UW-New Mexico football postgame thoughts; with VIDEO

It was a game Wyoming should have won.

But even though the Cowboys put together one of their better offensive games, and did some good things on defense late in the contest, they lost their season-finale at New Mexico 36-30 Saturday.

UW (4-8 overall, 2-6 Mountain West) had 541 yards of total offense, ran 94 plays compared to New Mexico’s 39 and held the ball for nearly 42 minutes.

But with the ball at the New Mexico 5-yard line in the final minute of the game, the Cowboys couldn’t score. A false start penalty on senior offensive tackle Connor Rains — the lone senior on that offensive line — didn’t help. But the offense got no closer than the 4-yard line.

Here is video of the final few plays, including a nice 44-yard catch made by sophomore receiver Tanner Gentry to get the ball down to the 5.

A defense that gave up scoring plays of 75 and 69 yards settled down. But it was too late despite not allowing any New Mexico points in the fourth quarter. Then again, UW’s offense also didn’t score in the fourth quarter.

A special teams unit that blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter, also allowed a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. New Mexico junior Carlos Wiggins, who now has four kickoff returns for a touchdown, ran one back 97 yards late in the third quarter in what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. Why UW kicked to him I will never know. Coach Craig Bohl didn’t really answer the question after the game. There was word in the press box that Wiggins changed positions on the kickoff late in the formation. Maybe, but it wasn’t addressed by UW, and there was some missed tackles.

Here is Bohl after the game:

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GAMEDAY: UW-New Mexico football notes, quotes and video

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).

Dominic Rufran

Dominic Rufran

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.

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Mountain West football power rankings/picks – Week 14

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his final regular-season installment of the Mountain West football power rankings and picks.

1. Colorado State (10-1 overall, 6-1 MW): Tough to move the Rams (ranked No. 21 in both the AP and Coaches polls) down after winning nine straight games, including by 38 last week against New Mexico. Still, Colorado State needs to win this week and hope Boise State loses if it wants to play in the MW Championship Game. This week: at Air Force, 1:30 p.m. MT Friday (CBSSN). A tough game against a good team on the road. Rams have a lot on the line, and will play like it. Colorado State 27, Air Force 23.

2. Boise State (9-2, 6-1): The Broncos are the highest-ranked team among the non-power five conferences at No. 23. If they win their season-finale they will play in the MW Championship Game and has a good chance at New Year’s bowl game. Boise State has scored more points (440) than any MW team. This week: vs. Utah State, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN2). The Broncos have lost only four games at home in … well, forever. Too much on the line for that fifth loss to occur. Boise State 28, Utah State 20.

3. Utah State (9-3, 6-1): Winners of five straight and with the best scoring defenses in the conference (18.3 ppg). Matt Wells should get strong consideration for Coach of the Year in the MW having to use four different quarterbacks this season. This week: at Boise State, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN2). In a battle of the league’s best offense and best defense, the offense will have the edge at night on the blue turf. Boise State 28, Utah State 20.

4. Air Force (8-3, 4-3): Despite a 30-14 loss at San Diego State last week, the Falcons stay at No. 4. They remain one of the best stories in the league having gone 2-10 last season. This week: vs. Colorado State, 1:30 p.m. MT Friday (CBSNN). Air Force is 5-0 at home, but will drop a close game in its finale. Colorado State 27, Air Force 23.

5. San Diego State (6-5, 4-3): One of two teams in the West Division with a winning overall and conference record. The home win over Air Force moved the Aztecs up. San Diego State needs to win this week and have Fresno State lose to win the division. This week: vs. San Jose State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN). The Aztecs will cruise in this one. San Diego State 33, San Jose State 10.

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UW-New Mexico football Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Rick Wright, who covers New Mexico football for the Albuquerque Journal, about Saturday’s season-finale with the University of Wyoming. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Follow on Twitter: @Burquerick

Now in his third season, coach Bob Davie is 10-26. In your opinion, is the building and development of the program going in the right direction? Is Davie the right guy for the job, and what are the major issues that still must be dealt with?

