Wyoming Concludes 2015 Season Hosting UNLV Saturday

Nov. 24, 2015


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This Saturday will mark the season finale for the Wyoming Cowboy football team when it hosts UNLV in a game kicking off at Noon, M.T. The two teams will be renewing a series that dates back to 1978. Wyoming and UNLV haven't played since 2012. Prior to the two-year interruption in the series due to the Mountain West divisional schedule, the Cowboys and Rebels had played for 17 consecutive seasons from 1996 through the 2012 season. That streak began when both teams were members of the Western Athletic Conference. The two schools continued the series when they became founding members of the Mountain West Conference in 1999.

This year's meeting will be the 22nd in the series. Wyoming leads the overall series with 11 victories to UNLV's 10 wins. The Pokes are 6-4 in home games versus the Rebels and are 5-6 in games played in Las Vegas.

The Mountain West portion of the series is tied at 7-7. Wyoming has won 7 of the last 9 meetings, dating back to the 2004 season. That includes wins in the last two meetings in 2011 in Laramie and 2012 in Las Vegas.

Wyoming and UNLV have played a number of close games, including 12 of the previous 21 meetings being decided by eight points or less and five games being decided by three points or less. Wyoming has also played more overtime games (three) vs. UNLV than any other opponent. UW won at UNLV in 1998 by a score of 28-25 in 1 ot; lost at UNLV in 2002 (48-49 in 1ot); and won at UNLV in 2004 (53-45 in 3 ots) in the longest game in Wyoming history.

The Cowboys (1-10 overall and 1-6 in the Mountain West) and the Rebels (3-8 and 2-5 in the conference) have played four common opponents this season. They each defeated the University of Nevada. Wyoming defeated the Wolf Pack by seven points (28-21). UNLV won by six points (23-17) over its in-state rival. Both Wyoming and UNLV lost to Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State.

When UW sophomore running back Brian Hill takes the field Saturday, he will be chasing the Wyoming single-season rushing record. He enters this week ranked No. 9 in the NCAA in rushing, with 1,399 rushing yards this season. Hill is chasing the single-season record of 1,455 rushing yards, which is held by former Cowboy Ryan Christopherson, who set that record in 1994. Hill needs 57 more rushing yards to break Christopherson's single-season record.

Hill was honored last week by being named one of only 11 semifinalists in the nation for the 2015 Doak Walker Award that is presented to the premier college running back in the country each season. Hill was the only player from a non-Power Five conference to be named a semifinalist this season.

Saturday will be the final game for Wyoming's 2015 senior class. This year's senior class includes fifth-year seniors Eddie Yarbrough at defensive end and Rafe Kiely at center.

Yarbrough will conclude his career as one of the most decorated Cowboys in history, earning First Team All-Mountain West Conference honors as a sophomore and junior and being a leading candidate for that honor again this season.

Kiely has started 18 of 32 career games and is projected to make his 19th career start Saturday. An outstanding student, Kiely completed his bachelor's degree in marketing in the Spring of 2015 and is currently pursuing a degree in supply chain management and logistics through the UW College of Business. He was one of the semifinalists for the 2015 William V. Campbell Trophy presented annually by the National Football Foundation to college football's premier scholar-athlete.

Senior defensive end Siaosi Hala'api'api began his Wyoming career as the Cowboys' starting middle linebacker as a true freshman in 2012. He later moved to defensive end and is expected to make his 26th career start Saturday.

Two other 2015 seniors moved into the starting lineup this season in offensive guard Troy Boyland and quarterback Cam Coffman. Boyland is in his third year as a Cowboy after transferring from College of San Mateo, a community college in California. Coffman is in his first year playing for the Pokes after transferring from Indiana University.

Other senior Cowboys who will be suited up Saturday are wide receiver Justin Berger and cornerback Tyran Finley. Berger has played in 26 career games for Wyoming. Finley has played in 18.

Two seniors who won't be suited up this week are linebacker Malkaam Muhammad and running back Shaun Wick.

Muhammad, who played in 18 career games for the Cowboys, missed the entire 2015 season following surgery last summer. Wick will go down as one of the top running backs in University of Wyoming history. Unfortunately, he suffered a concussion in Week 4 of this season against New Mexico and has missed the remainder of this season.

Wick would qualify to apply for a medical redshirt from the NCAA to potentially return for one more season, but he has not yet made that decision. He currently ranks 9th in school history in career rushing yards with 2,179.

One Cowboy who has already broken a Wyoming school record this season is senior Yarbrough. He is one of the nation's top defensive linemen and one of the greatest in Wyoming history. Yarbrough set a new Wyoming career record for tackles for loss when he recorded 1.0 tackle for loss at San Diego State on Nov. 14. That improved Yarbrough's career total to 37.0 tackles for loss. He broke the record of 36.0 career tackles for loss that was originally set by former Cowboy defensive end John Fletcher from 2005-09.

With 1.0 sack against the Aztecs, Yarbrough also increased his career sack total to 19.5. That moved him into the No. 9 spot on the UW career list. His 19.5 career sacks ranks him No. 12 in the nation among currently active players in career sacks.

Yarbrough is making on average 5.0 tackles per game, which ranks him No. 2 in the Mountain West among all conference defensive linemen.

Cowboy true freshman free safety Andrew Wingard has reached a milestone this season that no Cowboy freshman has ever reached before -- 100 tackles in a single season. Wingard was credited with 16 tackles at San Diego State on Nov. 14, to improve his season tackle total to 113. His 113 tackles currently ranks as the 21st best single season in school history.

Wingard ranks No. 2 in the MW and No. 10 in the nation in total tackles, averaging 10.3 tackles per game. He leads the Mountain West and ranks No. 5 in the nation in solo tackles, averaging 7.0 solo tackles per game. He also leads all MW defensive backs in total tackles.

A couple coaching connections exist between the Cowboys and Rebels. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl and UNLV offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Barney Cotton have known each other since they were teammates at the University of Nebraska. The two also later coached at their alma mater. Wyoming Director of Sport Performance Zach Duval also served as Nebraska's football strength and conditioning coach during his career. UNLV run-game coordinator and offensive line coach John Garrison played offensive line at Nebraska from 1999-2002 when Bohl was the Nebraska linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. Garrison was later an assistant coach at his alma mater, working on the same staff as Cotton.

Saturday's game will be televised live on ROOT SPORTS. As always, the Cowboy Sports Network will carry the game on radio on its 25 affiliate stations, beginning with the pregame show one hour before kickoff.

Following Saturday's football game, the Pepsi Pregame Zone will reopen for fans who are looking for tailgating options prior to the Cowboy Basketball team hosting Montana State in a game that will tip off at 6 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.