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.
No sense in breaking the pattern — here is my No. 1 key for Wyoming for its game Friday night at Utah State:
Help Smith succeed: Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Smith will make his first-career start. Smith started the season as Wyoming’s No. 3 quarterback, but has been the No. 2 guy since the second game of the season. He’s had mixed results in two games. He still has some development in front of him as a passer, but he can run the ball. The Cowboys’ coaches have to have a plan for him to succeed both running and throwing. Don’t look for UW to change its offense, but it must have some wrinkles to work on Smith’s strengths. Smith will need to throw the ball, but they must be throws he can make.
Here is WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s key to the game for Wyoming for its home game today against Utah State. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. MT at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.
Match the Aggies: Wyoming coach Craig Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen both said Utah State plays the hardest of any team the Cowboys have faced in the Mountain West to this point. Whether it is on offense or defense UW has to match that — or surpass that — to have a chance to win.
Yes, no, Gagliardi has no idea what he’s talking about? What do you think, folks?
Here is Gagliardi and WyoSports editor Scott Nulph’s video preview of today’s game:
A few notes on today’s game:
–The two teams meet for the 65th time and the series dates back to 1903, and is the fifth-longest series in UW history. Last year, a new twist was added to the series with it being called “Bridger’s Battle.” Last year, the two teams played for a “Bridger Rifle,” a .50-caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle that was popular among the mountain men of the 1800s, and was the rifle carried by legendary mountain Man Jim Bridger.
Here is the rifle the Wyoming and Utah State teams will be playing for each year.
–With one catch, UW senior receiver Dominic Rufran will tie Jovon Bouknight’s (2002-05) school record with a catch in 47 consecutive games. Bouknight is the pass game coordinator and receivers coach at Utah State. Rufran also needs 50 receiving yards to move past Malcom Floyd (2000-03) into sixth place in career receiving yards. Rufran has 2,362.
–This is Utah State’s first game at UW as a member of the Mountain West, and first game in Laramie since 2007.
–Utah State has won 12 straight games in November, ad 16 of the last 18 dating back to 2010. The Aggies also have won 12 of their last 13 conference road games, including a 5-1 mark in MW road games.
Wyoming senior receiver Dominic Rufran is one of the most humble players on the team, and has been one of the more humble guys in the program the last four years.
With a catch in Saturday’s 106th Border War game at Colorado State, Rufran will be the nation’s leader among active players with a catch in 45 consecutive games. For Rufran, that would mark every game of his Cowboys’ career.
“As of now in the middle of the season, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me,” Rufran said. “At the end of the season it may be more important to me at that time, and something to look back on and be proud of.”
Rufran will pass Boise State senior receiver Matt Miller if he catches a pass against Colorado State. Miller had been ahead of Rufran all season before being sidelined with a season-ending ankle injuries a couple of weeks ago.
There is a little irony here. If Rufran continues to catch passes in games, he will break Jovon Bouknight’s school-record of 47 straight games with at least one catch on Nov. 22 at home against Boise State.
During his current streak, Rufran has caught only one pass in five games, and three of those were as a true freshman in 2011. His two catches in last week’s 27-20 overtime loss to San Jose State was a season-low. Rufran has caught four or more passes in 16 of his last 19 games dating back to last season.
Here’s some leftover quotes from former Wyoming receiver/return specialist Jovon Bouknight — now the receivers coach at Utah State — that didn’t make my story in today’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang.
“We joke about it, but for the most part this is a very important game for us regardless of who is coming in this week. We’ve got to get a win under our belt. We’re going to be hungry regardless of whoever was coming in. It just happens to be the good ole Cowboys coming in.”
“(Becoming a coach) has been a journey that’s happened real fast. I’m blessed to be in this position, and have met and worked with some great guys along the way. I love being a wide receivers coach. I was there not too long ago. I kind of understand exactly what they’re going through on and off the field.”
“You’ve got to change a little bit (going from being a player to a coach), but you’ve got to take those situations for what it is. There are times to be more laid back, and times to be more vocal. I believe in going out there and being comfortable, relaxed and focused. That’s the approach I take with my guys.”
Bouknight, now 28, said he doesn’t run routes with his guys, or even to teach them how to run routes. However, he told me sometimes he will play defense against them to “give them a look from time to time.”
Gotta say, it was great to talk to Bouknight again. I don’t go back in terms of history as many UW fans do, but he was one of my favorite Cowboys to watch and cover. If he was a shade faster, he’s probably still in the NFL right now.
There were no new changes on the depth chart Monday for Wyoming, but it doesn’t mean they still aren’t coming.
“We’re still competing in practice,” coach Dave Christensen said. “We’ve given a lot of players opportunities in practice. There are no significant changes yet, but there’s certainly ongoing competition at all positions. That will continue through Thursday. We’re not going to make any decisions as long as the competition is good right now.”