Oct. 24, 2012
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
This Saturday at 1:30 p.m., the Wyoming Cowboys will be looking to shake off the effects of three home losses by a total of six points and break through for their first home win of the season. The Cowboys' opponent is a nationally-ranked Boise State team that sits atop the Mountain West Conference standings with a 3-0 record and an overall 6-1 mark.
The Cowboys' losses in close games have been well-documented this season, losing home games by three points to Toledo, two points to Cal Poly and one point to Air Force. In two of those games, against Cal Poly and Air Force, sophomore quarterback Brett Smith was unable to play due to injury. Against Toledo, he was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter. But Smith is back at the helm of the Wyoming offense.
The Boise State Broncos enter this week ranked No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, No. 19 in the Harris Interactive Poll and No. 21 in both the Associated Press media poll and this week's BCS Standings. BSU has been known as one of the top offensive teams in the nation over the past several years, but this year it is its defense that has led the way. The Bronco defense leads the Mountain West in total defense, scoring defense and pass defense. Nationally, the Broncos rank No. 6 in scoring defense, giving up an average of only 13.6 points per game, and rank No. 20 in total defense, allowing opponents only 316.9 yards per game. Boise State is No. 7 in the NCAA in pass defense, with a pass defense efficiency rating of 95.64.
Wyoming's passing attack will try to challenge that Bronco pass defense. The Cowboys are averaging 240 yards per game through the air to rank third in the Mountain West Conference. In games in which Smith has played, that average increases to 273 passing yards per game.
Leading the Cowboy receiving corps is senior wide receiver Chris McNeill, who is having another outstanding season. McNeill ranks third in the league in receiving yards (65.7 per game) and fourth in receptions (5.43 per game).
A few other Cowboy seniors having outstanding seasons are defensive tackle Mike Purcell and linebackers Ghaali Muhammad and Korey Jones. Purcell was selected to the Mountain West Preseason All-Conference Team by conference media this summer, and he is living up to that honor. Purcell leads all Mountain West defensive linemen in tackles this season, averaging 7.1 per game. He also leads all MW D-linemen in solo tackles, with 23.
Muhammad returned to his normal linebacker position this season after playing running back as a junior, and what a season he is having. He leads the Cowboys in tackles, with 64 total tackles. He also leads the team in solo tackles, with 41. Muhammad ranks No. 1 in Mountain West and is tied for No. 1 in NCAA in fumbles recovered with three. He is third in the MW and 40th in the nation in tackles, averaging 9.3 per game, and he ranks No. 4 in the Mountain West and No. 70 in the NCAA in tackles for loss, averaging 1.07 per game.
Fellow senior linebacker Jones is second on the Cowboy squad in tackles (60 total tackles), and he ranks No. 5 in the league and No. 68 in the nation, averaging 8.4 tackles per game.
In last year's meeting between the Cowboys and Broncos, Wyoming took an early 7-0 lead against then No. 7 ranked Boise State. UW's defense set the early tone. Wyoming safety Luke Anderson intercepted BSU quarterback Kellen Moore midway through the first quarter and returned the interception 29 yards for a touchdown, with 9:53 remaining in the first period.
The Cowboy defense continued their strong showing throughout the first half, holding the high-powered Bronco offense scoreless until 1:10 remaining in the second quarter when BSU running back Doug Martin capped a 17-play, 87-yard drive with a two-yard TD run. Wyoming was unable to get a first down on its final possession of the half, and had to punt the ball back to the Broncos. Up until that point, the Cowboy defenders had held Boise State to 170 total yards. But with only eight seconds remaining in the half, Bronco QB Moore threw a deep pass to wide receiver Matt Miller, who had gotten behind the Cowboy secondary. Miller caught the pass for a touchdown with no time left on the clock to give Boise State a 13-7 lead at halftime after UW's Mike Purcell blocked the extra-point attempt. Boise State extended its lead with a field goal and two touchdowns to go up 29-7 at the end of three periods. They added one additional TD early in the fourth quarter. That was followed by a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive by the Cowboys in the fourth quarter. The final score was Wyoming 14, Boise State 36.
Saturday's game has been designated as Cancer Awareness Day. Fans are being offered a special $40 ticket package for Saturday's game. Included in the package is a Commemorative Pink Rally Towel, with $5 from each special ticket sold being donated to the Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care. The Brown-N-Gold Outlet will also selling the rally towels for $5, with $1 of each sale going to the Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care.
The Cowboy Sports Network radio broadcast will be begin at 12:30 p.m. this Saturday.
The game will also be televised live on CBS Sports Network. CBS Sports Network is available on Channel 613 on DIRECTV and Channel 158 on DISH Network. To find out if CBS Sports Network is available on your local television service provider, go to: CBSSportsNetwork.com, click on Channel Finder on the top menu and enter your Zip Code and choose your television service provider where indicated.