Wyoming plays its season-finale today at New Mexico with a 1 p.m. kickoff at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Cowboys are 4-7 overall and 2-5 in the Mountain West. The Lobos are 3-8, 1-6 and will be looking for their first home win of the season.
Here is WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi and editor Scott Nulph previewing the game:
UW and New Mexico will play for the 67th time. That is the fourth-longest series for the Cowboys, and second-longest active series — second only to the Border War with Colorado State (106 games).
Senior receiver Dominic Rufran needs two catches to become only the fifth player in school history to record 200 career catches. He also needs seven receiving yards to pass Malcom Floyd (2000-03) for sixth in career receiving yards. If Rufran catches one pass, he will end his career with a catch in 49 straight games, which is a school record and the longest active streak in the nation.
The two teams have five common opponents — Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State an Utah State. UW is 2-3 in those games with wins over Air Force and Fresno State. New Mexico is 0-5, but four of the five losses were by 11 points or less.
Junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough enters the game second in the Mountain West in tackles among defensive linemen (5.3 per game) and third in tackles for loss (10.5 this season). The Cowboys’ defense, down five starters due to injuries, will have its hands full against New Mexico’s option-oriented offense that is fourth in the nation in rushing (316.7 ypg).
UW’s running back duo of junior Shaun Wick and true freshman Brian Hill have combined for 229 carries for 1,374 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Wick broke his hand early in the Oct. 25 game at Colorado State, but will play today. Hill has averaged 147.3 yards per game in the four games Wick has been out. Could be fun to watch both those guys run the ball today against a New Mexico run defense that allows 278.1 yards per game.
New Mexico coach Bob Davie had some kind words to say about Hill.
“He has a chance to be a star in this league,” he said. “He reminds me a lot of (Boise State junior running back) Jay Ajayi. He is how I picture a young Ajayi. They have very similar styles.”
Senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard severely sprained his left ankle in last Saturday’s 63-14 home loss to Boise State — an injury that looked absolutely horrible on television. Kirkegaard has practiced this week, albeit limited, and will start today. Fans have been critical of Kirkegaard this season, but one can’t question his toughness and guts. Would be nice to see him play well in his final game. Kirkegaard gives UW the best chance to win today, although we still could see sophomore backup Tom Thornton and even senior Sam Stratton.
“Colby has done a great job of making the most of what he’s had,” first-year coach Craig Bohl said. “He didn’t understand the West Coast offense (when we got here) and he was not recruited here with that in mind. Has he played great in every ball game? No. But he’s competed in every ball game and has been an excellent team player. He’s had some games where he’s played really well. He’s been a joy to coach and hopefully we will get a chance to coach one more game with him in there.”
Here a few other quotes regarding today’s game:
–“I think Kirkegaard will play. Looking at their offense when he did come out (against Boise State), No. 13 (Thornton) came in and did pretty much the same thing. Then No. 1 (Stratton) came in and he’s more athletic. He’s quicker and more elusive. The finished with (Thornton) so it looks to me that he is a little different style that would run the offense the way it is. At the end of the day, it is going to be (true freshman running back Brian Hill). He is the one constant who I think is an outstanding player with an unbelievable future.” — New Mexico coach Bob Davie on UW’s offense and quarterback situation.
–“This isn’t a day off, it’s a work weekend. It’s what’s inside you, that pride aspect. For anybody to go out there and think this is just another game. … that’s not us.” — UW junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough.
–“It’s a fine balance where you don’t want to do too much and still play within yourself. Things get amped up, but I’m preparing myself as if this is a great opportunity.” — UW sophomore quarterback Tom Thornton on the possibility of starting and playing a lot today.
One last note: Bohl said on his radio coaches show this week,and confirmed it later in the week that sophomore running back D.J. May will be moved to defense next season, either as a safety or cornerback in nickel situations.
“We need to find a way to get our best players on the field, and we feel D.J. has the ability to be one of those guys, and showed that when he was healthy at running back and on special teams, Bohl said.
May tore the anterior cruciate in one of his knees in practice leading up to the Oct. 25 game at Colorado State. Bohl said there are not other plans right now to move other players to different positions.
For more UW football and sports coverage, see Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net. Also, join Gagliardi for his live game chat from today’s football game. The chat will start at 12:45 p.m. — 15 minutes before kickoff. Links can be found on this blog, and at wyosports.net.