Cowboys Kick Off 2011 Football Season Versus Weber State

Aug. 30, 2011

LARAMIE, Wyo.

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The Wyoming Cowboys will kick off the 2011 season this coming Saturday versus Weber State in a game that will begin at 7 p.m., Mountain Time. This season will mark the 115th season of college football for Wyoming.

Third-year head coach Dave Christensen welcomes back eight returning starters on defense and seven on offense, as well as senior punter Austin McCoy.

Several of Wyoming's defensive performers enter the 2011 season among the best in school history at their positions. Senior defensive lineman Gabe Knapton enters his senior season with 287 career tackles, placing him 11th on the UW career tackle list. Knapton needs only 16 more tackles to move into a tie with Brian Brown (303 career tackles from 1996-98) for 10th place. Senior cornerback Tashaun Gipson has intercepted six career passes as a Cowboy and needs only one more interception to move into a tie for ninth in school history. Brian Hendricks, a senior linebacker, is also chasing a spot on the UW career tackle list. Hendricks has 204 career tackles. He is 99 tackles out of 10th place entering his senior season. Over the past two seasons, Hendricks has averaged 98 tackles per season, and had 116 tackles in 2009. Senior defensive lineman Josh Biezuns is the other top returner on the defense. Biezuns was named to the 2011 Mountain West Conference Preseason All-Conference team in voting by conference media members.

The Cowboy offense will be led by true freshman quarterback Brett Smith. Smith will be only the third true freshman since 1974 to start at quarterback for the Pokes. The other two were Rick Costello in 1974 and Austyn Carta-Samuels in 2009. Smith came to Wyoming from Salem, Ore., where he was named the Gatorade Football Player of the Year in the state of Oregon his senior season at West Salem High School.

Smith will have the aid of a deep running-back corps led by junior Alvester Alexander. Alexander was named to the Doak Walker Award Preseason Watch List this year. The Doak Walker Award is presented to the top collegiate running back in the nation at the conclusion of each season. Alexander rushed for 792 yards as a sophomore in 2010, and he set new UW school records for most rushing touchdowns in a season (14) and most rushing touchdowns in a single-game (5 vs. Colorado State) during the 2010 campaign.

Another top offensive player returning for the Cowboys is junior center Nick Carlson. Carlson was named to the Dave Rimington Trophy Preseason Watch List. The Rimington Trophy is presented to the top collegiate center each season.

Saturday's meeting versus Weber State will mark the second time in three years that UW has opened its season versus the Wildcats. UW also opened the 2009 season vs. WSU.

Christensen's first victory at Wyoming and first victory as a college head coach came against Weber State on Sept. 5, 2009, by a score of 29-22. The Cowboys have won all three previous meetings against Weber State.

Wyoming is 73-39-2 (.649) in 114 season-opening games. They are 54-17-1 (.757) in season-opening games at home, and are 19-22-1 (.464) in road games to begin the season. Against non-conference opponents, the Cowboys are 59-23-1 (.717) in season-opening games. That breaks down to 45-10-1 (.813) at home against non-conference foes, and 14-13-0 (.519) on the road.

Wyoming will be opening its season at home for the sixth consecutive season. The last time UW began a season on the road was at Florida in 2005. The Cowboys have won 18 of their last 22 home openers, dating back to the 1989 season. Wyoming has won its last eight home openers in a row. UW's most recent loss in a home opener came during the 2002 season, when UW lost 13-35 to Boise State. The only other three home-opening losses over the past 22 years came versus: Louisville (1989), Hawaii (1991) and Oregon State (1993).

Since the 2000 season, the Wyoming Cowboys have played seven games against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division IAA, of which Weber State is a member. The Cowboys have posted a 7-0 record in those games. All seven games have been played in War Memorial Stadium.

There is no television coverage of Saturday's game, but as with all Wyoming Football games the Cowboy Sports Network will carry the game live on its 25 affiliate stations, beginning with the pregame show one hour before kickoff, or 6 p.m. this Saturday.

On Friday, Sept. 2, the UW Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame will induct its 19th Class. Induction ceremonies will take place in the Ballroom of the University of Wyoming Conference Center at the Hilton Garden Inn in Laramie. The 2011 Hall of Fame Class will be honored at halftime of the Wyoming-Weber State game.

Fans are encouraged to stay after Saturday's night game versus Weber State as there will be a fireworks display to mark the beginning of the 2011 college football season. The fireworks will begin approximately 10 minutes after completion of Saturday's game, and will be shot off north of War Memorial Stadium. They will be easily visible from the stadium.