UW vs. Air Force – pregame reading

A few notes and quotes to get you ready for Wyoming’s home finale against Air Force Saturday. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. MT from Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNEWS.

First, my No. 1 key for the Cowboys:

Assignment sound: Meaning every player on Wyoming’s defense must do their jobs each and every play against Air Force’s option-oriented offense. This is an important aspect in any game, but it gets magnified going against option football. One missed assignment could result in a big play or touchdown.

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Pownell Jr. looking to make impact for Cowboys this season

Chavez Pownell Jr. came close to playing last season at safety for Wyoming.

But in the end, coach Craig Bohl and the staff decided to keep the redshirt on Pownell to get him ready for the 2015 season.

Chavez Pownell Jr.

Chavez Pownell Jr.

“It all worked out in the end. Whatever coach Bohl said I know it’s for the best,” Pownell said.

Pownell is the only safety on scholarship on the roster right now for the Cowboys. After last Saturday’s first spring scrimmage, he was listed as the starter at strong safety — ahead of redshirt freshman walk-on Marcus Epps.

Pownell had six tackles in that first scrimmage — the second-most among all defensive players. His four solo stops tied for the second-most.

“It makes me feel good, but you never know what can happen,” Pownell said. “Me, (redshirt freshman walk-on Adam Pilapil) and Marcus are all about at the same skill level. We have to make sure we’re grinding every day.”

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Bowl season starts Saturday with four MW teams in action

A record seven Mountain West football teams made it to bowl games. The old record was six in 2013.

Four of those teams will play their bowl games Saturday, the first day of the bowl season. Here’s who I think will win and why. As the other bowl games with MW teams approach, I will pick those as well. As always, your feedback is encouraged.

New Orleans Bowl — Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana (8-4), 9 a.m. MT (ESPN)

This is basically a road game for Nevada as it plays the in-state school that is playing in this game for the fourth consecutive year. The Ragin’ Cajuns won the previous three.

The two teams are evenly matched. Nevada averages 31.3 points per game; Louisiana (8-4) averages 30.6. Nevada allows 28.2 points per game; Louisiana 27.9. Both teams also have dual-threat quarterbacks: Nevada’s Cody Fajardo and Louisiana’s Terrance Broadway.

Nevada is good enough to win this game, but I am sticking with Ragin’ Cajuns as it will have the definite home-field advantage. Plus, Nevada will kickoff this game at 8 a.m. PT on their own time clocks. It may take the Wold Pack a while to wake up.. Louisiana 34, Nevada 28.

New Mexico Bowl — Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5), 12:20 p.m. MT (ESPN)

UTEP averages 212.7 rushing yards per game, and Utah State allows only 129.3 rushing yards per contest. Utah State also is a more well-rounded team offensively and defensively.

UTEP has allowed 46 touchdowns this season, compared to 33 for Utah State. The Aggies may take a little time to get going on offense, but their defense will carry them to an easy victory. Utah State 38, UTEP 20.

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Border War key to the game; along with notes, quotes and video

Here is WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s top key to the game for the Wyoming Cowboys in their Border War game against Colorado State, which kicks off at 5 p.m. today at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Communication: Talking about Wyoming’s defense. With two of its most important starters out with injuries — free safety Darrenn White and outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha — and possibly two other starters (senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi and senior cornerback DeAndre Jones). It is vital the Cowboys know what they are doing against a high-powered Colorado State offense that will use a lot of shifts and motions at the line of scrimmage to set up mismatches.

Gagliardi and WyoSports editor Scott Nulph preview today’s game on their weekly video blog:

This game over the years always has featured players and coaches with ties to both schools.

UW lists 20 players from Colorado on its roster, and 13 have starting experience. Many of them know CSU players going back to when they were in high school. Some were recruited by both schools, others were shunned by Colorado State.

UW senior defensive end Riley Lange, who is from Parker, Colorado, talks about that this week:

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UW football fall camp schedule

Wyoming released its fall camp schedule for football Thursday.

A quick note to fans: All practices are open for only the first 30 minutes (for the media as well). And, the lone scrimmage of camp set for Saturday, Aug. 16, is closed to both the media and fans.

First-year coach Crag Bohl told me at Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas last week that while camp will be physical, there won’t be a lot of “hitting.” He said most of the hitting was done during spring.

Former coach Dave Christensen held three fall camp scrimmages last season.

Any thoughts on this?

Here is this year’s practice schedule:

Monday, Aug. 4: 9:30 a.m. (Non-contact, Helmets, Practice #1)
Tuesday, Aug. 5: 8:30 a.m. (Non-contact, Helmets Practice #2)
Wednesday, Aug. 6: 8:30 a.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #3)
Thursday, Aug. 7: 8:30 a.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #4)
Friday, Aug. 8: 8:30 a.m. (Full Pads, Practice #5)

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Thoughts on QB Thompson leaving UW for Utah

First it was Brett Smith, now it’s Jason Thompson.

Wyoming has lost its top two quarterbacks heading into the 2014 season. Smith declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft on the final Friday of 2013. On the first Tuesday of 2014, Thompson transferred to Utah.

Jason Thompson

Jason Thompson

Thompson, who would have been a redshirt sophomore this season, wasn’t guaranteed the job for first-year coach Craig Bohl. But he was the most experienced player on the roster having played six games and starting one in 2012. He redshirted in 2013 to hone his quarterbacking skills.

Is it ironic that Thompson is going to Utah where his former coach — Dave Christensen — if the offensive coordinator? Probably not. To think that didn’t play a factor would be naive.

In fact, Christensen was officially introduced as Utah’s offensive coordinator Tuesday. Here are some links to what he said, and some stories by the fine folks at The Salt Lake Tribune.



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Christensen hired as Utah’s offensive coordinator

Former Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen was hired Friday as Utah’s offensive coordinator.

Not a big surprise.

Christensen and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham are long-time friends and colleagues. Both were assistant coaches at Idaho State in the early 1990s.

Former Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen was hired as offensive coordinator at Utah Friday.

Former Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen was hired as offensive coordinator at Utah Friday.

“As one of the pioneers of the spread offense, Dave Christensen is an innovative coach and was the architect of one of the top offenses in the country during his time at Missouri,” said Whittingham in a statement from the school Friday. “We feel fortunate he was available and interested in joining our program, and he will be a great fit with our staff. We want an explosive offense and that’s been a trademark of Dave’s throughout his career as an offensive coordinator.”

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Burman talks about UW football coaching search

Wyoming athletics director Tom Burman talked to the media for about 20 minutes Monday about the firing of football coach Dave Christensen Sunday, and the process of finding a new coach.

Here are some notes and quotes from his news conference:

–Burman said he didn’t know until Sunday that he would fire Christensen, but also looked at the last four or five games and how the team competed. UW lost five of its last six games and lost four of them by between 28 and 38 points.

–Burman said as of now he won’t hire a search firm, and “likely won’t even bring candidates on campus” for interviews. He said there won’t be an official search committee, but will draw help and feedback from staff members in the athletics department. Burman also said he has reached out to former UW coaches and administrators who “we trust,” such as former football coach Joe Tiller.

–Burman said it would be ideal for the next coach to have college head coaching experience, but it won’t be a “deal-killer” if that’s not the case.

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Christensen fired as UW football coach

Speculation became reality Sunday afternoon with the news Wyoming fired football coach Dave Christensen after five seasons.

Did it surprise any of you?

But where does UW go from here in its search for a new coach? Where do you think it should go?

Since 2000 it has gone in a lot of different directions:

–Vic Koenning replaced Dana Dimel in 2000. Koenning was Dimel’s defensive coordinator and was given his first head coaching job after Dimel took a similar position at Houston.

–Koenning won five games in three years, and was replaced by Joe Glenn in 2003, who won national titles at the Division II level (Northern Colorado) and at Montana (FCS).

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UW-Utah State postgame thoughts

Wyoming’s 2013 football season came to an end Saturday with a 35-7 loss at Utah State.

The final score wasn’t a surprise, but the way things transpired was — in a way.

Here’s video of the team coming off the field after the game, while Utah State (8-4, 7-1) celebrated its Mountain Division title.

The Cowboys played well defensively. Two turnovers from the offense gave Utah State short fields, which resulted in two touchdowns. UW also allowed a punt return for a touchdown.

Even though Utah State isn’t an offensive juggernaut without starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton, UW allowed a season-low 310 total yards. The Cowboys were not overwhelmed defensively, and I agree with coach Dave Christensen’s assessment that the defense played well enough for the team to win this game.

But the offense and special teams didn’t.

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