Wyoming vs. Air Force football primer

Some notes and quotes for Saturday’s homecoming game for Wyoming against the Air Force Academy. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on ROOT Sports.

First, my No. 1 key for UW today:

Josh Allen

Josh Allen

Making plays through the air: Wyoming wants and needs to run the football, and it will try. However, Air Force allows just 53 rushing yards per game. On paper, it looks like UW redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen is going to have to make some plays in the passing game. How much remains to be seen, but there will be times when Allen must do that. Allen needs to be sharp and efficient today.

— As far as homecoming games go, UW is 44-44-3 all-time. At War Memorial Stadium, the Cowboys are 39-25-2.

— One quick note from last week’s 38-17 win at Colorado State. As most of you know the Cowboys’ defense didn’t allow any points in the second half. They also gave up just 134 yards of total offense, including two rushing yards.

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Wyoming at Air Force football: notes, quotes and video

My top key for Wyoming in its football game Saturday night at Air Force:

Convert scoring chances: Wyoming hasn’t had a problem moving the ball offensively at 396.4 yards per game. But it has had trouble scoring at 19.4 points per game. The Cowboys are last among 127 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in red zone offense as they’ve scored 10 of 19 times. Negative plays (penalties or plays that lose yardage) and turnovers all have been factors in UW’s futility. It must be cleaned up if it hopes to win this game — or any game the rest of the season.

Of course, there are several other things UW must do well in this game. For more of those, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and log on to wyosports.net

I delve into some of those other keys in my video preview of the game:

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Mountain West football power rankings/picks – Week 12

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his weekly installment of the Mountain West football power rankings and picks for Week 12 of the college football season. Look for this every week during the football season, and as always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Colorado State (9-1 overall, 5-1 MW): Remains No. 1 again this week. Winners of eight straight and the only MW team ranked (23rd in the coaches poll, 25th AP). Despite its success, the Rams must win out and hope Boise State loses one of its final three games to claim the Mountain Division title. This week: Off.

2. Boise State (7-2, 5-1): A close second behind Colorado State, and is the only team to beat the Rams this season. You can make a case for the Broncos to be at the top. Leads the MW in scoring (37.7 ppg) and is second with 43 touchdowns scored. This week: vs. San Diego State, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU). Boise State had trouble stopping New Mexico’s run game last week. It will be better this week. Boise St. 27, San Diego St. 16.

3. Utah State (7-3, 4-1): No matter who plays quarterback, the Aggies have speed on the edges and the league’s leading defense in scoring (19.2 ppg), rushing (96.1 ypg), turnover forced (27) and turnover margin (+13). This week: vs. New Mexico, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNews). New Mexico may get some rushing yards as it is third in the nation running the ball, but not nearly enough as the Aggies will roll. Utah State 38, New Mexico 17.

4. Air Force (7-2, 3-2): Quietly putting together a solid season, and Troy Calhoun should be a candidate for Coach of the Year in the league. The defense is rock-solid, including top 10 against the run. This week: vs. Nevada, noon MT Saturday (ROOT). One of the best match-ups of the week. Can the Falcons’ defense slow down Nevada senior quarterback Cody Fajardo? It will enough to remain unbeaten at home. Air Force 24, Nevada 20.

5. Nevada (6-3, 3-2): The favorite to win the West Division, and the only team in that division with a winning road record (3-1). This week: at Air Force, noon MT Saturday (ROOT). Should be a good game, but I got to go with the home team as the West Division race will continue to be a jumbled mess. Air Force 24, Nevada 20.

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Wyoming-Air Force football notes and quotes

Here are some notes and quotes that didn’t make the print or online platforms for WyoSports this week leading up to Saturday’s Wyoming-Air Force football game.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

–First-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl said the Cowboys have a big challenge facing Air Force’s option-oriented offense and its 3-4, blitzing defense. But Bohl also said: “I hope they look at us and have their hands full, also.”

–Air Force has modified its offense some over the years from a true triple-option. Make no mistake, the Falcons are option-oriented, but run a lot of those concepts out of different formations and blocking schemes. But it is still option football. “We appreciate Air Force’s commitment to sticking to their guns,” Bohl said.

–Bohl said he got a pretty good pulse of his team in about the second quarter of last week’s game with Montana. “We have good physical skills, but I wouldn’t say we have great physical skills. … For us to be very good this year, we’re going to have to become a more physical football team. I thought we got off to a good start (last week), but we have to be a little more assured in what we are doing.”

–UW senior cornerback DeAndre Jones on playing a conference game this early: “We’re going to try and be the first in the conference this season to get a win. Every conference game is important.”

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UW-Air Force Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force football for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., about Saturday night’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.

Air Force has struggled on defense in its last two games — losses to Utah State and Boise State — where it was outscored 94-40. What is the problems defensively, or is it more that Utah State and Boise State are that good on offense?

