As always, let’s start with my No. 1 key for Wyoming in Saturday’s home-opener, which kicks off at 2 p.m. MT at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium and will be televised on AT&T SportsNet.
Be good up front: Wyoming needs to win the battle along the line of scrimmage offensively and defensively. You can say this in any game, but it’s critical for the Cowboys today. The offensive line must open holes for the run game that gained only 59 yards last week at Iowa. It also must keep junior quarterback Josh Allen upright and prevent him from being hit. Defensively, the line must be disruptive and not allow Gardner-Webb to get its run game going. The Runnin’ Bulldogs want to run the ball to open things up for its play-action pass and for dual-threat senior quarterback Tyrell Maxwell to run or throw.
More keys and info on the game, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net
Now for some notes and quotes:
— Wyoming’s defense did some good things in its 24-3 loss at Iowa last week. The Cowboys held the Hawkeyes to 263 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers.
Despite playing a team from a lower division today in Gardner-Webb, UW’s defense could have its hands full. The Runnin’ Bulldogs run a similar spread-option scheme as New Mexico. UW allowed 568 rushing yards and 690 total yards in a 56-35 loss at New Mexico last season.
Maxwell is a big guy at 6-2, 231 and I asked fourth-year UW coach Craig Bohl if there are any comparisons between Maxwell and New Mexico senior quarterback Lamar Jordan.
“(Maxwell) is a lot bigger (Jordan is 5-11, 183) and is more of a true dual-threat when it comes to running and throwing the ball,” Bohl said. “Jordan is good, but seems more like a wishbone quarterback. Maxwell has shown a real ability in the past to throw the ball.”
— UW has won seven consecutive home regular season games dating back to the final game of the 2015 season. That is the longest home winning streak since the 1997-98 seasons. If the Cowboys win today, it will have been 294 days since it last won a home football game.
— “I dont think anybody is looking at Oregon right now. We’re looking to get our first win of the season.” — UW junior quarterback Josh Allen on if he’s leery of the Cowboys looking ahead to next week’s home game against Oregon. If there is any sense of that, all the coaches had to do is show the player what happened to UNLV last week as it lost at home to Howard 43-40 after it was a 45-point favorite.
— This will be UW’s first football game against a team from the Big South Conference. Conversely, it will be Gardner-Webb’s first football game against a Mountain West team. For UW, it will be the third school from North Carolina it has ever played in football. It beat North Carolina State twice in 1959 and 1961. It split a pair of games against Appalachian State in 2004 in Laramie and in 2015 in Boone, N.C. The home team won both contests.
— “As a group, we know we can perform a lot better than we did. We’re learning how to get better. We have to do a better job of executing. When our number is called, we all have to be more involved in the play, whether we are the intended receiver or not. We can’t have bits and pieces where someone’s good and someone’s not.” — UW sophomore wide receiver Austin Conway, who led UW at Iowa with seven catches for 47 yards.
— “They’ve got some big physical guys, but I’m also impressed with their team speed. Everyone know about the quarterback, but that power run game has us concerned with their big offensive line. Defensively, it’s an athletic crew that can really run and cover the field with some aggressive safeties. The kicking game is solid and their returners can by very dynamic. We better keep them cornered.” — Gardner-Webb coach Carroll McCray on the Cowboys.
— UW junior safety Andrew Wingard is ranked No. 2 in the nation among active players in career tackles with 9.67 per game. In terms of solo tackles, Wingard leads the nation with six per contest. Fellow junior safety Marcus Epps is 10th among active players with 7.58 tackles per game over his career, and fourth in solo stops (5.12 per game).
— “We weren’t expecting that at all. We’re going to come out this week and play a lot harder than we did last week.” — Gardner-Webb senior linebacker Jeffrey Pegues on his teams’ 45-3 season-opening loss at home last week to North Carolina A&T.
— UW had a couple of players change jersey numbers this week. True freshman punter Tim Zaleski switched from No. 15 to No. 27. True freshman Trey Woods is now No. 6. He was No. 48. Woods also switched positions recently, going from linebacker to running back.
— You might see a new player in action Saturday in true freshman walk-on Caleb Cantrell at long snapper. Cantrell joined the team this week, and was a long snapper in high school at Birdville High in North Richland Hills, Texas. Bohl said if Cantrell kept doing good things in practice he likely would start. UW lost senior long snapper Kolton Donovan at Iowa with a season-ending knee injury. Senior fullback Drew Van Maanen is the backup, and snapped at Iowa. However, Bohl is leery of having Van Maanen as the long snapper due to the physical nature of playing fullback.
— UW received $1 million for playing last week’s game at Iowa. It will play Gardner-Webb $400,000.
— “You have two teams scratching and fighting for their first win. I know we have a hungry football team.” — Bohl.