Fresno State 13, Wyoming 7 – postgame thoughts

A disappointing loss, and to me, kind of an odd and stale atmosphere in Wyoming’s home finale — a 13-7 setback to Fresno State.

First, the crowd of 15,440 did what it could, but with poor weather Friday and into Saturday morning that kept many fans away because of road closures.Creating any sort of atmosphere was tough. But I will credit the fans who made it.

Second, as UW introduced its seniors prior to the game, junior quarterback Josh Allen was among them. That said to me that Allen won’t come back next season and will give pro football a try. Don’t think this was surprising news to most, but it put some finality to that decision, don’t you think? Allen didn’t play due to his injured right shoulder and didn’t do any postgame interviews.

Here’s coach Craig Bohl on Allen and the game:

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Wyoming vs. Fresno State football live chat replay

Here’s the replay of my live chat from Wyoming’s 13-7 loss to Fresno State Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

For coverage of this game and other UW sports, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and check back to wyosports.net.

Live Blog Wyoming vs. Fresno State football live chat

Wyoming vs. Fresno State football – pregame primer

The final home game for Wyoming is at noon Saturday at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium against Fresno State. The game will be televised by AT&T SportsNet (used to be ROOT Sports).

Here is my No. 1 key to the game for the Cowboys:

Josh Allen

Be diverse offensively: On paper, Wyoming is going up against one of the best defenses in the country in Fresno State. The Cowboys need to be creative in what they do offensively. That doesn’t mean come out with a lot of trick plays, or get away from its identity offensively. But depending on the health status of junior quarterback Josh Allen, offensive coordinator Brent Vigen needs to come up with a plan that keeps Fresno State’s defense on its heels. Establishing the run would be a good start, which is key for any game UW plays. Even if Allen plays, limiting the hits he takes is crucial. If junior backup Nick Smith starts or plays, he must be put in situations where he can be successful. Ultimately, UW’s other play-makers, whether that be receivers, running backs or tight ends, must make more plays. Would a trick play or two, or even some different looks or formations work? Perhaps, but the Cowboys also can’t completely reinvent the wheel. There needs to be a balance between the two.

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James evolving, still growing as a player for Cowboys

Wyoming sophomore guard Justin James, at 6-foot-7, is the Cowboys’ leading scorer this season at 15.3 points per game. All of those points have been off the bench, but James is among the team leaders in minutes at 24.2 per game.

Justin James

Justin James

James often is the Cowboys’ point guard, and of all the players on the team, has the ball in his hands more often than not. A by-product of that is turnovers. His 55 are second-most on the team.

The Port St. Lucie, Florida, product is coming off back-to-back 20-point games, including a game-high 26-point effort in the Cowboys’ 83-74 road win at Air Force last Saturday. James also had a career-high seven assists in that game.

The only other time this season James had consecutive 20-point games was back in late November when he had a career-high 28 at California, and 21 at home against Denver. In those games, James had a combined three turnovers. Against Air Force and the previous game against Boise State, he had nine.

“We’ve been harping on it,” said first-year UW coach Allen Edwards on the turnovers by James this season. “The thing with Justin is he’ll continue to get better. Sometimes he tries to rely on talent, and that’s where he gets into trouble. Sometimes it may not be the ultimate respect for guy guarding him.”

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The unlikely story of Nick Szpor

Quickly, who can tell me who Nick Szpor is?

Hint: He’s a starter for Wyoming’s football team as a true freshman walk-on.

Still no clue?

Nick Szpor

Nick Szpor

Szpor came to UW this summer as a 6-foot-3, 202-pound true freshman walk-on quarterback from Central High in Fresno, California, right in Fresno State’s backyard.

“One of my best friends from home picked Wyoming to go to school as a regular student, and he offered to bring me out here to check things out,” Szpor said. “My dad found (UW director of recruiting) Gordie Haug’s email address and contacted him.

“We took a trip here. Gordie gave us a tour. We met with (UW offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach) Brent Vigen and I was offered a walk-on spot.”

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Final MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here is my final Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings of the regular season.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com from games played through Sunday, Feb. 28. The MW is 12th in conference RPI, but the league now has three teams ranked in the top 100 after having just two for much of the season.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. San Diego State (21-8 overall, 14-2 MW, 58 RPI): An odd and unexpected collapse at home against Boise State that snapped a streak of 164 straight wins for the Aztecs when they led with five minutes left to play. Still the No. 1 team in the league, but perhaps more vulnerable now.

