The big wins: A look at the most historic victories for Mountain West teams

2011-09-23T20:00:00Z 2011-10-07T22:20:12Z The big wins: A look at the most historic victories for Mountain West teamsBy ERIC SCHMOLDT -- Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

A program's biggest victory will always be debatable.

Is it a victory over a ranked -- or more highly ranked -- opponent?

Is it a critical game against a rival?

Or perhaps is it a clutch victory that earns a better bowl or simply a berth in the postseason?

We'll leave those debates to you. For now, here are what could be considered the biggest victories for each Mountain West team since they joined the conference.

And we'll leave Boise State out of it, seeing as they've only met our criteria for a few weeks.

AIR FORCE FALCONS

BIGGEST VICTORY: The Falcons have beaten ranked opponents and a 20-12 victory over Utah early in 2007 spring-boarded them back into the postseason, but how about a 42-22 victory at Army last year?

DETAILS: Sure, the game had little meaning when it came to Mountain West play, but last year's victory broke an eight-year drought in which Air Force hadn't won the Commander-in-Chief's trophy. The hardware goes to the winner of the triangular series between Army, Navy and Air Force. While the Falcons have won it the most times, they hadn't since 2002 until the 20-point victory over bowl-bound Army.

COLORADO STATE RAMS

BIGGEST VICTORY: I won't profess to be a history buff when it comes to Colorado State football, but this one seems a cinch. The Rams beat a ranked Colorado team a couple times around the turn of the millennium, but a 19-14 victory in 2002 has to take the cake.

DETAILS: The Rams beat ranked Buffs teams in 1999 and 2000 as well, but this time Colorado was a top-10 team early in the season. The Rams had just beat Virginia, another school from a BCS conference and the victory over Colorado set the wheels of momentum in motion for a second MW title in three years.

SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS

BIGGEST VICTORY: There are not a boatload to choose from here, so we'll go back to just a year ago and a 27-25 victory over No. 23 Air Force.

DETAILS: It was still just October, and the Aztecs may have made the postseason anyway, but this was San Diego State's fourth victory and kicked off a four-game winning streak. The Aztecs had never had a winning season since joining the MW and had finished 6-6 just once.

UNLV REBELS

BIGGEST VICTORY: Again, not many to choose from. It might go back to a successful 2000 season, but instead we'll go with a 23-5 victory at nationally ranked Wisconsin in 2003.

DETAILS: It's not the only ranked team UNLV owns a victory over in the past decade. It also beat a top-15 team in Arizona State in 2008, though that team fizzled and didn't reach the postseason. The Badgers weren't at their best in 2003, either, but did make a bowl game that year. UNLV's road win set up a .500 season, which, compared to much of their years in the MW, is a step up.

NEW MEXICO LOBOS

BIGGEST VICTORY: The Lobos' biggest victory may have come in 2003 as well. Making a run at a conference title, they went on the road and beat nationally ranked Utah 47-35.

DETAILS: New Mexico opened the season 1-3 with close losses at Texas Tech, home against BYU and at nationally ranked Washington State but really turned it on from there. The victory at Utah put the Lobos in the driver's seat to win the league title, but they stumbled the very next week against a weak UNLV team, instead finishing second to the Utes.

TCU HORNED FROGS

BIGGEST VICTORY: I don't even think we need to consult head coach Gary Patterson's pyramid to come up with the answer to this one. The Horned Frogs won the Rose Bowl last New Year's Day, beating Wisconsin 21-19.

DETAILS: The Horned Frogs have beaten plenty of ranked teams in their climb toward the Big East but wanted to prove they could win at an elite level. They faltered in a 2009 BCS bowl game, losing the Fiesta to Boise State. One year later, it wouldn't happen again as the Horned Frogs earned a spot in Pasadena and then finished ranked second in the nation.

Reach Sports Editor Zack Creglow at 307-266-0573 or zack.creglow@trib.com. Read his blog at http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/creglow/. Follow him on Twitter @ZackCreglow.

 

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