Nov. 20, 2012
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The 2012 season concludes Saturday for the Wyoming Cowboys as they host the San Diego State Aztecs in a game that will kick off at 1:30 p.m., Mountain Time from Wyoming's Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.
Saturday's game will feature two of the hottest teams in the Mountain West Conference. Wyoming is seeking its fourth consecutive victory of the season, while San Diego State has won its last six games.
Wyoming will honor fourteen seniors who will be playing their final game as Cowboys. The 2012 seniors are: #3 Luke Anderson, a safety from Southlake, Texas; #60 Nick Carlson, a center from Arlington Heights, Ill.; #9 Patrick Hartford, a linebacker from Rock Springs, Wyo.; #5 Korey Jones, a linebacker from Fort Collins, Colo.: #76 Josh Leonard, an offensive tackle from Helena, Mont.; #65 Kyle Magnuson, an offensive tackle from Elkhart, Ind.; #80 Chris McNeill, a wide receiver from Simi Valley, Calif.; #54 Miraldo Michel, a defensive end from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; #23 Ghaali Muhammad, a linebacker from St. Joseph, Mo.; #50 Mike Purcell, a defensive tackle from Highlands Ranch, Colo.; #29 Luke Ruff, a safety from Castle Rock, Colo.; #35 Oliver Schober, a linebacker from Munich, Germany; #58 B.J. Sumter, a defensive tackle from Columbia, S.C.; and #98 Kurt Taufa'asau, a defensive tackle from Pago Pago, American Samoa.
The 2012 senior class has enjoyed a number of accomplishments during their Wyoming careers, including making two New Mexico Bowl appearances in 2009 and 2011 and capturing the 2009 New Mexico Bowl Championship. They became the first Wyoming senior class since 1973 to capture four consecutive wins over archrival Colorado State. They were also part of a 2011 team that posted an 8-5 record -- the first Cowboy team to win eight games since 1998.
Wyoming and San Diego State are meeting for the 34th time in the past 35 years. All of those meetings have come as conference opponents. From 1978 to 1997, the Cowboys and Aztecs played each other for 20 consecutive seasons as members of the Western Athletic Conference. The only season the two didn't play each other was in 1998 due to the rotating schedule of the then 16-team WAC. From 1999 to this year, UW and SDSU have played 14 consecutive seasons as members of the Mountain West Conference.
Saturday is the last scheduled meeting between the two old rivals, as San Diego State has previously announced it will join the Big East Conference in football in 2013.
SDSU enters Saturday's game battling for a share of the Mountain West title with Boise State and Fresno State. All three are tied with 6-1 conference records with one game left to play. Fresno State hosts Air Force Saturday. Boise State will play at Nevada on Saturday, Dec. 1.
The Cowboys lead the overall series 18-15 over the Aztecs. Wyoming has won three of the last four meetings, winning in Laramie in 2008 and in San Diego in its last two appearances in 2009 and 2011. San Diego State won the last meeting in Laramie in 2010. UW has also won five of the last eight games versus SDSU, dating back to the 2004 season. Prior to that, San Diego State enjoyed its longest winning streak in the series, capturing five wins in a row from 1999 to 2003.
Wyoming's and San Diego State's offenses average nearly the same number of yards per game. Wyoming averages 391.4 yards of total offense, while San Diego State averages 393.5. But how the two teams go about generating that offense is very different. The Cowboys like to attack through the air, averaging 265.9 yards passing per game to rank No. 2 in the Mountain West and No. 42 in the NCAA. The Aztecs prefer to run the football, averaging 213.6 rushing yards per game to rank No. 4 in the Mountain West and No. 20 in the nation.
Individually, the keys to those two offenses are a pair of sophomores -- quarterback Brett Smith for Wyoming and running back Adam Muema for San Diego State. Smith leads the Mountain West and ranks No. 9 in the nation in passing efficiency, with a quarterback rating of 160.3. He ranks No. 2 in the MW and No. 16 in the nation in total offense (310.0 yards per game). Smith also ranks No. 2 in the conference and No. 20 in the NCAA in passing yards (286.3 yards per game). Muema has rushed for exactly 1,100 yards through 11 games. His 100-yard average ranks him No. 5 in the league and No. 31 in the country.
The two teams' defenses also have their share of stars. Wyoming is led by seniors Mike Purcell at defensive tackle and Ghaali Muhammad and Korey Jones at linebacker. Purcell has led all Mountain West defensive linemen in tackles throughout the 2012 season, and he ranks 13th in the Mountain West in tackles for all players at all positions, averaging 7.1 tackles per game. Muhammad leads the Cowboys in tackles this season, with 98 total tackles. Jones is close behind with 93. Muhammad is ranked No. 4 in the conference and No. 44 in the NCAA in tackles (8.9 tackles per game). Jones is No. 5 in the Mountain West and No. 61 in the nation (8.5 tackles per game). Muhammad also ranks among the nation's leaders in fumble recoveries. He has recovered three fumbles in 11 games this season to tie for the league lead and rank No. 8 in the country.
San Diego State's catalyst on defense is senior cornerback Leon McFadden, who was selected by conference media members as the 2012 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in the Mountain West. McFadden has three interceptions this season to rank third in the conference and 59th in the NCAA. He also ranks third in the MW and 28th in the nation in passes defended, averaging 1.18 per game. The Aztecs' leading tackler is junior defensive back Nat Berhe, who is averaging 7.6 tackles per game to rank No. 8 in the conference and No. 97 in the nation. San Diego State has two of the league's leaders in sacking the quarterback. Sophomore linebacker Jake Fely is third in the Mountain West and 46th in the nation, with 7.0 sacks this season. Fely and junior linebacker Nick Tenhaeff are tied for No. 2 in the league and No. 72 in the country in tackles for loss, with 11.0 TFLs each.
Saturday's game will be televised live on ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain and ROOT Sports Northwest. To find out if ROOT Sports is available through your television provider, click here or here for ROOT Sports in the Northwest Region.
As with all Cowboy Football games, the Cowboy Sports Network will broadcast the game live on radio beginning with the pregame show at 12:30 p.m., Mountain Time this Saturday.