38 years, is 1-2 thus far in his first season as the boss. Last Saturday in Honolulu, the Warriors were smoked 69-24 by Nevada as Wolf Pack running back Stefphon Jefferson rushed for 170 yards and six touchdowns.
On this week’s Mountain West coaches’ teleconference, Chow talked about the difficulty of facing a Nevada team that has been running the same scheme for years under coach Chris Ault.
“It’s a tremendous offense,” Chow said. “That’s taken time. (Ault) has studied it, and he has good players doing what he’s asked them to do.”
The Warriors (1-2 overall, 0-1 in Mountain West play) visit Brigham Young on Friday. Chow began his coaching career at BYU and worked there for 27 years.
In Tulsa, the Golden Hurricane applied brakes to a Fresno State offense that had amassed 665 yards total offense the previous week in a 69-14 rout of Colorado. In a 27-26 loss, the Bulldogs punted 10 times.
“I think you’ve got to (take) your hat off to Tulsa’s defense,” DeRuyter said. “They did some things to disrupt our throwing game with their pressure, and consequently we didn’t execute as well as they did.”
The Bulldogs (2-2) play their first-ever Mountain West Conference game Saturday, hosting San Diego State (2-2).
Colorado State, after opening with a 22-17 victory over Colorado in Denver, is on a three-game losing streak. The Rams have been outscored 93-46 in losses to North Dakota State, San Jose State and Utah State.
Special teams, McElwain said, have hurt CSU. At Utah State, the Rams cut the Aggies’ lead to 24-12 — then gave up a 55-yard kickoff return that set up a touchdown.
“You can’t do that and play good football and be a consistent winner,” he said.
Colorado State plays at Air Force (1-2) on Saturday.
A POPULAR GUY: Maybe it’s the novelty of New Mexico being 2-2 on the season; maybe it’s because the Lobos are playing Boise State this week. In any case, Davie’s segment of the Tuesday conference call lasted more than 20 minutes — longer by far than that of any other coach.
The Lobos’ pistol-formation, option-based offense, and how and why Davie decided to use it at UNM, is a popular topic.
NARROWING THE FOCUS: The Lobos snapped a 24-game road losing streak last week at New Mexico State. Davie said he never once mentioned the streak to his players before the game.
The focus, instead, was on snapping UNM’s three-game losing streak to the Aggies and preventing the Lobos’ seniors from leaving the program without a victory over their downstate rival.
“Other people paid more attention to (the road losing streak), I’m sure, than I did,” Davie said. “But, man, it’s good to get that monkey off your back.”
LONG PASSES: San Diego State coach Rocky Long is trying to fix SDSU’s pass defense. The Aztecs allowed 434 yards through the air in a 49-41 victory over North Dakota on Sept. 15, then gave up three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to San Jose State in a 38-34 loss.
“We’ve got to re-evaluate what we’re asking our kids to do,” said Long, UNM’s head coach from 1998-2008. “We’re asking them to do some things they haven’t been able to do, so we’ve got to retrace and find out what they do well.”