For the first time on this platform this season, where are my Mountain West football power rankings heading into this week’s games. The rankings have been running in our four-page wrap that goes around the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang for every Wyoming game. With no game this week for the Cowboys, there is no wrap. But from now on I will post these rankings on the blog — along with my picks for the week.
Here we go.
1. Boise State (2-1 overall, 0-0 MW): The Broncos came back to earth, and fell out of the national rankings, with their 44-21 loss at now 15th-ranked Oklahoma State. Special teams were their demise with two blocked punts. Boise State still has a shot at New Year’s 6 bowl game, but for a team not used to losing, this had to have been a humbling blow.
2. San Diego State (2-1, 0-0): The Aztecs vault back up to near the top of these rankings after their 28-21 home victory over then No. 23 Arizona State. They did it with their typical style — a strong running game and good defense. They also did it with a backup quarterback.
3. Fresno State (2-1, 0-0): The Bulldogs did what they were supposed to do last week — go on the road and easily beat an undermanned UCLA team from the Pac-12. Senior Marcus McMaryion showed why he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the league. All seems right with San Diego State and Fresno State after both lost the previous week.
It may not have been a work of art or win any style points, but Wyoming’s 16-13 victory over Border War rival Colorado State be talked about for a long time as one of the classic games in this 109-game rivalry.
It will be remembered as the “Snow Game,” and that’s what I wrote about in my Sunday column in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang. Here is the link on wyosports.net. It is free to those who don’t have an online subscription (but I highly recommend you get one).
For the 109th time, and 50th since the Bronze Boot traveling trophy was introduced, Wyoming and Colorado State play a football game Saturday. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, and the game is televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.
Here is my top key to the game for the Cowboys.
Keep it up: Meaning Wyoming’s defense must continue to do what it has done over the first eight games — force a nation’s best 24 turnovers and hold teams to 19.2 points per game. The Cowboys, at very least, need to win the turnover battle. The lone game this season where they didn’t force a turnover they lost at Boise State. Colorado State leads the Mountain West in passing offense, total offense and is second in scoring offense, and also is fourth in the nation in converting third downs into first downs. UW won’t completely shut down this offense, but when the opportunities are there, it must get off the field and create some turnovers. A good start will be to pressure Rams senior quarterback Nick Stevens and not allow him to get into a rhythm.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see that coming.
I thought Wyoming had a chance to beat New Mexico, but figured if it happened it would be a close game.
UW forced a school-record seven turnovers, including five interceptions, in a 42-3 victory in front of an okay crowd of 18,249 at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium Saturday night.
The turnovers came in droves, including five in the first half. UW’s average starting field position in the game was its own 42-yard line, and New Mexico’s 47 in the second quarter where the Cowboys scored 35 points.
Here is UW junior strong safety Andrew Wingard after the game about UW getting some redemption against New Mexico, after three straight losses to the Lobos, including a 56-35 loss there last season. Wingard had two interceptions in the game.
Lou Adams started both halves in Wyoming’s 102-100 four-overtime home win over Fresno State last Wednesday, but played only at total of seven minutes.
First-year coach Allen Edwards didn’t like the energy Adams showed on the floor, so he didn’t play him when it mattered most.
Adams, a junior guard in his first season with the Cowboys after transferrring from Odessa College in Texas, got the message Edwards was conveying. He scored a team-best 16 points and three steals in 24 minutes in Wyoming’s 81-74 loss at Utah State last Saturday. The points were the most Adams scored in a MW game, and tied for the second-most minutes he’s played in a game this season.
“Lou came out with more energy, but at the same time, it has to be more of a consistent thing,” Edwards said. “He seems to have figured it out, and we will go with that from there.”
Added Adams: “I was just trying to help my team win and do the little things.”
After being down 14-3 early, I won’t lie, I thought Wyoming may suffer another blow out loss to Colorado State. UW lost the previous three games by a combined score of 123-60 and this game had the makings of that.
But then it all changed.
Some great running by junior running back Brian Hill and senior Shaun Wick, some timely passes (and good play calls) by redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen and some good defensive play led UW to what turned to be an easy victory.
Some pre-game reading prior to Saturday’s 108th Border War between Wyoming and Colorado State. Kick off is at 8:15 p.m. MT.
First, my No. 1 key to the game for UW:
Run the ball effectively: When Wyoming runs the ball for more than 200 yards, it wins. When it doesn’t, it loses. Simple as that. The Cowboys need to be better running
between the tackles. If Colorado State shuts that down, UW must find other ways to generate rushing yards so it doesn’t put too much pressure on redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen and the passing game.
UW was dominated along both lines of scrimmage in last year’s 26-7 loss at home to Colorado State. Being more physical along both lines of scrimmage is a big key today (although you can say that about any football game).
“To have a chance to win we’ve got to be physical along the line of scrimmage. That will be our big test. We feel better about the progress we’ve made, but come Saturday night we’re going to find out,” third-year UW coach Craig Bohl said.
Wyoming junior running back Brian Hill needs 74 yards to pass Devin Moore (2005-08) and become the Cowboys’ career rushing leader. Hill enters Saturday night’s Border War at Colorado State with 2,890 yards in 28 games.
To put that in some perspective, Moore needed 44 games and broke the mark in UW’s last game of the 2008 season against … you guessed it, Colorado State. The Cowboys hope Hill breaks the record Saturday, and then some. They also hope for a better outcome than Moore experienced. UW lost that 2008 game at Colorado State 31-20.
Hill first must pass Ryan Christopherson (1991-94) for second place, but needs only 17 yards to do that. The last time a UW running back broke the school’s career rushing record on the road was Gerald Abraham (1984-87) in the Cowboys’ regular-season finale at Hawaii. Abraham broke the mark with 2,278 yards. That’s now sixth in school history.
Third-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl took a lot of questions during Monday’s news conference, and one of them was about UW’s run game and its lack of production in its 27-24 loss at Eastern Michigan and at other times this season.
Junior running back Brian Hill has averaged 115.8 yards per game, but in the Cowboys’ two losses he failed to reach 100 yards. Hill said he needs to do a better job of breaking arm tackles at or close to the line of scrimmage.
Bohl said the offensive line also can do a better job.
“We need to stay on blocks, finish off blocks,” he said. “If you’re not maintaining blocks on the line of scrimmage by one of your players up front, you can X and O all want and it doesn’t matter. Those guys have to maintain and execute blocks and we’ll work hard on that this week.”
I will have more on that in Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net.