Some news, notes and quotes for Wyoming’s season-opening game Saturday night at home against Northern Illinois. Kick off is at 8:30 p.m. at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.
First, my No. 1 key for the Cowboys:
A good start: Third-year UW coach Craig Bohl said earlier this week he wants his team to start strong and finish stronger throughout the season. The Cowboys must get off to a good start, which was a problem last season as they were outscored 125-28 in the first quarter. Finishing stronger won’t make a difference if UW finds itself in an early hole like it did most of the 2015.
Agree or disagree? For more keys and coverage of the game, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.
Now for a few notes and quotes:
— Today starts the 120th season of UW football. The first season was in 1893, and since then there have been only four seasons where the Cowboys didn’t play football. In 1918 UW had a team, but played no games due to an influenza epidemic.
— UW sophomore strong safety Marcus Epps was voted as one of five team captains by his teammates. Epps walked on at UW in 2014 and was put on scholarship after the 2015 season. He is the first UW walk-on to be named a team captain since kicker J.D. Wallum in 2002. Here is my column on Epps from earlier this week.
— “Nothing really changes. You get voted a captain for things you’ve done before. The only difference is you can’t have those down days. I have to bring energy every day and guys will look at me for that.” — UW senior tight end Jacob Hollister on being voted one of five team captains this season.
— UW is 75-42-2 all-time in season-opening games. It is 56-18-1 in season-openers at home and has won 11 of its last 13 home openers. However, last year’s home and season opener was forgettable as the Cowboys lost 24-13 to FCS foe North Dakota.
— Northern Illinois is one of nine teams on UW’s 12-game schedule that played in a bow game last season. The Cowboys are tied with 14 other schools in the FBS that play nine bowl teams from 2015. That is the sixth-most in the nation. USC plays the most bowl teams from last season (11).
— “We have to do it on Saturdays. Last year we struggled. We’ve definitely seen improvement throughout camp, but we have to carry that to the field. I know we have the talent to do so, and the right schemes to do so.” — UW senior outside linebacker D.J. May on the defense this season.
— UW’s defense allowed 34 points and 422 yards per game last season. It was a young group, and will be again this season. I think we all know the defense has to be better this season, but how much so remains to be seen. But Northern Illinois senior quarterback Drew Hare had the ultimate “coach-speak” quote of the week regarding UW’s defense: “They played a bunch of young guys. Now they have way more experience and the coaches are in thier third year of their system. On film you can see that they’re well coached. You can see they know what they’re susposed to and where they’re supposed to be. They’re assignment sound. It’s a great defense, honestly.”
— UW has 18 seniors on its 2016 roster. That is the second-fewest in the Mountain West (Fresno State has 15). The Cowboys’ 18 seniors is tied with Temple for 25th in the nation in terms of FBS teams with the fewest seniors.
— UW junior running back Brian Hill has rushed for 100 yards or more in 11 of the last 17 games. He is 179 yards shy of moving into fourth place by himself on the school’s career rushing yards list. Hill enters the season with 2,427 yards. Senior running back Shaun Wick is ninth in career rushing at UW (2,179 yards), and needs 12 yards to move into seventh. Combined, Hill and Wick have 4,606 career rushing yards. UW’s all-time running back tandem in school history is Devin Moore (2,963 yards from 2005-08) and Wynel Seldon (2,672 from 2005-08) with 5,635. Moore and Seldon rank first and third, respectively, in career rushing at UW.
— Northern Illinois is 22-4 in true road games dating back to Oct. 22, 2011. However, three of those four losses came last season. One other interesting note about the Huskies is they have new coordinators on both sides of the ball this season.
— “We’re ready to hit another color. We’re sick of hitting each other.” — Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey.