Are you ready for some championship football — in Laramie?
For the first time in school history, Wyoming hosts a conference championship game as it takes on San Diego State at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. The winner will be crowned 2016 Mountain West champs.
This is UW’s first home football game in the month of December since 1902.
First, here is my No. 1 key to the game for the Cowboys:
Adjusting on the fly: Both teams played each other two weeks ago so they have a good idea of what each other is about. However, both squads will tweak or change a few things, and the team that adjusts the best and fastest will have a significant edge.
For more keys, and more coverage leading up to today’s game, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.
Now for some notes and quotes on Saturday’s game:
— My main feature story Saturday is on UW senior wide receiver Jake Maulhardt and how he considers San Diego State his rivalry game. Maulhardt is from southern California and is familiar with several San Diego State players. However, there are a few other interesting ties among the players from both teams.
UW senior running back Shaun Wick and San Diego State senior wide receiver Kendrick Mathis were teammates on the same eighth grade Pop Warner football team that won a “Super Bowl.” UW sophomore strong safety Marcus Epps played against San Diego State junior wide receiver Quest Truxton in high school in southern California. Epps and San Diego State junior wide receiver Chase Favreau went to the same high school — Edison High in Los Angeles. Epps said his family and the Favreau family are close.
— “There are only so many train wrecks out there. How we practice to get ready for a physical team is really going to be a challenge. We need to be fresh at kickoff, but we need to know what we’re doing. Our mentality with our players is they need to be fresh, confident and energized to play this ball game.” — UW coach Craig Bohl.
— San Diego State coach Rocky Long said this week his team has gone down from practicing from between 1 hour, 45 minutes to about 1 hour, 15 minutes late in the season, and with no more than 20 minutes of any kind of contact. None of that contact is ones vs. ones. Nothing unusual about that for any team this time of year. However, based on the Nov. 19 game in Laramie that UW won 34-33, it took its toll on both teams mentally and physically, and could have been a factor why both teams were blown out in the games last week.
— UW remains one of the more balanced offensive teams in the country, and has been a big key leading the MW this season at 38.2 points per game. UW averages 217.9 rushing yards and 229.3 passing yards per game.
— “It can be an advantage for our team since those guys are not used to playing in that kind of weather. I’ve played in it since high school. As long as I keep my hands warm I don’t think it will be a big issue for me.” — UW senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the high teens to low 20s at kickoff, and mid to high teens by the end of the game. There little to no chance of snow, but winds will be around 15 miles per hour.
— Could the weather be an advantage for UW? One would assume so. However, recent San Diego State teams won a bowl game in Boise, Idaho, where it was snowy and cold, and defeated a “cold-weather” team in Buffalo. The Aztecs also played at Boise State recently where it was about zero degrees at kickoff. They lost, but it was a better Boise State team — not the cold — that cost them the game. San Diego State offensive coordinator Jeff Horton told me this week he doesn’t think the cold will affect the Aztecs. Even though UW practiced a couple of days outside this week, it’s not like they practice in it all the time. As Horton said: “It won’t exactly be warm for Wyoming, either.”
— “I’ve never done this before in college, and I’m excited about it. They’re a great team and I’m excited to get another crack at the and give it our best shot.” — San Diego State senior linebacker Calvin Munson on playing at UW for the second time in three weeks. The last time UW played an opponent more than once in a season was 1920 when it played Colorado State and Denver home and away.
— Officials from the Las Vegas, Poinsettia and Arizona bowls will be at Saturday’s game. Bowl announcements will be made Sunday. Anything can happen, but to me it comes down to this: UW wins Saturday, it goes to the Las Vegas Bowl. UW loses, it goes to the Poinsettia Bowl and plays BYU.
For more coverage of the game, both before it and afterwards, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.