LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Conference play opens for the Wyoming Cowboys on Saturday when they host the New Mexico Lobos in a game that will kick off at 1 p.m., Mountain Time, from Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium. This year's meeting is the 68th in history between the Cowboys and Lobos. It is the fourth longest series for the Cowboys. Among active series, it ranks as the second longest series for Wyoming -- second only to the series versus Colorado State. UW leads the series with 36 wins over the Lobos. New Mexico has won 31 times in the series.
Wyoming will be opening its 17th season in the Mountain West. This week's game versus New Mexico marks only the second time in those 17 seasons that the Cowboys have opened MW play against the Lobos. The Pokes are 8-8 in Mountain West openers. The only other time UW opened the Mountain West schedule against New Mexico was in 2000. UNM won that meeting 45-10 in Albuquerque.
Wyoming has the edge in recent meetings versus New Mexico. The Cowboys have won four of the last six meetings. New Mexico captured last year's game by a 36-30 final score in Albuquerque. Over the same six-year time span, four of the six games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Wyoming sophomore running back Brian Hill continues to lead the Mountain West Conference in rushing yards this season, averaging 137.3 yards per game. That ranks him No. 9 in the nation. Another Cowboy who is leading the Mountain West is junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry, who is No. 1 in the conference in receiving yards, averaging 103.0 yards per game. Gentry is 21st in the nation in receiving yards. Both Hill and Gentry have recorded two 100-yard games this season. Hill rushed for 242 yards versus Eastern Michigan and 139 last week at Washington State. Gentry had a career best 176 receiving yards versus North Dakota and had 127 yards receiving at Washington State.
In the Washington State game, the Cowboys had two receivers record 100-yard receiving games. Junior Jake Maulhardt caught 10 passes for 113 yards for the first 100-yard receiving game of his career. The game also saw senior quarterback Cameron Coffman enjoy his best game as a Cowboy, completing 25 of 36 passes (.694) for 296 yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboy offense generated 409 yards of total offense against the Cougars -- 113 net rushing yards and 296 passing.
This week's game will feature a very balanced offensive attack from the Wyoming Cowboys versus a run-heavy attack of the New Mexico Lobos. Wyoming ranks No. 4 in the Mountain West in passing offense (209.7 yards per game) and No. 5 in rushing (190.7 yards per game). The Pokes are also No. 5 in total offense in the Mountain West (400.4 yards per game).
New Mexico ranks No. 2 in the conference in rushing offense (249.0 yards per game) and is No. 11 in the league in passing offense (149.7 yards per game). The Lobos average 398.7 yards of total offense per game or only 1.7 yards fewer than the Cowboys. UNM ranks No. 6 in the MW in total offense -- right behind Wyoming.
Three of the nation's top running backs will be showcased on Saturday. Wyoming sophomore Hill and senior Shaun Wick and New Mexico senior Jhurell Pressley all are among the best in the country at running the football. In addition to Hill leading the Mountain West and ranking No. 9 in the nation in rushing, senior Wick ranks No. 26 in the nation among active players in career rushing yards (2,181) and UNM's Pressley ranks No. 36 in the nation among active players in career rushing (1,963 yards).
Another New Mexico running back, junior tailback Teriyon Gipson of Dallas, Texas, is the younger brother of former Wyoming Cowboys Marcell Gipson and Tashaun Gipson. Marcell was a starting cornerback for the Cowboys from 2008-10. Tashaun was a starting cornerback for UW from 2008-10 and started at free safety for the Cowboys as a senior in 2011. Tashaun is currently a starting safety for the Cleveland Browns and was an All-Pro selection at safety for the Browns last season.
Defensively, Wyoming showed significant improvement last week at Washington State, recording three sacks and forcing the first opponent turnover of the season on an interception. Senior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough recorded two of those sacks and two tackles for loss to move him into second place in school history in career tackles for loss with 32.0. He needs only 4.0 more tackles for loss to catch former Cowboy John Fletcher, who had 36.0 career tackles for loss from 2005-09 for first place on the Wyoming career list. Wyoming's other sack against WSU was registered by true freshman Kevin Prosser, who just moved to defensive end from linebacker last week. The Cowboys' first interception of the season was made by redshirt freshman strong safety Marcus Epps.
In addition to Wyoming's Hill and Gentry leading the conference in rushing and receiving, respectively, several other members of the Cowboy squad are ranked among the Mountain West and nation's leaders. Among the other Cowboys ranked at the top of their positions in 2015 are Coffman, who is ranked No. 5 in the MW and No. 65 in the nation in passing TDs with four, and is ranked No. 2 in the conference and No. 69 in the nation in total passing yards with 578. Maulhardt ranks No. 3 in the league and No. 51 in the country in receptions (5.33 per game). Yarbrough is averaging 1.00 sack per game to tie for the league lead and tie for 20th in the NCAA. Freshman free safety Andrew Wingard ranks No. 4 in the MW and No. 58 nationally in tackles, averaging 8.7 per game, and junior linebacker Lucas Wacha is tied for 10th in the conference in tackles, averaging 7.7 per game.
Saturday's game will be televised live on ROOT SPORTS beginning with kickoff at 1 p.m., Mountain Time. The game will be broadcast on radio over the 26 affiliates of the Cowboy Sports Network, beginning with the pregame show one hour prior to kickoff.