Average attendance at Mountain West Conference home games last season was 35,213 — which was a league record. Through two games this year, league teams are averaging 40,143 fans per home game.
That hardly means all is well in the league as far as attendance is concerned, however. The number is skewed because both BYU and Utah — two of the top-drawing teams in the league — have had a pair of home games. Plus, San Diego State drew more than 50,000 for its opener against UCLA. No doubt the 0-2 Aztecs will see a considerable fall off from that, especially if the losses continue to pile up.
Utah is off to a strong start, averaging 45,084 per game, but BYU's 55,369 average is nearly 10,000 fewer than capacity. In fact, the Cougars have never averaged fewer than 58,475 per game since the stadium was expanded, so the current average has to be a concern.
But BYU's attendance woes are nothing compared to Air Force's, which traditionally has been near the top of the league in fan support. The Falcons had just 30,101 fans at their home opener Saturday against San Diego State — more than 22,000 below capacity. Now 2-0 on the year, Air Force faces Wyoming on Saturday. Falcon coach Fisher DeBerry will be disappointed if the crowd isn't vastly better than it was last week.
"I was very disappointed in our attendance last week," said DeBerry. "I think we're playing exciting football and I don't know a more exciting place to be than at Falcon Stadium on a Saturday afternoon."
Wyoming coach Joe Glenn agrees. "People should go to the game, support their team and not sit home on the couch . . . There's nothing like being at a college football game."
Moments after the biggest win of his life, New Mexico junior quarterback Kole McKamey kept it all in perspective.
"This was a huge win for us and our program, but it doesn't mean a thing if we just stop now," he told the Albuquerque Tribune. "We'll take away from all these special memories if we decide that's enough.
"What you saw (Saturday) is that this team wants more than just one game, one good memory. We're pushing ourselves to the next level, and that doesn't happen with just one win."
So as the University of New Mexico (2-0) reveled in a convincing 45-35 win over Big 12 Conference foe Missouri (1-1) on the Tigers' home turf, the rival Aggies weren't far from the Lobos' minds.
"I guarantee you there isn't a player on this team who is going to overlook New Mexico State when they come visit," McKamey said. "We ignored them a few years ago, and they burned us down there. They blew us out, and it's a loss that's still pretty upsetting. No one wants to have that feeling again."
Wide receiver Hank Baskett, who finished with 10 catches, 209 yards receiving and three touchdowns, said he couldn't imagine following up a magical career night with a flop against New Mexico State (0-2) at University Stadium.
"That's as big a game on our schedule as anything, especially with so many in-state guys on our roster who know what it means to play in that big rivalry game," Baskett said. "We have a chance to do something special this year, so I promise the focus won't slip."
UNLV has hardly been a MWC power during the six-plus seasons the league has existed. The Rebels have lost twice as many conference games as they have won, going 14-28 all time.
Maybe they would have been better off staying in the WAC. Since leaving that conference after the 1998 season, UNLV is 8-0 against WAC teams — including last weekend's last-second win over new WAC-member Idaho. The Rebels will have two more chances to show their dominance over the WAC this season with a game Saturday at Nevada and one Sept. 24 at Utah State.
The MWC posted a 5-2 mark in non-conference games last week. The league is now 8-6 in non-league games . . . BYU's game against Eastern Illinois was the only one against a Division I-AA team all season by any MWC school . . . Wyoming has held both of its first two opponents to under 100 yards rushing.