Rick Wright

Rick Wright

Progress is being made, but slowly — too slow to suit a disgruntled and shrinking fan base. Davie knew coming in that roster attrition was going to be a big problem in 2013 and 2014, but obviously was hoping to win more games regardless. I thought Davie had a solid plan coming in, and still think so. The triple option out of the pistol formation has been successful, though the passing game has lagged badly. But there’s no equivalent of the triple option on defense, and that remains the burning question. The defense must improve, vastly, if Davie’s vision for the program is to succeed.

How would you explain the Lobos’ run game, which is among the top four in the nation? How have teams stopped it or slowed it down this season?

Only San Diego State has basically shut it down for four quarters. Rocky Long crossed the Lobos up; UNM prepared for Long’s 3-3-5 blitzing defense and instead got a conservative four-down look. New Mexico generally has not run the ball as well in the second half as in the first as opponents adjusted to the speed with which it runs the triple option. I know that when (Wyoming coach) Craig Bohl was at North Dakota State, his defense stuffed the Sam Houston State offense — which is what New Mexico runs under offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse, who came to New Mexico from Sam Houston State.

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Run game could be even more vital for Cowboys in finale

We all know that first-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl wants to be a run-first offense that is tough and physical.

At times UW has shown that, at other times it hasn’t gone according to plan. But if the Cowboys can do that in their season-finale Saturday at New Mexico, that will go a long way to help make up for what could be an inexperienced quarterback — and possibly end the season with a victory.

New Mexico has the nation’s fourth-best rushing offense, but it allows 278.1 rushing yards per game, and Colorado State’s Dee Hart ran for 230 yards and five touchdowns last week in the Rams’ 58-20 victory.

Rafe Kiely

Rafe Kiely

“It’s an exciting thought,” said UW junior center Rafe Kiely on the chance the Cowboys will try to run the ball even more against New Mexico. “We along the offensive line is much more physical this year, and take a lot more pride in our run blocking than in the past.

“This year there so much more of an emphasis on getting on guys and getting them to the ground. I know a lot of guys are licking their lips to go out (to New Mexico) and pound the ball on the ground.”

UW true freshman running back Brian Hill leads the Cowboys with six rushing touchdowns, and had two in last Saturday’s 63-14 home loss to Boise State. He had his string of three straight 100-yard games snapped against Boise State. Hill has 639 rushing yards, and trails junior Shaun Wick by 66 yards to take the team lead.

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A day of extremes for Cowboys

It was a day-night doubleheader of men’s basketball and football in Laramie Saturday for Wyoming, and the outcome of both was like a night-and-day contrast.

Let’s start with the good.

The Cowboys were impressive in a 56-33 victory over Colorado in hoops. UW (3-0) held Colorado (2-1) to nine second-half points and to only two baskets. The offense was unselfish, and I don’t think I’ve ever covered a game where there were assists on all 22 baskets.

And, this wasn’t against some no-name team. Colorado was ranked 27th in the AP poll last week and was picked to finish third in the Pac-12.

And, the lob pass junior guard Josh Adams threw to senior forward Larry Nance Jr. was pretty cool, and earned the top play on ESPN SportCenter’s top 10 plays Saturday night.

“Sigh of relief. It was awesome and it felt great just to be back up there,” Nance said of the dunk.

Here’ what the players and coach Larry Shyatt said after the game:

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Wyoming vs. Boise State football: key to the game, notes and quotes

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s key to the game for Wyoming in its home-finale against Boise State. Kickoff is at 8:15 p.m. MT at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium:

Possess and finish: Wyoming’s offense must win the time of possession battle, and more importantly, finish drives with points. That may be the Cowboys’ best defense against Boise State’s league-leading scoring offense (37.7 points per game). UW did a decent job two weeks ago against Utah State of possessing the ball, but must do a better job of finishing and eliminate penalties and turnovers.

