Battle of Mountain Division Leaders, Wyoming vs. Boise State

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 It will be one of the biggest games to be played in the recent history of Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium when the Wyoming Cowboys, 5-2 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West, host the Boise State Broncos, 7-0 and 3-0 in the MW, on Saturday, Oct. 29 in a game scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m., M.T.  Wyoming received a vote in this week’s Amway Coaches Poll while Boise State is currently ranked 13th in both the Amway Coaches Poll and the Associated Press Media Poll.

Tickets have been selling well for this week’s game and with temperatures forecast to reach into the 60s on Saturday another large crowd is expected in War Memorial Stadium.  Fans may purchase tickets at GoWyo.com/tickets, by calling 307-766-7220, via email at tickets@uwyo.edu or by stopping by the UW Athletics Ticket Office this week on the west side of the Arena-Auditorium.

Wyoming will be looking to win its fifth consecutive home game, dating back to the end of the 2015 season.  UW captured its fourth consecutive home win and fifth home win in its last six home games when it defeated Air Force 35-26 on Sat., Oct. 8.  The  last time Wyoming won four consecutive home games was the final home game of the 2013 season through the first three home games of the 2014 campaign.  The last time the Cowboys won five consecutive home games began midway in the 2006 season and into the 2007 season.  UW won six consecutive home games during that stretch over Utah, Colorado State, San Diego State, Virginia, Utah State and TCU.

With their 3-0 start in conference play this season, the Pokes have recorded their best conference start since joining the Mountain West in 1999.  The last time Wyoming enjoyed this strong of a start in conference play was in 1998, UW’s last year in the Western Athletic Conference, when the Cowboys began conference play with a 6-0 record.
The Cowboys and Broncos will both bring 3-0 conference records into Saturday’s game to tie for the lead in the Mountain Division.  The only other MW school that is unbeaten in conference play this season is 3-0 San Diego State in the West Division.

Two of the nation’s most exciting running backs will be featured in Saturday’s game.  Wyoming’s Brian Hill enters this week ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing, averaging 144.3 yards per game.  Hill recorded his second 1,000-yard rushing season last week when he ran for 289 yards in Wyoming’s win at Nevada.  That improved his season total to 1,010 rushing yards.  Hill’s performance at Nevada earned him Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week honors. 

Boise State junior running back Jeremy McNichols ranks No. 6 in the nation, averaging 130.7 yards rushing per game and has 915 total rushing yards this season.

Another Cowboy who is having an outstanding season is sophomore free safety Andrew Wingard.  This week, Wingard was one of only 16 players in the nation to be named a semifinalist for the 2016 Jim Thorpe Award, which honors college football’s best defensive back.  Wingard is ranked No. 1 in the nation among active players in two career categories.  He is ranked No. 1 in the nation in career tackles per game among active NCAA players, averaging 10.37 tackles per game over his two-year career.  He is also ranked No. 1 in the nation in solo tackles per game among all active players, averaging 5.17 solo tackles over the past two seasons.

In addition to the matchup of two of the Mountain West’s best running backs, two of the league’s top receivers will also be highlighted on Saturday.  Wyoming senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry broke into the UW career Top 10 list for receiving yards last week in the victory over Nevada.  Gentry caught four passes for 109 yards versus the Wolf Pack to improve his career total to 2,101 receiving yards.  He moved past Cowboy greats Shawn Wiggins (2,027 yards), Robert Herron (2,030) and Steve Martinez (2,043) into eighth place in school history.  Gentry enters this week with 146 career receptions.  He needs only six more catches to move into the UW Top 10 in career receptions.  Gentry ranks third in the MW and 23rd in the nation in receiving yards per game this season, averaging 87.4 yards per game.  He also has caught a pass in 26 consecutive games.

For Boise State, senior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck has caught a pass in 30 consecutive games.  Sperbeck set a new Boise State career receiving record in last week’s 28-27 win over BYU.  Sperbeck, like Gentry, had 109 yards receiving in his most recent game last week, and he now has 3,075 career receiving yards to rank No. 1 in Bronco history.  Sperbeck leads the Mountain West and ranks No. 11 in the NCAA this season in receiving yards, averaging 115.7 yards per game.
The Cowboys and Broncos are two of the highest scoring teams in the Mountain West this season, and have virtually identical numbers.  Wyoming has scored 241 points in seven games, while Boise State has scored 240 to rank No. 2 and 3 in the MW and No. 37 and 38 nationally.

Leading those offenses are two young, talented quarterbacks.  Wyoming redshirt sophomore Josh Allen leads the Mountain West in points responsible for, averaging 13.7 points per game either passing, running or receiving.  Allen caught the first TD pass of his career last week at Nevada to go with two rushing touchdowns against the Wolf Pack.  Allen ranks No. 3 in the league in total offense (231.0 yards per game).  Bronco sophomore QB Brett Rypien is No. 1 in the conference in passing yards (294.9 per game) and total offense (293.7 per game).      

The Bronco defense is allowing only 20.4 points per game to rank No. 2 in the conference.  Wyoming’s defensive is allowing 30.3 points per game to rank seventh, but the Cowboy defense has been exceptional at forcing turnovers and scoring points itself.  UW ranks No. 2 in the nation in defensive touchdowns scored, with four.  The Cowboy defense also leads the Mountain West and ranks 16th nationally in forcing turnovers, with 15 on the season.  Meanwhile Boise State has forced only three opponent turnovers in 2016, while committing 11 turnovers of its own.

Saturday’s game will be televised live on CBS Sports Network.  The game will be broadcast live on radio over the 25 affiliate stations of the Cowboy Sports Network, beginning with the pregame show at 4 p.m., M.T.