The quest for a second straight bowl game for the Wyoming Cowboys starts this Saturday in Austin, TX. Wyoming will complete it's three games series with the Texas Longhorns. These teams met previously in 2009 and 2010 with the Longhorns winning both by a sizeable margin. Over that time Wyoming has become a very different and improved team. The Cowboys were able to keep things close in the first half of both games. Now they will look to hang tough for four quarters.
In 2009 the Dave Christensen era was just beginning. The spread offense was being installed but there weren't many compatible pieces from the Joe Glenn era. Wyoming got some nice special team plays to make this game interesting. When you look back it is even more impressive that the Pokes made it to a bowl game that year.
Then in 2010 the Cowboys traveled to Austin. The team and fans all went with heavy hearts as freshmen linebacker Ruben Narcisse has passed away just a few days earlier. The team never got on track that season and finished 3-9. The fact the Cowboys also lost their entire defensive starting defensive line, and switched to a 4-3 didn't help the process.
Here in 2012 we have a much different Wyoming team. There are now players that are now seniors and juniors that were recruited to play in a spread offense. We also have an experienced offensive coordinator who is working with one of the top young quarterbacks in nation. On defense there is a new defensive coordinator who likes to spice things up a bit instead of going with of his predecessors bland oatmeal scheme of non-blitzing. There is also depth on both sides and the defense is particularly stacked. The Cowboys can now rotate players and not have to worry about a huge drop in talent. That was not possible with most positions previously.
Let's take a look at what others are saying about this game.
SB Nation Site Barking Carnival did a nice job of previewing this game.
Last year, the Cowboys went 8-5, their second bowl appearance in the last three years under head coach Dave Christensen. Christensen (former Mizzou OC) is a master of the slow bleed spread, attacks defenses with a thousand different cuts and formations, and is at his best when he has a QB to use in the running game to create balance.
Burnt Orange Nation expects the Longhorns to come out very aggressive on both sides of the ball.
Throw in the phrase "high expectations" with aggressive and dominant and that probably sums up the Texas defense this year. Hopefully. In the sense of the latter two, anyway.
The good news is that Texas will come out firing on both sides of the ball on Saturday night, even if Oklahoma will have something on film. No worries about that, especially if both coordinators have a little something still left in their back pockets, as they sure will.
Here is video preview of the game from ESPN. They do give Brett Smith some kudos but of course project a blowout by the Longhorns. ESPN and Texas are in bed with each other, so there is really no surprise there.
Here we have an independent preview that is slightly more optomistic about the Cowboys chances in this game and the rest of the year.
We swapped Q&A's with Texas site Hook'Em Headlines. Check out their answers below.
1. What are the main differences between the three running backs? How many carries will each one receive?
Texas is a power running team by necessity. Our best players are at running back. If we average 70 plays, we will run it about 50 times and I am not kidding about that. The carries will go as follow:
- Bergeron/Brown: 35 carries
- Gray/Jeremy Hills: 7-10 carries
- DJ Monroe: 5-8 Carries
2. Why the quarterback rotation? Who would you prefer?
3. Does Texas deserve to be ranked so high right now?
Yes. The Texas defense probably has 3 first round picks on the starting 11 with Kenny Vaccaro at Safety, Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat at Defensive end. That with great young talent in Quandre Diggs and Jordan Hicks will win us games. People forget that we were 6-2 before the Missouri game and finished 1-3 in our last 4 regular season games. The Missouri and Kansas State games were very winnable for this team but didn't have the experience at QB. Now you get Baylor without RG3 at home and face Oklahoma State with a true freshmen quarterback, 9-3 should be the expectation and that puts you in the top 15.
4. What scares you (if anything) about Wyoming?
Brett Smith. Great QBs do great things as a freshmen and he did just that. Now the key thing is to not have a sophomore slump but I think on talent alone and the Mountain West in the shape that it is in, I think he won't fall into that type of slump. While Texas has a great secondary, it's still vulnerable to great passing QBs. Wyoming is the only non-conference game that scares me because of the type of offense Wyoming runs.
5. When does it actually cool off in Texas? The game-time temperature is probably going to be around 95 degrees at kickoff.
Have you ever been to central Texas? It never cools off, the coldest it gets is around 60 degrees and you can just picture when it does snow, it a chaotic mess. But I was at last year's Rice game on labor day weekend and the day before I flew in, it didn't go over 100 which was the first time in 63 days. Not to mention the drought. But Austin is part of the Texas Hill Country and it is a beautiful place to be.
6. Predict the score.
I think both teams will be sloppy in their first game on the field but in the end Texas rolls 41-17.
Obviously the Wyoming run defense was attrocious last year. Temple exploited that last year in the New Mexico Bowl and Texas may certainly do the same thing this year. Still I think the Poke defense is going to shed a new leaf this year. Chris Tormey has really revamped this defense and I think that defensive coordinators can have much bigger impact in their first year.
The big question mark in my opinion is if the offense will be able to move the ball against a stout Texas defense. It took till the third scrimamge before the offense was able to effectively move the ball. The offensive line will need to be able to open running lanes so that the young group of running backs can try and move the ball. Wyoming will need to use the ground game to control clock and keep the ball moving. If the run game gets shut down then the Cowboys will be in big trouble.
I would rather play Texas in week one as opposed to week three or four. The chance to catch a team off guard or an under performing unit is more likely in the beginning of the season. Remember last year when Wyoming needed a last second touchdown to beat FCS Weber Sate? It was hard to imagine after that game the Cowboys winning seven more games. Most teams will make their biggest improvements from week one to week two.
David Ash had a great Holiday Bowl performance. Still he only went 3-3 as a freshmen, completed less then 58% of his passes, threw four touchdowns and eight interceptions. Texas has a big advantage at running back but Wyoming will have the best quarterback on the field. A strong performance by Brett Smith will be vital for the Pokes.
I'm not saying that Wyoming is ready for the big upset. But I think that the 30 point spread is ridiculous and this will be a much closer game.