LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The Wyoming Cowboys will play on Friday night this week when they travel to Logan, Utah, to play the Utah State Aggies in a clash of Mountain Division rivals. Friday night's game will kick at 8:15 p.m., M.T., and will be televised on ESPN2. The Cowboy Sports Network radio broadcast will begin one hour prior to kick off. This will be Wyoming's only non-Saturday game this season.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Smith is likely to get the first start of his career, with senior Cam Coffman listed as doubtful this week by head coach Craig Bohl. Smith has played in two games this season. He came into the Eastern Michigan game in Week 2 in relief and rushed for 65 yards on 10 carries. Last week at Boise State, Smith entered the game in the third quarter after Coffman was knocked out with a shoulder injury. Smith completed 4 of 8 passes (50.0 percent) for 53 yards and carried the ball five times for 18 yards, including a six-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. His TD run capped off an 11-play, 83-yard drive that he engineered.
Smith will be joined in the backfield by sophomore running back Brian Hill, who is the most recent Cowboy to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. Hill surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau last week when he ran for 76 yards at Boise State. Hill reached the 1,000-yard milestone in eight games this season -- quicker than any Cowboy in school history. Former Cowboys Ryan Christopherson, in 1994, and Devin Moore, in 2008, both surpassed 1,000 yards in the ninth game of those respective seasons.
Hill continues to rank among the nation's top running backs this season. His 1,061 yards ranks him No. 4 in the nation, his 132.6-yard average ranks No. 9 in the NCAA and he is averaging 143.8 all-purpose yards per game to rank 18th in the country.
Defensively, Wyoming senior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough was named to the Ted Hendricks Award Watch List this week. The Hendricks Award honors the top college defensive end in the nation each year. This is the second consecutive season that Yarbrough has been named to the list.
True freshman free safety Andrew Wingard continues to make an impact on the Cowboy defense and an impact in the Mountain West Conference. Wingard leads Wyoming in total tackles and ranks No. 3 in the MW and No. 39 in the nation, averaging 8.9 tackles per game. In terms of solo tackles, he leads the league and is 17th in the NCAA.
The Cowboys enter this weekend's meeting with Utah State with a 1-7 overall record and a 1-3 record in Mountain West play. Utah State is 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference.
The Wyoming-Utah State rivalry dates back to 1903, with this year's meeting being the 66th in the series. The Cowboys have won 24 of the previous 65 meetings, while Utah State has won 37 times. There have been four ties.
In 2013, the two schools incorporated a new tradition into the century-old rivalry when the Cowboys and Aggies introduced a new "Bridger's Battle" tradition to the football series between the two schools.
As part of the new tradition, a traveling "Bridger Rifle" will be awarded to the winner each year. The rifle is a .50-caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle that was popular among mountain men of the 1800s, and is widely-considered to be the rifle carried by the legendary Jim Bridger. "Bridger's Battle" was chosen as the name for the new series due to Bridger's ties to the Wyoming-Utah region. The score from each year's contest will be recorded on the maple stock of the new "Bridger Rifle".
The Aggies feature a strong defense, allowing opponents only 321.3 yards per game to rank No. 3 in the MW and No. 24 nationally. Leading the USU defense is junior inside linebacker Nick Vigil and senior outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell. Vigil averages 10.9 tackles per game, which is best in the Mountain West and tied for No. 8 in the nation. Fackrell averages 6.7 tackles per game to rank 21st in the conference. He leads the nation in fumble recoveries, with four, is tied for third in the league and 17th in the NCAA in tackles for loss (10.5) and has forced two fumbles to tie for No. 2 in the conference and No. 29 in the nation.
Utah State is led on offense by sophomore quarterback Kent Myers, who has completed 55 of 89 pass attempts (61.8 percent) for 647 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception. He has also rushed for 265 yards and two TDs. The Aggies have an effective one-two punch at running back with junior Devante Mays (410 rushing yards) and sophomore LaJuan Hunt (269).
Following this week, Wyoming will prepare for its annual "Border War" with Colorado State on Saturday, Nov. 7 in Laramie.