The Falcons have been slow to adjust to particular schemes. Against Utah State, quarterback Chuckie Keeton was able to break the pocket and then wait and see if Air Force’s defensive backs were going to stay in coverage, in which case he would run. When defensive backs would break coverage, he would hit open receivers. Air Force never figured out the best plan to stop him. Against Boise State, the bubble screens — quick-hitting passes to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage — accounted for 17 of the pass completions (on 17 attempts) and routinely went for 6-10 yards. Both of those teams executed extremely well and will have success against most teams, but Air Force’s inability to react certainly played a part.

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Christensen fields questions about last year’s Air Force tirade

First off, Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen answered questions about this year’s Air Force team — the one the Cowboys play Saturday night at Air Force to open Mountain West play.

But you knew questions would soon follow about Christensen’s obscenity-laced tirade toward Air Force coach Troy Calhoun after last season’s 28-27 Cowboys loss to the Falcons in Laramie.

Wyoming will wear is camo-patterned uniforms for Saturday's game at Air Force. The Cowboys wore these uniforms for last year's game with the Falcons. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

Wyoming will wear is camo-patterned uniforms for Saturday’s game at Air Force. The Cowboys wore these uniforms for last year’s game with the Falcons. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

Christensen, who was suspended one game and fined $50,000 for the incident, answered the questions with class and calmness. But one could tell he didn’t want to spend all of Monday answering questions about it.

“I am not playing one snap, and I don’t think Troy is, either,” he said. “Our focus is on execution and being ready to play Saturday night. My behavior is going to be much better. I will watch my Ps and Qs.”

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Reaction, thoughts to Christensen suspension and fine

By now you know that Wyoming athletics director Tom Burman suspended football coach Dave Christensen Monday for one week and fined him $50,000 for his postgame, profanity-laced tirade with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun after the Cowboys’ 28-27 home loss on Oct. 13.

Christensen won’t be allowed any access to the team or facilities this week, and Burman said he will be reinstated Sunday morning. Christensen will be paid while he’s suspended, but Burman said a week’s pay for Christensen is “significantly less” than the fine he levied.

The discipline was not only a result of Christensen’s reaction to Calhoun after the game, but also from the YouTube video that surfaced last last week that captured the outburst. Burman said he first saw the video last Monday — two days after the game.

Why didn’t Burman suspend Christensen sooner is what many fans are asking? Burman said he didn’t want to make a “hasty” decision and wanted to consult with school president Tom Buchanan and UW’s legal advisers to see if what he had in mind would fly. Burman said Christensen’s actions were a suspendable offense as soon as he saw the video.

Burman also said he didn’t have his mind made up about the suspension and fine before last Saturday’s 42-14 loss at Fresno State, but knew something more needed to be done other than apologies from Christensen the Sunday and Monday after the Air Force game.

“In my mind it doesn’t matter which game you suspend him for if you choose to make that decision,” Burman said.

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MW mid-season power ratings

It’s the halfway point of the season in the Mountain West. All 10 teams have played at least six games, and some have played seven.

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi rates all 10 teams and why. Look for his ratings on a weekly basis as the season continues

1. Boise State (5-1 overall, 2-0 MW): The offensive fire power isn’t there, but the defense has been stellar. The Broncos lead the MW in scoring defense (14.7 ppg), pass defense (173.3 ypg), total defense (334.7 ypg), turnover margin (+11), pass efficiency defense (103.4) and first downs allowed (109).

2. Nevada (6-1, 3-0): The most dynamic offense that leads the MW in scoring (41 ppg) and total offense (549.9 ypg). The Wolf Pack can run and throw with the best of them. A fourth-quarter letdown at home against South Florida is the only thing keeping this team from being undefeated and probably nationally ranked. The defense needs to improve and the better teams in the conference still await.

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Christensen apologizes for postgame blow-up

Wyoming sent a statement out to the media Sunday night regarding football coach Dave Christensen’s reaction and comments after the Cowboys’ 28-27 loss to Air Force Saturday in Laramie.

“I want to apologize to Wyoming fans, the Mountain West Conference and the game of college football for my actions and for the comments that I made after our game against Air Force,” said Christensen in the statement. “I let my emotions, my passion for our football program and the frustrations of the first half of the season get the best of me, and my actions reflected negatively on our program.

“I have always tried to teach the young men in our program the importance of sportsmanship in our game, and with that said, I believe it is important to let them know that when you do make a mistake you need to stand up and take responsibility for your actions.  That is what I am doing with this apology.”

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UW-Air Force postgame thoughts

If you would have told me Wyoming would gain more yards rushing than Air Force and gain more overall yards with a backup quarterback as the starter I would have lost a lot of money.

But true freshman Jason Thompson looked great in the first half, but couldn’t keep it up in the second half as UW lost 28-27 on homecoming. The Cowboys have lost all three of their games this season by a combined six points.

Thompson started because it was announced through coach Dave Christensen’s Twitter account sophomore Brett Smith wouldn’t start. Thompson spilled the beans in his post-game interview that it was another concussion suffered at Nevada. I think that confirmed a lot of people’s speculation. I wasn’t surprised at all Smith didn’t play. Christensen said he will know more Monday about Smith’s return, but is optimistic he will be back this season.

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