The Wyoming Cowboys will look to continue their strong start to the 2016 season this week as they travel to Ypsilanti, Mich., to play the Eastern Michigan Eagles. This will be Wyoming’s only Friday night game of the season. Both the Cowboys and Eagles will enter the game with 2-1 records. The game will kick off at 5:30 p.m., M.T. (7:30 p.m., E.T.) from Rynearson Stadium on the EMU campus. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network and will be carried on the 25 radio stations of the Cowboy Sports Network. The radio broadcast will begin one hour prior to kickoff.
Due to the Wyoming Cowboys’ game at Eastern Michigan being played on Friday night this week, there may be some radio broadcast conflicts with Cowboy Sports Network affiliates who cover the Cowboys and local high school teams. Please check with your local Cowboy Sports Network affiliate for more information. The radio broadcast may also be accessed through GoWyo.com and the new Wyo Gameday app.
Wyoming will be playing its second Mid-American Conference (MAC) opponent this season. The Cowboys defeated Northern Illinois, 40-34 in triple overtime, in Laramie to begin the season on Sept. 3. The Cowboys are 7-4 all-time versus MAC member schools.
It will be Wyoming’s first-ever trip to Eastern Michigan. The two teams met for the first time in 2015, and Eastern Michigan won that meeting in Laramie by a score of 48-29. Eastern Michigan’s three games this season saw them open at home with a 61-14 win over Mississippi Valley State, who plays at the FCS level. EMU then traveled to Missouri, losing to the Tigers 21-61. Last week, the Eagles won a road game at Charlotte by a score of 37-19.
Wyoming is coming off one of its best all-around performances as the Cowboy offense, defense and special teams performed well in a convincing 45-22 home win over UC Davis last week. In Wyoming’s win over UC Davis, the Cowboy defense was outstanding, holding the Aggies to only 74 rushing yards and only 263 yards of total offense. That was the fewest rushing yards by a UW opponent since the Cowboys held Washington State to 75 yards rushing in 2015. It was the second fewest rushing yards given up by a Cowboy squad under the direction of head coach Craig Bohl -- second only to 42 rushing yards by Montana on Aug. 30, 2014, in Bohl’s first game as Wyoming head coach. The 263 yards of total offense were the fewest by a Cowboy opponent since holding Montana to 253 total yards in that same Aug. 30, 2014 meeting. UC Davis’ 22 points were the fewest by a Cowboy opponent since Nevada scored 21 in a 28-21 Cowboy victory last season.
The Cowboy defense also generated two turnovers versus UC Davis. One turnover came on a Rico Gafford interception, that was converted into a Brian Hill touchdown run. The other forced turnover by the Pokes was a fumble forced by Carl Granderson that was recovered by Conner Cain. That fumble was turned into a Cooper Rothe field goal.
Offensively, Wyoming rushed for 274 yards and passed for 198 against the Aggies, while scoring 45 points. The 45 points marked the second time in three games this season that Wyoming has scored 40 or more points in a game. Wyoming also scored 40 points in the 2016 season-opening win (40-34 in 3OT) over Northern Illinois. The 45 points scored by the Cowboys tied for the most in the Bohl era.
Junior running back Hill rushed for 207 yards last week, marking the sixth 200-yard game of his career and his 13th 100-yard game. He now has 2,808 career rushing yards and needs only 99 rushing yards to pass Ryan Christopherson for second place in school history and needs 156 to pass Devin Moore for the school record. Senior running back Shaun Wick could also move up the Wyoming career rushing list this week. Wick has rushed for 2,239 yards entering this week’s game to rank No. 7 in Wyoming history. He needs 40 yards to pass Gerald Abraham for sixth place.
A big part of Wyoming’s offensive success this season has been the play of the offensive line. Both in the running game and the passing game, the play of Wyoming’s offensive line has been outstanding. Wyoming has allowed only one quarterback sack this season, ranking the Pokes No. 1 in the Mountain West and No. 6 in the nation. In terms of rushing offense, the Cowboy offensive line has helped UW rank No. 5 in the MW and No. 39 in the nation, averaging 216.0 rushing yards per game.
The Cowboy offense continues to be extremely balanced through three games. Wyoming has a total of 648 rushing yards and a total of 632 passing yards this season. The Cowboys are averaging 216.0 yards rushing and 210.7 yards passing per game for 426.7 yards of total offense per game.
Wyoming’s defense has also been extremely balanced. Eight different Cowboys are in double figures in tackles through three games, eight individuals have recorded pass breakups and 10 different Pokes have recorded tackles for loss. The sophomore safety tandem of Andrew Wingard and Marcus Epps continue to be leaders for the Cowboy defense in 2016. Wingard leads the Pokes in tackles this season, with 31. He ranks No. 6 in the MW in that category and ranks No. 20 in the nation in tackles, averaging 10.3 per game. Wingard is also ranked among the league and NCAA leaders in forced fumbles, solo tackles and interceptions. Epps has 23 tackles on the season to rank second on the Cowboy team and No. 11 in the Mountain West, averaging 7.7 tackles per game. He, like Wingard, has also forced a fumble this year to rank third in the conference in that category.
Non-Saturday games are rare for the Cowboys. This week’s game at Eastern Michigan will be the only non-Saturday game the Wyoming Cowboys will play this season. The Cowboys have played a Friday night game each of the last two seasons -- both against Utah State. The Cowboys lost to Utah State in Logan last season on a Friday night (Oct. 30, 2015), and also fell to the Aggies in Laramie on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014.
Prior to that, Wyoming had not played a non-Saturday game since the 2009 season when they won at Colorado State on the day after Thanksgiving (Friday, Nov. 27, 2009) to end the regular season. UW earned a bid to the New Mexico Bowl following that Friday victory.
The last time Wyoming played a non-conference opponent on a day other than Saturday was the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl when Wyoming defeated UCLA, 24-21, on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2004.
Friday will be the final non-conference game of the season for Wyoming. The Cowboys begin conference play on Saturday, Oct. 1 against rival Colorado State in the 108th Edition of “The Border War”. This year’s meeting will take place in Fort Collins, Colo., with the game set to kick off at 8:15 p.m. The Wyoming-CSU game will be televised on ESPNU.