Some pregame reading prior to tonight’s Wyoming football game with Utah State. Kickoff is at 8:15 p.m. MT and televised on ESPN2.
First, my No. 1 key of the game for the Cowboys:
Focused and sharp: Wyoming’s win last week over Boise State was one of the program’s biggest in the last 20 years, but this is a new week and an opponent that is more than capable of winning — especially if UW isn’t sharp in all three aspects of the game. The Cowboys need to play well from start to finish, and make sure their focus is on Utah State, not last week’s victory.
Of all the quotes from third-year UW coach Craig Bohl, these may have been the most telling about today’s game, starting with the concerns of a letdown after the Cowboys’ 30-28 win over Boise State last week, and followed by Bohl’s thoughts on Utah State, that are 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Mountain West.
“You always get a little concerned when you have a young football team – and we are young – when you come off an emotional win like we did,” Bohl said. Sometimes emotions can run and then they run low. We need to be steady. There’s a difference between playing with great emotion and enthusiasm. Emotion will go up and down where enthusiasm and passion and love for the game will keep you consistent.
On Utah State: “They’ve encountered some injuries, but sometimes it’s just a year when the ball bounces one way or the other. They’re a really explosive football team and we’re going to have our hands full. We can’t tell where they’re at, we just have to make sure we’re on the right track.”
— This stat I found interesting: UW didn’t commit a penalty last week against Boise State. The last time the Cowboys did that in a game was Nov. 11, 1989 at San Diego State. And, UW lost that game 27-17. It’s rare to go through an entire game without a penalty, but to me its even more rare to do so and still lose.
— One factor in Utah State’s struggles this season has been injuries, but also with the fact they’ve had to change offensive coordinators each of the last two years. Former UW wide receiver Jovon Bouknight is co-offensive coordinator this season with Luke Wells. I have a story on Bouknight in Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and it also will be posted on wyosports.net. I asked Utah State junior starting quarterback Kent Myers on how the change in coordinators has affected the offense this season.
“We have to execute better. Linemen blocking up front, us being able to run the ball, completing pass, making competitive catches. We have good game plans and good weeks of work, it’s just about executing,” Myers said.
— Did you know former UW quarterback Brett Smith’s younger brother, Cade, is a redshirt freshman quarterback for Utah State? Cade Smith has yet to play this season. And, Brett Smith’s final game for the Cowboys came against Utah State in 2013 — a 35-7 UW loss. I also have a story on Brett Smith in Saturday’s WTE, Laramie Boomerang and online at wyosports.net.
— UW senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry moved into eighth place on UW’s career receiving yards list last week. He now has 2,174 yards. Gentry could move into eighth in career catches today. He needs four catches to tie for eighth place. Gentry enters the game with 152 career receptions. Gentry’s next touchdown catch will move him into a tie for 10th on UW’s career list. Gentry currently has 12. Fellow senior receiver Jake Maulhardt has 11.
— Utah State has gone to a bowl game in the first three season’s Matt Wells has been the head coach. However, the Aggies need to win three of their final four games to become bowl eligible. After today’s game, the Aggies have New Mexico at home and then play at Nevada and BYU.
“I want that (winning) feeling back,” Wells said. “Talent only takes you so far. We’ve got enough talent, and there are other teams in this league that have similar talent as us. When you get on a roll, you get confidence and you start to win. We’re searching for that, and Wyoming has that right now. I’m hopeful we find it and get on a roll.”
Finally, I pose a question: Do you consider Utah State a rival of UW’s? Today’s game is the 67th time the two teams have played football against each other. They used to be in the same conference back in the day, but have only been members of the MW together since 2013. They play for a traveling trophy, or in this case a gun. Utah State has won four straight in the series, and none were close. To me, it’s not a rivalry, but it can be. What do you all think?