LARAMIE, Wyo. -
This Saturday the Wyoming Cowboys (2-1 overall and 1-0 in the Mountain West Conference) return home looking to get back to their winning ways. After beginning this season with two home wins over Montana and Air Force, the Pokes traveled to Eugene, Ore., last Saturday to face the No. 2 ranked Oregon Ducks. Wyoming took a 7-0 lead over the Ducks following a 98-yard scoring drive, but nationally-ranked Oregon came back to hand Wyoming its first loss of the season by a score of 48-14.
The Cowboys are seeking their fourth consecutive home victory this week. UW won its final home game of 2013, defeating Hawai'i, 59-56 in overtime, and the Cowboys followed that up with their two home wins to begin the 2014 campaign.
The last time Wyoming won four consecutive home games was at the end of the 2006 season and beginning of the 2007 campaign. Wyoming won six consecutive home games during that stretch. It began with a 31-15 win over Utah on Oct. 14, 2006, and included wins over: Colorado State (24-0 on Oct. 21); San Diego State (27-24 on Nov. 4); Virginia (23-3 on Sept. 1, 2007); Utah State (32-18 on Sept. 8); and TCU (24-21 on Oct. 6).
Wyoming's opponent Saturday, the Florida Atlantic Owls (1-2 overall and 0-0 in Conference USA), are the first team from the state of Florida to play in Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium. FAU will also be only the third team that UW has ever played from the State of Florida. Wyoming and FAU met one previous time in 2009, with the Cowboys winning, 30-28, on the road in Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The other two teams the Pokes have faced from the state of Florida are: Florida State and the University of Florida. Wyoming defeated Florida State, 28-20, in the 1966 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. The Cowboys traveled to Gainesville, Fla., twice to play the Florida Gators. The Pokes lost, 13-0, to the Gators in 1951, and fell to Florida in 2005 by a score of 32-14.
Cowboy running back Shaun Wick has gotten off to a strong start in his junior season, recording two 100-yard rushing games in the first three games of 2014.
Wick is ranked No. 4 in the Mountain West and No. 33 in the nation in rushing this season, averaging 97.7 yards per game. He rushed for 134 yards in the 2014 season opening win versus Montana, and he had 122 rushing yards on 16 carries at No. 2 ranked Oregon in game three.
Wick enters this week with 1,622 career rushing yards as a Cowboy. He is 502 yards away from reaching the Wyoming Top 10 list in career rushing.
The other half of Wyoming's dynamic running-back tandem, redshirt sophomore D.J. May, also put his talents on display last week against No. 2 ranked Oregon.
May caught a career high four passes for a career best 101 yards versus Oregon. It was May's first 100-yard receiving game of his career. He added 42 rushing yards and 68 yards on kickoff returns to end the day with 211 all-purpose yards.
Entering this week, May is ranked fifth in the Mountain West and 63rd in the country in all-purpose yards, averaging 122.7 combined yards in rushing, receiving and kick returns.
Senior wide receiver Dominic Rufran enters Saturday's game having caught one pass in 40 consecutive games. That ranks No. 2 in the nation among active players behind only Matt Miller of Boise State (42 consecutive games). Rufran has caught a pass in every game he has played in (40 games) since the first game of his true freshman season of 2011.
Only two Cowboys in history have posted longer streaks than Rufran. Jovon Bouknight caught a pass in 47 consecutive games from 2002-05, and Wendell Montgomery caught a pass in 41 straight games from 1996-99. Rufran can tie Montgomery with one reception in Saturday's game.
The Cowboy defense has shown great improvement thus far this season. Leading the Cowboy defense in 2014 are a group of experienced seniors. In fact, the top eight tacklers for the Pokes this season are seniors.
Senior linebacker Mark Nzeocha leads the team in tackles, averaging 10.7 tackles per game. That ranks him second in the Mountain West and 22nd in the country. Devyn Harris, another senior linebacker, is second on the team, fifth in the league and 79th in the NCAA in tackles, averaging 8.7 per game. Senior defensive tackle Patrick Mertens and senior free safety Darrenn White have each recorded key fumble recoveries this season and are tied for first in the MW and 14th in the nation in that category.
Saturday's opponent, the Florida Atlantic Owls are a member of Conference USA, along with 12 other FBS schools, including UTEP, Louisiana Tech and Rice. FAU has faced a challenging schedule to begin the 2014 season. The Owls traveled to Nebraska in Week 1 and lost to the Huskers, 55-7. The following week, they traveled to Alabama and lost to the nationally-ranked Crimson Tide, 41-0. Last week, FAU exploded for 50 points in a 50-21 home win over Tulsa.
The Owls are led by redshirt junior quarterback Jaquez Johnson, who is a dual-threat quarterback and is ranked among FAU's career leaders in both passing and rushing yards. Johnson is ranked sixth in school history in passing yards, with 2,255. He has also rushed for 809 yards during his two-year career to rank 10th in school history.
Florida Atlantic features two dynamic players at wide receiver in senior Lucky Whitehead and sophomore Jenson Stoshak. Whitehead leads the Owls in receptions, with 16 for 120 yards. Stoshak leads the team in receiving yards, with 171 on five receptions. Whitehead is also an outstanding kick returner. He is averaging 35.5 yards on two punt returns, and has returned seven kickoffs for an average of 27.3 yards. Whitehead ranks 12th in the nation this season in combined kick and punt returns.
Defensively, senior strong safety Damian Parms leads the Owls in tackles, averaging 8.7 per game to rank No. 3 in Conference USA and No. 79 in the nation. They also have an outstanding punter in sophomore Dalton Schomp, who ranks No. 18 in the nation, with a 45.3 yard average.
Saturday's game will be broadcast on radio over the 26-station Cowboy Sports Network, beginning with the pregame show at 1 p.m. The game will also be televised live online by the Mountain West Network.