What do you think, folks? Yay or nay?

Here is Gagliardi and WyoSports editor Scott Nulph’s weekly video blog about the game:

Here are some notes and quotes from both UW and Boise State from this week:

Blair Burns

Blair Burns

–UW has never defeated Boise State (0-8) and has lost by a combined score of 148-43 in the four games played in Laramie. The Cowboys have scored no more than 17 points against the Broncos. But that doesn’t mean UW is intimidated by Boise State: “Boise State is a great team, but I wouldn’t say we are intimidated. We played at Oregon and Michigan State and we weren’t intimidated against those teams. Getting a win would be great. Why not now?” — UW senior cornerback Blair Burns.

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Cowboys ready for the home stretch with plenty to play for

First-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl said his team “utilized its bye week wisely” last week.

The team practiced a good part of last week, and much of that work was getting ready for Saturday’s home-finale against Boise State — a team UW has never defeated in eight games and has been outscored 148-43 in three home games.

UW enters the game 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the Mountain West. It needs to win its final two games to get to 6-6 and become bowl eligible. Boise State is 8-2, 5-1 and if it wins out it will win the league’s Mountain Division.

“Without question (Boise State) is one of the top teams in our conference and around the country,” Bohl said. “We’re excited about playing them, but it will be a big challenge.”

Here is Bohl during his weekly news conference with the media Monday:

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UW-Utah State postgame thoughts

Missed opportunities.

To me, that sums up Wyoming’s 20-3 home loss to Utah State Friday night.

Despite falling into a 17-0 first-quarter hole, UW (4-6 overall, 2-4 Mountain West) put itself in position to get closer and even win. The defense allowed 178 yards in the first quarter, and 178 the rest of the game.

The offense moved the ball. It outgained Utah State 363-356, had six more first downs, ran 25 more plays and had nearly a 10-minute advantage in time of possession. But it couldn’t finish.

Two fourth-quarter interceptions by senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard hurt. The first one was a bad read and throw. The second was bad luck on a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage. Still, you can make a case that Kirkegaard needs to be more aware of the defenders around him.

Here’s UW coach Craig Bohl after the game:

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UW-Utah State key to the game; other notes and quotes

Here is WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s key to the game for Wyoming for its home game today against Utah State. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. MT at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

Match the Aggies: Wyoming coach Craig Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen both said Utah State plays the hardest of any team the Cowboys have faced in the Mountain West to this point. Whether it is on offense or defense UW has to match that — or surpass that — to have a chance to win.

Yes, no, Gagliardi has no idea what he’s talking about? What do you think, folks?

Here is Gagliardi and WyoSports editor Scott Nulph’s video preview of today’s game:

A few notes on today’s game:

Bridger's Battle

Bridger’s Battle

–The two teams meet for the 65th time and the series dates back to 1903, and is the fifth-longest series in UW history. Last year, a new twist was added to the series with it being called “Bridger’s Battle.” Last year, the two teams played for a “Bridger Rifle,” a .50-caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle that was popular among the mountain men of the 1800s, and was the rifle carried by legendary mountain Man Jim Bridger.

Here is the rifle the Wyoming and Utah State teams will be playing for each year.

Here is the rifle the Wyoming and Utah State teams will be playing for each year.

–With one catch, UW senior receiver Dominic Rufran will tie Jovon Bouknight’s (2002-05) school record with a catch in 47 consecutive games. Bouknight is the pass game coordinator and receivers coach at Utah State. Rufran also needs 50 receiving yards to move past  Malcom Floyd (2000-03) into sixth place in career receiving yards. Rufran has 2,362.

–This is Utah State’s first game at UW as a member of the Mountain West, and first game in Laramie since 2007.

–Utah State has won 12 straight games in November, ad 16 of the last 18 dating back to 2010. The Aggies also have won 12 of their last 13 conference road games, including a 5-1 mark in MW road games.

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