Nov. 19, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Renewal of an old rivalry, celebration of Senior Day for 12 Cowboy seniors and a battle to keep their bowl-eligibility hopes alive will all be part of this Saturday's final home game of the season for the Wyoming Cowboys.
Wyoming, 4-6 overall and 2-4 in Mountain West Conference play, hosts Hawai'i, 0-10 and 0-7 in the conference, in a game scheduled to kick off at noon on Saturday. The two schools played each other for 20 consecutive seasons from 1978 to 1997. All but the first meeting in '78 were played as conference opponents in the Western Athletic Conference. This year's meeting will be the first as Mountain West Conference foes.
Along with renewal of this two-decade old rivalry will be the renewal of the competition for the Paniolo Trophy, the traveling trophy between the two schools, that has been a part of the series since 1979. Paniolo is the Hawaiian word for Cowboy. Wyoming leads the Paniolo Trophy series with 12 wins to Hawai'i's seven victories. The overall series is led by Wyoming 12-8, when including Hawai'i's win in the inaugural 1978 game.
Saturday's game will mark the final home game for 12 Cowboy seniors. The seniors and their families will be honored on the field prior to kick off Saturday. The 12 seniors are: Justin Bernthaler, DT, Stuttgart, Germany; Spencer Bruce, TE, Gillette, Wyo.; Jarrod Darden, WR, Keller, Texas; Tedder Easton, RB, Columbia, Mo.; Devyn Harris, LB, Fountain, Colo.; Robert Herron, WR, Los Angeles, Calif.; Marqueston Huff, FS, Texarkana, Texas; Patrick Mertens, NT, Sterling, Colo.; Brandon Miller, RB, Parker, Colo.; Ruben Narcisse, LB, Miami, Fla.; J.J. Quinlan, LB/DE, Everett, Wash.; and Tyler Strong, OG, Longmont, Colo. Narcisse joined the Wyoming program as a freshman in 2010 but died in a car accident on Sept. 6, 2010, after only one game as a Cowboy. His teammates and coaches have chosen to keep his name on the Wyoming roster these past four seasons until his senior class completed their final season. This would be his senior year.
The Cowboys have lost their last four games, but Saturday they will be fighting to keep their hopes alive of becoming bowl eligible. Football Bowl Subdivision schools must finish the season with at least a .500 record to be bowl eligible. Wyoming would have to win its last two games this season, against Hawai'i this Saturday and at Utah State on Nov. 30, to keep its hopes alive of postseason play.
Junior quarterback Brett Smith could become Wyoming's career leader in total offense this week. Smith will enter this Saturday's game with 9,569 yards of total offense for his career. He needs only seven yards to break the school record held by Casey Bramlet. Bramlet set the school record for total offense of 9,575 yards from 2000-03.
Wyoming's defense is led by two Cowboys who are ranked in the Top 20 in the nation in tackles this season. Junior linebacker Jordan Stanton is ranked No. 3 in the nation in tackles this season, averaging 11.5 tackles per game. Senior free safety Marqueston Huff ranks No. 19 in the country, averaging 9.8 tackles per game. Stanton trails only Keith Smith of San Jose State (13.7 tackles per game) and Tyler Matakevich of Temple (12.2 tackles per game). Stanton has surpassed the 100-tackle plateau for the season. He currently has 115 tackles.
Huff ranks No. 4 in the MW and No. 19 in the country in tackles, averaging 9.8 tackles per game. Huff leads all Mountain West defensive backs in tackles, and enters Saturday's game with 98 tackles on the year.
He ranks No. 2 in the league in solo tackles and ranks No. 10 nationally, averaging 6.3 solo tackles per game. The third category Huff is ranked nationally in is fumble recoveries. He has two fumble recoveries this season to tie for No. 4 in the league and No. 49 in the NCAA. Two of the players he is tied with are teammates Devyn Harris, a senior linebacker, and Lucas Wacha, a redshirt freshman linebacker.
A couple other Cowboys who are approaching career record lists at Wyoming are wide receivers Robert Herron and Dominic Rufran. Rufran, a junior, has 147 receptions for his career. He needs only four more catches to enter the Wyoming Career Top 10 list. Rufran is also only 195 yards away from the school Top 10 list for career receiving yards. He currently has 1,678. Herron broke into that career receiving list last week. He now has 1,881 career receiving yards to rank No. 9 in school history. Herron, who has 137 career receptions, needs 14 more receptions to break into the Top 10 in career catches.
While the Rainbow Warriors enter this week winless on the season, they have had several opportunities for victory in 2013. Last week, they held a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter over San Diego State before losing in overtime 21-28. The Rainbow Warriors lost a seven-point game (28-35) at home versus Colorado State, lost by two points (37-39) at UNLV and lost by only five (37-42) to league-leading Fresno State.
The Hawai'i offense is led by senior quarterback Sean Schroeder, who has started the last five games. Schroeder has thrown for 2,139 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. His favorite targets have been senior wide receiver Chris Gant, who has 43 receptions for 683 yards and five TDs, and junior wide receiver Scott Harding, who has 44 catches for 469 yards. The rushing attack has been shared by freshman Steven Lakalaka, who leads the team with 353 rushing yards, and junior Joey Iosefa, who is close behind with 345 yards.
On defense, senior linebackers Brenden Daley and Art Laurel have 78 and 70 tackles, respectively, to lead Hawai'i. The two also lead the team in tackles for loss - Daley with 11.0 and Laurel with 12.5.
Saturday's game will be televised by Oceanic Pay-Per-View, and will also be web streamed for free on the Mountain West Network at www.TheMW.com.
As with all Wyoming football games, the Cowboy Sports Network will broadcast the game on its 25 radio affiliated, beginning with the pregame show one hour prior to kickoff, or 11 a.m., Mountain Time this Saturday.