2. Fresno State (20-9 overall, 11-5 MW, 84 RPI): In second place alone in the conference, and has won eight of its last 10 games. Also has the longest winning streak in the league at four. I wouldn’t want to play this team in the MW Tournament, and the Bulldogs also are getting healthier from a physical aspect.

3. Boise State (19-10 overall, 10-6 MW, 82 RPI): An impressive come-from-behind  road win at Boise State without its best player, junior forward James Webb III, due a knee injury. Also made a big jump in the RPI after it was hovering around 100 last week.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings this week.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com from games played through Sunday, Feb. 21. The MW is 11th in conference RPI. Three MW teams are ranked in top 100 in the RPI, and seven are ranked between 112 and 200 out of 351 Division I teams.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. San Diego State (20-7 overall, 13-1 MW, 50 RPI): Just one game for the Aztecs this past week, which may have been a good thing as it makes a push toward the postseason.  An interesting week ahead with games at Wyoming and at home against Boise State.

2. Fresno State (18-9, 9-5, 94 RPI): In a tie for second place in the MW, and the team that made the biggest jump in this week’s power rankings. A game at New Mexico Saturday will tell a lot about the Bulldogs this week, but they are a team that can win the MW Tournament.

3. New Mexico (16-11, 9-5, 116 RPI): An impressive come-from-behind  home win over Boise State was followed up by a disappointing road loss at Air Force. Fans in Albuquerque are not happy with this team and its coach.

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UW vs. Fresno State men’s hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Robert Kuwada, who covers Fresno State men’s basketball for the Fresno Bee, about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Robert Kuwada

Robert Kuwada

Tip off is at 7 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

What is the health status of the Bulldogs heading into this game as they were without four frontcourt players in their last game at Nevada?

Fresno State will go into the game short, but could have at least one player back. Forward Torren Jones has been ruled out and forward Karachi Edo and center Terrell Carter II are doubtful. Forward Paul Watson (calf) could be back, but coach Rodney Terry said they are not going to push and risk further injury. Watson would be a critical piece against the Cowboys – he defended Josh Adams most of the second half in that first matchup down here and he was 3 of 12 over those 18 or so minutes.

Fresno State’s win over first-place San Diego State last week showed how good the Bulldogs are, but aside from the recent rash of injuries and illnesses, what has led to some of the inconsistent play with this group? 

That’s a very good question. It’s a bit weird for an older team with guys like Marvelle Harris, Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis that have played a lot of college basketball, but the consistency of effort hasn’t always been there. I think the loss at San Jose State with a chance to win a third conference game in a row was a tipping point, though, because they have been a lot more competitive since even while missing some key pieces. The Bulldogs beat UNLV without Jones, who had 18 points and eight rebounds in the first meeting. They beat San Diego State without Jones and Edo and with Watson going down early in the second half. They came from 13 down in the second half to force overtime before losing at Nevada, losing Carter that morning. They’re just are competing much better now than they did early in the year.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings this week.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com from games played through Sunday, Feb. 14. The MW fell from 11th to 12th in the RPI. Two MW teams are ranked in top 100 in the RPI, and seven are ranked between 112 and 172.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. San Diego State (19-7 overall, 12-1 MW, 49 RPI): Fresno State ruined the Aztecs’ chance of running the table in the conference, and that loss dropped its RPI from 43 last week to 49. But San Diego State remains atop the rankings for another week.

2. Boise State (17-9, 8-5, 93 RPI): The Broncos move up even though they lost (although statements from the MW two days afterwards confirmed they should have won due a video error) at Colorado State and ran all over Wyoming. The Broncos could be poised to go on a run as the season comes to a close.

3. New Mexico (15-10, 8-4, 118 RPI): A road loss at Utah State dropped the Lobos one spot, but they have a chance to climb back up as they host Boise State Wednesday. There isn’t a better one-two scoring tandem the league as sophomore guard Elijah Brown and junior forward Tim Williams.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings this week.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com. The MW moved up from 12th to 11th in conference RPI. Two MW teams are ranked in top 100 in the RPI, and seven are ranked between 112 and 180.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. San Diego State (18-6 overall, 11-0 MW, 43 RPI): Another nice week for the Aztecs as they extended their winning streak to 11 games. It’s not always pretty offensively, but this group finds a way to get it done — especially defensively.

2. New Mexico (14-9, 7-3, 112 RPI): The Lobos split their two games last week, including an overtime loss at San Diego State which there is no shame in. They are still playing like the second-best team in the MW.

3. Boise State (16-8, 7-4, 86 RPI): The Broncos escaped with a home win over Utah State and lost at Air Force. Boise State is reeling a bit, but it stays near the top of the power rankings for now.

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