Wyoming Non-Conference Preview: Northern Colorado Bears

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Wyoming plays its second home game of the season against FCS squad, Northern Colorado

The Wyoming Cowboys play their second home game of the season against the Northern Colorado Bears at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyo. The game kicks off on Saturday, September 14 at a yet-to-be-determined timeslot and as of this writing, will not be aired on television.

Coach: Earnest Collins Jr. (5-17, two years)

2012 record: (5-6) (4-4 in the Big Sky Conference)

2012 season in review: Northern Colorado got off to a pretty rough start in 2012, losing their opener 41-0 to Utah, and dropping six of their first eight games overall. But the Bears did rebound a bit to end the season, winning three straight contests over Big Sky teams to earn themselves a 4-4 conference record; good for a tie for fifth in the league. Part of that bounce-back was an easier schedule late in the season, but that didn't take away from an inspired offensive effort over the final five overall. Outside of a close 12-10 loss to #13 Northern Arizona in late October, the Bears averaged 38.5 points in four wins -- something they hope to build upon in 2013.

Returning Offensive Starters: 6

Returning Defensive Starters: 8

Key Returning Starters:QB Seth Lobato, RB Tromaine Dennis, LB Clarence Bumpas

2013 Strengths: At the offensive skill positions, Northern Colorado is looking pretty set. Quarterback Seth Lobato had a solid campaign last year, throwing for 2,797 yards and 19 scores, and should be able to improve on those numbers with another year under his belt. He'll also have plenty of help. Wide receiver Jace Davis led the team in receptions in 2012, and now will get a chance to play the primary receiving role with Dominic Gunn. Tromaine Dennis showed flashes of brilliance at running back too, but needs more consistency as the team's primary ball-carrier. On defense, the Bears bring back depth and experience across the board, but most importantly at linebacker. Senior Clarence Bumpas is one of the FCS's best at his position and finds himself up for the Buck Buchanan Award (best defensive player in FCS) for the second straight season.

2013 Weaknesses: While Northern Colorado is set at the offensive skill positions, they've got some work to do on the line. They lost three of last year's starters to graduation and also said goodbye to a decent amount of depth at every positions as well. While Davis should be able to step up in the top receiver role, the team will also need to find a way to replace Gunn's production. Though the defense is experienced and should be a strength this season, they also struggled to get after opposing passers. Just 16 sacks (9.5 returning) simply won't cut it this season, and they'll need a lot more production from the line to fix that. Having Bumpas for a full season (he missed six games last year) will help, but we'll see for certain this fall.

For more on Wyoming, check out SB Nation blog Cowboy Altitude.

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