Wyoming at Air Force – pregame primer

Wyoming plays its fifth consecutive and final Mountain Division game of the season at Air Force Saturday night. Kick off is at 8:15 p.m. MT at Falcon Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Here is my top key for the Cowboys in the game:

Play keep away: An oldie but a goodie this season for Wyoming, but one that best fits this game. The Cowboys stand a lot better chance of winning if their offense can go on sustained drives, finish with points and keep the Falcons’ triple-option offense off the field. This is what Air Force wants to do, and has done most of the season as it leads the Mountain West in scoring at 34 points per game, and is 10th nationally in time of possession at 33 minutes, 29 seconds per contest. The longer Air Force has the ball, the more UW’s defense can wear down and be susceptible to giving up big plays.

Yes, no or am I completely off my rocker?

Some notes and quotes on this game:

— I posed this question at wyosports.net, but do you think Air Force is a rivalry game for the Cowboys? I say it is. Maybe not on the scale as the Border War with Colorado State, but honestly, I don’t think it is that far behind, either. The two teams play for the 56th time Saturday, and for the 38th consecutive year. It is the sixth-longest series versus an opponent in UW history. Nine of the last 12 games have been decided by 10 points or less. Would love to get your feedback on this. Check out my story in Friday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and also at wyosports.net on what players from both teams think about this.

Drew Van Maanen

— “I’m feeling a lot better than I was a few seconds after that play. My right arm came back quicker than the left, and it took quite a while for my left hand to come back to me. My neck is a little stiff. But I will get into the chiropractor this week, get a little massage and I’ll be ready to go.” — UW senior fullback Drew Van Maanen on how he felt early this week after his diving catch on the Cowboys’ game-winning scoring drive last Saturday against Colorado State. Van Maanen suffered a “double stinger” according to coach Craig Bohl.

— This game features another strength vs. strength matchup. UW (6-3 overall, 4-1 Mountain West) is second in the MW in scoring defense (18.6 points per game) and Air Force leads the league in scoring at 34 points per contest — despite being shutout 21-0 last week at home against Army. The Cowboys have held four teams to 14 points or less this season. Air Force (4-5, 3-2) has scored 34 points or more six times.

— The Cowboys have won three of their four conference games this season by seven points or less, and a combined 15 points. “It starts with coaching, and it is tough to lose when we take care of football and the defense has been playing as well as it has. That’s what we’re going to contine to do.” — UW junior quarterback Josh Allen.

— I mentioned my No. 1 key for the Cowboys in this game earlier, but looking back at last season’s 35-26 UW home victory over Air Force I discovered another key — balance on offense. UW ran for 189 yards and threw for 173. I’m not sure the Cowboys are capable of running for 189 yards, but now would be as good as any to find that balance.

Kellen Overstreet

— One of the more impressive things from UW’s game-winning touchdown drive against Colorado State was the play of sophomore running back Kellen Overstreet. He scored the game-winning touchdown on a three-yard run. On that winning drive, and when UW ran out the clock to secure the win, Overstreet had seven carries for 43 yards. When asked if he will get more carries at Air Force, UW running backs coach Mike Bath said: “We’re always evaluating. With him playing the way he did, and he’s done some good this this season, I wouldn’t be surprised. But we will evaluate this week and see on game day.”

— Can you guess how many freshmen — true or redshirt — have played for UW this season? Twenty-three, including 11 true freshmen, six of which have started games.

Troy Calhoun

— Every week, opposing coaches have kinds words to say about Allen. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun was no exception. “A tremendous quarterback, perhaps as good a quarterback that’s ever played in this league. You think back to Alex Smith when he was at Utah. Allen has great, great arm talent, a tremendous body, a ton of experience and a guy that’s very effective on pre-determined runs. He is every bit as mobile as Andy Dalton was at TCU. It isn’t just being able to throw the ball the furthest, but more about his sense of anticipation and accuracy.”

— Finally, at the end of his weekly news conference Monday, Bohl was asked what the keys to this game will be. “Limit explosive plays as far as the quarterback getting to the alley, the fullback dive or in the passing game. We need to be plus-two or better in the turnover margin and offensively, we have to be able to move the football,” he said. Can’t argue with any of that.

— Although this won’t help this week, Bohl said Wednesday junior nose tackle Sidney Malauulu (knee) could return as early as next week. It is probably more realistic that he could play in UW’s regular-season finale at San Jose State Nov. 25. Still, that is good news for an interior defensive line that is down to three healthy players.

See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net, for a feature on UW junior safety Marcus Epps and how his life changed dramatically last year. There also will be more preview content for the Air Force game.