Cowboys and Longhorns Kick Off 2012 Season on Saturday

Aug. 30, 2012


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For Wyoming Cowboy football fans, the wait is nearly over. The 2012 college football season kicks off for the Pokes this Saturday when they face the Texas Longhorns in Austin, Texas, at 6 p.m., Mountain Time (7 p.m., Central).

Wyoming and Texas enter Saturday's season opener coming off identical 8-5 records in 2011, and both enter this season with high expectations.

Fueling the expectations for Wyoming is the return of sophomore quarterback Brett Smith. Smith was named the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year last season. He shattered the Mountain West freshman record for total offense last season. Smith accounted for 3,332 yards of total offense as a true freshman, breaking the record of 2,691 yards originally set by TCU's Andy Dalton back in 2007. Smith enters this season as the only sophomore quarterback in the country named to the 2012 Manning Award Watch List, which honors the top quarterback in the nation.

Smith has all three of his three leading receivers returning from last season in senior Chris McNeill (42 receptions, 504 yards), junior Robert Herron (43 catches, 379 yards) and sophomore Dominic Rufran (44 receptions, 402 yards). Up front, senior center Nick Carlson is once again among the top centers in the country. For the second consecutive season, he was named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List. He was also named by conference media members to the 2012 Preseason All-Mountain West team.

Texas is ranked 15th in both the preseason Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' polls.

The Texas offense will be led by a sophomore quarterback of its own in David Ash, who started six games in 2011, throwing for 1,079 yards. Joining him in the backfield will be a stable of talented running backs who combined for 1,708 rushing yards last season.

On defense, Wyoming returns senior free safety Luke Ruff. Ruff helped the Cowboys rank third in the Mountain West and 30th in the nation in pass defense, allowing opponents only 199.6 yards passing per game. He and senior defensive tackle Mike Purcell were both named to the 2012 Preseason All-Mountain West team.

The Longhorn defense was ranked 11th in the nation in total defense a year ago, and returns several key performers. All-American defensive end Alex Okafor leads the way, and is joined by Second Team All-Big 12 selection Jackson Jeffcoat at the other defensive end. While young at linebacker, Texas returns both starters at cornerback in Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs and starting free safety Kenny Vaccaro.

Saturday's meeting will be the fifth between Wyoming and Texas. The Cowboys are looking for their first victory in the series. The last meeting was in 2010 in Austin where the Longhorns captured a 34-7 win.

It will be the first time during Dave Christensen's four years as head coach at Wyoming that his Cowboys will open a season on the road, and it is the first time a Cowboy team has opened on the road since they played the Florida Gators in Gainesville, Fla., in 2005. UW was 4-2 on the road a year ago, winning at Air Force, Colorado State, San Diego State and Bowling Green. The Pokes are 8-10 in road games during the Christensen era.

Saturday's game will be broadcast live on radio over the 25 affiliates of the Cowboy Sports Network. The pregame show will begin at 5 p.m., Mountain Time, on Saturday.

The game will be televised live on the Longhorn Network. The Longhorn Network is not available in the state of Wyoming, but to find out if the Longhorn Network is available in your area follow this link.