Oct. 4, 2011
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
While they haven't played a large number of games against one another in recent years, the Wyoming-Utah State football series is one of the oldest for both schools. For Wyoming (3-1 record in 2011), it ranks as the fifth-oldest rivalry in school history behind only Colorado State, BYU, Utah and New Mexico. For Utah State (1-3 record in 2011), it is the fourth-longest series behind Utah, BYU and Colorado State.
This Saturday's game will kick off at 6 p.m., Mountain Time, from Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium in Logan, Utah. It will be the 63rd meeting between the Cowboys and Aggies. It will be the first meeting since 2007 when Wyoming won by a score of 32-18 in Laramie. The two teams met four times between 2001 and 2007, but prior to that the most recent meeting was back in 1978. That 1978 meeting was the last time the Aggies defeated the Pokes - by a score of 20-13, in a game also played in Laramie.
Wyoming trails in the overall series with 24 wins to Utah State's 34. There have been four ties in the series history. Since 1950, Wyoming holds the advantage with 18 victories to nine for Utah State.
For the past four seasons, there has been no more consistent player for the Wyoming Cowboys than senior defensive lineman Gabe Knapton. He started his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons at inside linebacker in UW's 3-4 defense. As a junior, he was asked by the Wyoming coaching staff to move to defensive end in a new 4-3 defensive alignment, and as a senior he has moved to defensive tackle due to injuries on the D-Line. Through it all, Knapton has epitomized the term "team player". In Wyoming's most recent game against Nebraska on Sept. 24, Knapton recorded six tackles and 1.0 sack to improve his career tackle total to 306 and move him into 10th place in UW history.
Both Wyoming and Utah State have enjoyed success offensively in 2011, but the two teams are very different in how they want to go about attacking offensively. Wyoming has remained a very balanced offense through the first four games, averaging 204.2 yards rushing and 241.2 yards passing. The Cowboys rank No. 27 in the nation in rushing and No. 34 in total offense (445.5 yards per game). Utah State wants to run the ball. The Aggies average 307.5 yards rushing and 156.0 passing. USU ranks No. 5 in the nation in rushing offense and No. 23 in total offense (463.5 yards per game). Junior running back Robert Turbin is averaging 122.0 yards rushing this season, ranking him No. 11 in the nation.
Two of the top true freshmen quarterbacks in the nation will be featured in this week's Wyoming-Utah State game. For Wyoming, true freshman QB Brett Smith, from Salem, Ore., enters this week's game ranked No. 30 in the nation in total offense (279.8 yards per game) and No. 42 in passing yards (240.8 yards per game). Utah State will be led by true freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton from Houston, Texas. Keeton is ranked 91st in the NCAA in total offense (184.3 yards per game) and is ranked No. 100 in the nation in passing yards (146.8 yards per game).
Wyoming's Smith is among seven freshmen quarterbacks this season that are ranked among the NCAA's statistical leaders. The NCAA ranks quarterbacks in five statistical categories: total offense, passing efficiency, passing yards per game, total passing yards and pass completions per game. But the most important statistic is a team's won-loss record. Of the seven freshman QBs ranked nationally, only one has guided his team to a winning record this season. That freshman is Wyoming's Smith.
Only four games into the 2011 season, both the Wyoming Cowboys and Utah State Aggies have experienced a series of close games. Wyoming has won two games in the final 30 seconds, while Utah State has lost three games in the last 30 seconds or in overtime.
It will be a very unique night for two assistant football coaches this Saturday when the Wyoming Cowboys and Utah State Aggies face off. Wyoming defensive line coach Danilo Robinson was an outstanding defensive end for the Aggies from 1993-96. His senior season, he earned Second Team All-Big West Conference honors. Robinson still owns the USU single-game record for sacks (5.0) and tackles for loss (6.0) set against San Jose State in 1995.
Utah State wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight was one of the greatest receivers in University of Wyoming and NCAA history during his career from 2002-05. Bouknight earned Honorable Mention All-America honors from College Football News his senior season of 2005. That season he also was one of 15 semifinalists for the Fred Biletnikoff Award. Bouknight concluded his college career ranked No. 20 in NCAA history in both career receiving yards (3,626) and receptions (250). He still is the all-time leader in all-purpose yards at Wyoming (5,921), ranks second in career receptions (250) in UW school history and third in both career receiving yards (3,626) and receiving TDs (29). For the 2005 season, Bouknight ranked No. 9 in the NCAA in average receiving yards per game (101.45 yards per game), No. 15 in total receiving yards (1,116), No. 10 in all-purpose yards (160.45), No. 12 in average receptions per game (7.00 catches per game) and No. 11 in kickoff returns (27.75 yards per return).
Saturday's game will be broadcast live on radio over the Cowboy Sports Network, beginning with the pregame show at 5:00 p.m., Mountain Time. The game will also be televised locally in the state of Utah by KCSG-TV. It may be available through ESPN GamePlan.