UW vs. Air Force – pregame reading

A few notes and quotes to get you ready for Wyoming’s home finale against Air Force Saturday. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. MT from Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNEWS.

First, my No. 1 key for the Cowboys:

Assignment sound: Meaning every player on Wyoming’s defense must do their jobs each and every play against Air Force’s option-oriented offense. This is an important aspect in any game, but it gets magnified going against option football. One missed assignment could result in a big play or touchdown.

Craig Bohl

“First of all, our defensive coaches do a great job of getting players acclimated to option football. Just because we’ve had some success in the past doesn’t mean that will automatically happen now. You need to have disciplined players doing the right things. We feel good about our players and the schemes we have. Their offense makes you assignment bound. They have the ability to throw ball, which stresses you more.” — fifth-year UW coach Craig Bohl

— “I don’t know about getting used to it, but I’m getting acquainted with it.” — UW true freshman quarterback Sean Chambers on Laramie’s weather. Chambers had some ball-handling and ball-security issues in the Cowboys’ 24-9 home win over San Jose State on Nov. 3 in cold, snowy and windy conditions. The forecast for Saturday’s game is for temperatures in the 20s and snow.

— Hope this isn’t a jinx for Wyoming, but entering this game is ranks ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision in fewest turnovers committed with nine, and 13th with the fewest interceptions thrown with four (none by Chambers). Ironically, UW had a minus-2 turnover ratio against San Jose State. It was the first time this season the Cowboys had a negative turnover margin and won.

— “He’s a little more powerful. He runs the ball a little harder. He has a really good arm, but last week they didn’t have to use that as much. They just ran him. But he brings a different dynamic in how hard he runs the ball and can grind out yards.” — second-year UW defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton on Air Force sophomore quarterback Donald Hammond III.

— I pose this question to you: Is Wyoming and Air Force a football rivalry? There are a lot of things that say yes. The two programs will play for the 57th time Saturday. The series is close with Air Force having a 28-25 edge, although Wyoming has won two straight and four of the last five. There have been three ties. Fourteen of the last 22 games have been decided by 10 points or less. There also has been some controversy and drama in the recent past, thanks in large part fo former coach Dave Christensen’s postgame tirade to Air Force coach Troy Calhoun after a 28-27 Air Force win in Laramie in 2012.

“This is a big  rivalry for our football team. Sometimes I think it’s a little bigger than Colorado State. There’s some bad blood from the past. Since I’ve been here it is just another game, but there is a heated aspect to the game, and I’m sure they feel the same way playing us,” UW senior nose tackle Sidney Malauulu said.

— Calhoun was asked this week about Wyoming’s run game and senior running back Nico Evans, who is second in the FBS in rushing yards per game (145.8), sixth in all-purpose yards per game (154) and seventh in rushing yards (1,166). Calhoun had a lot of kind words about Evans, but had this to say about the Cowboys’ offensive line. “They’re old up front. They have a bunch of guys who have been there a long time. They’ve been able to back log guys.”

Wyoming has two senior offensive lineman, left tackle Zach Wallace and right guard Kaden Jackson who have combined to play in 94 games and make 82 starts. But the other three starters are two redshirt freshmen and a true freshmen. And, the other guys who have played this season are no older than true sophomores.

Be sure to check out Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net, for my feature on senior quarterback Nick Smith and his unique journey — along with a breakout of some of the notable seniors who play their final home football game. There also is a story on what has made a big difference for Air Force’s improved defense this season, and lots of other information on the game.