LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Wyoming and Eastern Michigan meet Saturday in what will be the first meeting in history between the two schools.
Eastern Michigan University is located in Ypsilanti, Mich, and is a member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The Cowboys have played a number of current members of the MAC, including Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan. The Cowboys have won six of their previous nine meetings versus current members of the Mid-American Conference.
The Wyoming Cowboys will be looking to rebound from a tough season-opening loss at home last week to North Dakota by a score of 24-13. Eastern Michigan is also coming off a tough home loss to Old Dominion by a score of 38-34.
Both Wyoming and Eastern Michigan have second-year head coaches. Wyoming is, of course, coached by Craig Bohl, who has an overall record of 108-41 (.725) in 13 seasons as a head coach at North Dakota State and Wyoming. EMU is coached by Chris Creighton, who owns an overall record of 141-57 (.712) in 19 seasons as a college head coach at EMU, Drake, Wabash and Ottawa.
Wyoming's passing game was one of the positives that came out of the season opener. Senior quarterback Cameron Coffman completed 19 of 37 (.514) passes for 282 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns. He connected with junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry on a 92-yard touchdown pass for Wyoming's first touchdown of the season. That TD pass ranks as the second longest pass play in school history. Sophomore quarterback Josh Allen came into the game in relief of Coffman on the final possession of the game and completed 1 of 2 passes for 19 yards.
Bohl said after last Saturday's game that Allen was inserted into the game due to Coffman suffering a sprained knee. Earlier this week, Bohl told media that Coffman's status for the Eastern Michigan game would be determined later in the week.
Gentry ended the day with career highs in receiving yards (176), receptions (9) and all-purpose yards (205). He leads the Mountain West this season in receiving yards, receptions and all-purpose yards, and he ranks No. 5 in the NCAA in receiving yards and ranks No. 9 in the country in both receptions and all-purpose yardage. Gentry also ranks No. 4 in the MW and No. 18 in the nation in punt returns, averaging 14.5 yards per return.
The facet of the Wyoming offense that struggled in the season opener was the running game. UW was able to gain a total of only 29 yards on the ground vs. North Dakota. With the running-back tandem of Shaun Wick and Brian Hill being key to Wyoming's offense this season look for an improved running attack to be an area of emphasis in Saturday's game against Eastern Michigan.
Wyoming's special teams performed well in the North Dakota game. The Cowboys did not allow a single yard in kickoff returns to tie for No. 1 in the nation in that category. UW punter Ethan Wood averaged 47.6 yards per punt to rank No. 11 in the nation this past week, and punt returner Gentry averaged 14.5 yards per punt return to rank No. 18 in the NCAA.
Defensively, four of Wyoming's 11 starters made their first career starts last week, including three redshirt freshmen starters in the secondary. Those four first-time starters led the Cowboys in tackles. Redshirt freshman strong safety Chavez Pownell Jr. was credited with 16 tackles, and redshirt freshman free safety Marcus Epps made 11 tackles. The next two leading tacklers were redshirt freshman cornerback Anthony Makransky (8 tackles) and junior middle linebacker Eric Nzeocha (8 tackles). Nzeocha made his first career start at middle linebacker after converting from tight end this past offseason. Junior linebacker Lucas Wacha also had eight tackles against UND.
Wyoming's team youth was evident in its season opener as 18 true and redshirt freshmen played in the game. A total of 11 true freshmen and seven redshirt freshmen Cowboys played in the game vs. North Dakota. Wyoming tied USC for the sixth most freshmen playing in the 2015 season opener. Florida State and North Carolina State led the way, each playing 23 true and redshirt freshmen in their 2015 season openers. Syracuse played 21. Texas played 20, and Rice played 19 to round out the top five.
Eastern Michigan, like Wyoming, will enter Saturday's game looking to bounce back from a difficult home loss last Saturday. EMU took a 14-0 lead over Old Dominion in the first quarter, held a 17-10 lead at halftime and took a 24-10 lead early in the third quarter. ODU fought back to tie the game at 31-31 by the end of the third quarter. Eastern Michigan regained the lead midway through the fourth quarter on a 52-yard field goal by place-kicker Dylan Mulder. But Old Dominion would score the game-winning touchdown on a 45-yard run with 1:57 remaining in the game to spoil EMU's season opener.