The wait is finally over Cowboy fans! College football is back and the Pokes will soon take the field at the War. All the months of waiting will finally be over and for at least the next three months we will be happier now that Wyoming football is back. There were plenty of questions raised in the off season and for the most part they were answered.
To get more info on our opponent read this Q&A that we posted about Weber State last week. For this preview we're just going to focus on some key areas that Wyoming needs to have success if they want to start the season off with a W.
Build Brett Smith's Confidence
I would say without a doubt that Brett Smith is a confident person but for any freshmen QB about to start his first collegiate game there are going to be some nerves. The start of the first couple drives will be important to set the tone and help Smith build his rapport with the receivers. The offensive line needs to give him proper protection and time to find the best target. There should be a steady diet of high percentage passes in the first quarter. Smith has certainly caught only quickly during scrimmages and hopefully that will carry over when facing Weber State,
Put Pressure on Weber State QB Mike Hoke
Last year the defense managed only 20 sacks and fifteen of those came in three games: Southern Utah (4), New Mexico (5) and Colorado State (6). Over the course of the year the d-line improved tremendously as they adjusted to the 4-3 defense. With the new look the Pokes have Korey Jones lining up at DE or OLB and the Pokes can throw a lot more looks at their opponent. With that extra year of size and strength as well as some fresh athleticism Wyoming should be able to get into backfield much easier now.
Weber has a large and talented offensive line and they will do everything possible to keep the potent Wildcat offense churning. They averaged 440 yards of offense last year with a fairly balanced attack. Hoke is the starter now after two years of being a backup. Time to give him a rough start to 2011.
Eat Up Yards On the Ground
Coach Christensen says all three running backs will get equal reps for the season opener. We know what Alvester Alexander can do and hopefully is he healed up after a root canal on Monday. Brandon Miller was impressive during the entire off season and certainly earned his carries. Ghaali Muhammad wasn't a full participant in practice till the end of camp and took part in just one scrimmage. His size will be a nice change of pace and hopefully he is that sturdy third down back the Pokes have been missing these last two years.
The more Wyoming controls the ground game and runs the clock down the easier things will be for Smith. Weber State gave 173 yards rushing last year and 4.6 yards per rush. The stable of running backs is stocked and it is time to let loose the stampede!
Win The Turnover Battle
Back in 2009 Wyoming beat Weber State 29-22 and was plus four in turnover margin. The Pokes kept that up all year and finished +8 overall and finished with a 7-6 record and a New Mexico Bowl victory. Last year the Pokes squeaked by Southern Utah 28-20 and were minus two in the turnover column which is also how they finished the year. Wyoming has Weber State outmatched in most categories but giving away the football can quickly ruin any advantage.
Here is a depressing statistic from the Joe Glenn era: in his final year at Wyoming the Cowboys finished -22 in turnover margin.
We Must Protect This House
The offensive line has been a burdensome position group for Wyoming after switching to the spread. The linemen recruited by Glenn weren't ready for the switch to that type of scheme. Meanwhile the young linemen that Christensen brought in weren't ready to play right away. That is no longer the case as the younger linemen from the Glenn era are now upperclassmen and physically prepared for a spread blocking scheme. Meanwhile recruits that Christensen has brought in are now ready to starting paying dividends and plowing down defenders.
In all three scrimmages the difference in the o-line was noticeable and they fact that there is also some depth will be a big help as well.
Special Forces Take Care Of Business
Wyoming has done a nice job on their special teams play which is led by senior punter Austin McCoy. He is the cornerstone of the special forces right now and will be the leader for a young group. True freshmen Zach Ewan is taking over at long snapper. He has gotten rave reviews so far and let's hope we never have to write another sentence about him until the season is over and he gets a gold star. McCoy will handle kickoffs in week one meanwhile Daniel Sullivan and Stuart Williams will continue their kicking duel.
They were both injured early in camp and it took longer for Sullivan finally get healthy. This week Sullivan will kick field goals while Williams handles extra points. I'm fine with this arrangement as long one of them doesn't lose their role due to blowing a crucial kick.
SCORE PREDICTION: Wyoming 34 Weber State 17
It will be a glorious victory on a perfect September evening in Laramie. Afterwards there will a fireworks show that pales to the fireworks that were on the field for four quarters. Afterwards the bars will be filled with fans recounting the amazing feats they just witnessed and will pinch themselves to make sure they aren't dreaming. Then they will all get really really really really drunk.