Here is WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s top key to the game for the Wyoming Cowboys in their homecoming game at 2 p.m. today against San Jose State at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium:
Possess the ball — and finish: Wyoming wants to wear teams down in the fourth quarter. To do that, it must possess the ball and finish drives. Even when the Cowboys can’t do that, they need to avoid a lot of three-and-outs and flip field position in the punt game. UW has a slight edge in time of possession this season at 30 minutes, 50 seconds, but it needs that figure to be around 34 or 35 minutes.
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Here is Gagliardi and WyoSports editor Scott Nulph’s preview for today’s game.
Here are some other notes and quotes for today’s game:
–“He’s been very valuable, and also on special teams covering kickoffs and on the punt team. He’s healthy and we’ll utilize him. He will need to play well (today) for us to have a chance to win.” — UW coach Craig Bohl on senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha, who leads the team with 55 tackles, two quarterback sacks, five passes broken up and is tied for the lead with two forced fumbles.
–“We need to do a better job of tackling and wrapping up. We need to not worry so much about making the kill shot, but just wrapping up and getting the guy down to the ground.” — UW freshman cornerback Robert Priester.
–“We beat ourselves in the second half at Hawaii. We missed some tackles, missed our assignments and had a couple of coverage busts. That has to be our points of emphasis this week and make sure we are focused on everything we’re doing so we don’t make the same mistakes.” — UW sophomore safety Xavier Lewis, who likely will get more playing time with the season-ending injury last week at Hawaii by senior free safety and co-captain Darrenn White.
–“I think it’s always dangerous as a coach when you say our problems are going to be strickly related because guys have been injured. We’ve had different guys playing different places, and those things are challenging, without question. But we’ve got to do better. Some of it is Colby (senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard). He’s taken some sacks when he shouldn’t of. It’s been the situations we’ve been in. Sometimes we need to pass block better. What we will not do is make up a bunch of excuses because of injuries. Teams that adjust better are the ones that usually play better,” — Bohl on having three different offensive line combinations the last three games, and also on the fact his team has allowed a conference high 26 sacks.
–“We need to identify where he’s at because they use him in certain situations at certain places. He flat out ran Auburn at times. They have good skill, and he’s not the only one.” — UW defensive coordinator Steve Stanard on San Jose State junior running back Tyler Ervin and the rest of the Spartans’ receivers.
–“I’m not too hung up on statistics. They’re a work in progress just like we are in many ways.” — San Jose State coach Ron Caragher.
–“Get him the ball on a bubble (screen) and he goes 80 yards for a touchdown every time.” — San Jose State junior quarterback Joe Gray, who was high school teammates with former UW and current Tampa Bay Bucs receiver Robert Herron.
–“They have an experienced quarterback that shows great poise. They have a great running back in Shaun wick, and great receivers to throw to. We are confident, but what we’ve seen is anybody can beat anybody in the Mountain West every week.” — San Jose State senior defensive tackle Travis Raciti.
–Today could be another move up the record books for UW senior receiver Dominic Rufran. If he catches a pass, his consecutive games streak with at least one catch moves to 44. That would tie him with Boise State senior Matt Miller for the longest
active streak in the nation. Unfortunately for Miller, he’s out for the season with an ankle injury. Rufran could own the nation’s longest active streak during next week’s Border War game at Colorado State. Rufran’s streak is the second-longest in UW history. If Rufran catches at least one pass in the Cowboys’ final six games his streak will be 49, which marks every games of his career and will move him past Jovon Bouknight (47) atop the UW record books. Rufran also needs three catches to tie Malcom Floyd (200-03) for sixth place in career receptions at UW. Rufran has 183 heading into today.
–The Cowboys have won three straight home games and four in a row going back to last season. They have not won five straight road games since the 2006-07 seasons.
–UW is 43-43-3 all-time in homecoming games, and 38-24-2 in homecoming games at War Memorial Stadium.
–UW lost at San Jose State 51-44 last season, and the two teams combined for 95 points and 1,223 yards. Hard to imagine a repeat today. The Cowboys average 18.3 points per game. The Spartans 21.\
–Wick had 234 rushing yards at San Jose State last season, which still ranks as the third-best single-game performance in UW history. Wick leads the Cowboys in rushing this season with 610 yards and likely will be the focal point of the offense today. Why? Because San Jose State leads the nation in passing defense (89.6 ypg), but allows 230.6 rushing yards per contest. And, UW backup running back — sophomore D.J. May — was suspended for this game Friday afternoon by Bohl for a violation of team rules.
–This is San Jose State’s first game in Laramie since 1997, a 30-10 UW victory. The Spartans’ lone win at UW was on Oct. 3, 1992 after kicker Joe Nedney kicked a 60-yard field goal with no game left on the clock for a 26-24 win.
–The next touchdown reception for UW senior receiver Jalen Claiborne will give him 13 in his career and move him into a tie for 10th place with Ryan McGuffey (2000-03).
For more UW-San Jose State football coverage, see Saturday and Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.