The Wyoming Cowboys return to conference play this week when they take their 2-0 Mountain West Conference record into Saturday’s game at Nevada. Wyoming is 4-2 overall and will face a Nevada team that is 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the Mountain West Conference this season.
This Saturday’s Wyoming-Nevada game will be televised live on ESPN2, with kick off set for 8:30 p.m., M.T. (7:30 p.m., P.T.) from Nevada’s Mackay Stadium. The game will also be broadcast live on radio over the Cowboy Sports Network. The radio pregame show will begin one hour prior to kickoff.
The Pokes are coming off a bye last week, while the Wolf Pack lost a close game (14-10) at San Jose State last Saturday. The series between Wyoming and Nevada is one of the shorter series for the Cowboys. UW has played Nevada only six previous times. The series is tied at 3-3, with each team holding a 2-1 advantage on their home fields. Wyoming captured last year’s meeting in Laramie by a score of 28-21. Nevada won the most recent meeting in Reno, Nev., back in 2012 by a score of 35-28 in a single overtime. Five of the previous six meetings have been decided by seven points or less, including the last four consecutive meetings.
Wyoming is one of only three teams that remain unbeaten in Mountain West play this year. The other two are Boise State, at 3-0 in the conference and 6-0 overall, and San Diego State, which is 2-0 in the Mountain West and 5-1 overall.
Wyoming will be seeking its second consecutive road win of the season when it travels to Reno this week. The Cowboys broke through for a road win on Oct. 1 against rival Colorado State. The last time UW won consecutive road games was in the 2012 season, winning at New Mexico on Nov. 10 and at UNLV on Nov. 17 by identical scores of 28-23.
The play of Wyoming’s defense has been key to its recent success in back-to-back conference wins at Colorado State (38-17) and at home over Air Force (35-26). The Cowboy defense is currently tied for No. 2 in the nation in defensive touchdowns scored. Wyoming and Ohio State have each scored four defensive TDs during the 2016 season. Only Alabama, which has scored eight defensive touchdowns has scored more.
UW has also scored a defensive touchdown in each of its last three consecutive games. The Pokes’ most recent score came on a 15-yard fumble return for a TD by senior linebacker D.J. May against Air Force. The previous two games against Eastern Michigan and Colorado State, UW had three interception returns for touchdowns. Sophomore strong safety Marcus Epps and redshirt freshman linebacker Logan Wilson returned interceptions for touchdowns of 66 and 27 yards, respectively against Eastern Michigan. Senior nose tackle Chase Appleby also had a “Pick Six” of 55 yards against Colorado State.
Wyoming is one of only two FBS teams in the nation to have scored a defensive touchdown in each of its last three games. Alabama also currently has a three-game streak of scoring a defensive touchdown, scoring against Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee in its last three games. For the season, the Crimson Tide have scored a defensive touchdown in six of seven games.
Only six games into the 2016 season and the Wyoming defense has forced 14 turnovers -- 10 interceptions and four fumble recoveries. The Cowboys currently are No. 1 in the Mountain West and No. 17 nationally in most turnovers gained (14).
Wyoming’s 10 interceptions to date rank the Cowboys No. 2 in the Mountain West and No. 10 nationally. Only Troy (14 interceptions), SMU (13), Cincinnati (12), BYU (12), Ohio State (11), San Diego State (11), Nebraska (11), Clemson (11) and Memphis (11) have more. Wyoming is tied for 10th with Florida, Utah, Central Michigan and Missouri, with 10 each.
The Cowboy defense is led by sophomore safeties Andrew Wingard and Marcus Epps. Wingard ranks No. 1 in the MW and No. 11 in the nation in tackles, averaging 10.7 per game. Epps is tied for No. 1 in the league and No. 17 in the NCAA in interceptions, with three interceptions this season. He is tied with UW sophomore cornerback Antonio Hull.
Offensively, the Cowboys have had two very productive outings in their past two wins over CSU and Air Force. Wyoming had 434 yards of total offense against Colorado State, including 269 rushing yards and 165 passing while not committing a single turnover. Against Air Force, the Cowboys had 362 yards of total offense – 189 rushing and 173 passing. The 189 rushing yards were very impressive as Air Force came into the game allowing only 53 yards rushing to opponents. UW committed only one turnover against the Falcons.
Saturday’s game will feature two of the nation’s top running backs as Wyoming’s @Brian Hill is averaging 120.2 yards rushing per game to rank No. 3 in the MW and No. 11 in the nation. Nevada’s James Butler is averaging 117.4 rushing yards per game to rank No. 4 in the conference and No. 12 nationally.
Following this week’s game, the Cowboys will return home to host Boise State on Saturday, Oct. 29 in a game to kick off at 5 p.m., M.T., from Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium.