WEEK 8: Wyoming Cowboys (3-3, 1-1 MWC) vs. San Jose State Spartans (2-3, 1-1 MWC)
WHEN: Saturday, October 18th, 2:00 PM MST
SERIES RECORD: Wyoming leads, 6-2
LINE: San Jose State by 1.5
What to expect from Wyoming: The Cowboys come into this game after another painful loss, this time to a resilient Hawaii squad that was able to come back from a 21-point deficit and capture the win, 38-28. Craig Bohl was the first to acknowledge that things are not "fine" in Cowboy country and his team has many things to address in order to salvage the season. A few holes in the ship that need patching appear to be around missed tackles, inconsistent play on both sides of the ball, and an offensive line rotation which has been perpetually on the mend this year with the likes of Sam Hardy's sprained ankle, Jake Jones and Connor Rains both undergoing appendectomies and Nathan Leddige recovering from a concussion. Needless to say, the offensive line roulette has contributed to a lot of turf time for quarterback Colby Kirkegaard, who has been sacked 26 times this year.
The positives are that Wyoming scored a season high 28 points last week against Hawaii, and jumped to a sizable lead very early in the game and managed to hold on to it until the fourth quarter when Hawaii was able to expose them. The defense started off strong, caused and recovered several fumbles and even returned one for a 78 yard touchdown. If Wyoming is going to compete and win this game, they need to again make an early statement and figure out a way to create and sustain momentum to capture a victory at home.
What to expect from San Jose State: The Spartans, equally desperate for a win to remain in contention in the West, spent a bye week fine-tuning their game plan after their recent victory, coming back from a brief seven point deficit with a touchdown and a frenzy of field goals before putting UNLV away at home, 33-10. San Jose State boasts the fiercest passing defense in the land, leading the nation by only allowing 448 total passing yards all year, which equates to a stingy 89.6 yards per game; it's likely that Colby Kirkegaard is going to have a long day against the Spartan secondary. The rushing defense on the other hand is a different story, allowing 230.6 yards per game, which is 117th in the country (Wyoming is tied for 101st in this category).
Offensively, Joe Gray will be starting his third game after winning over the starting job from Blake Jurich earlier this season. Like Kirkegaard, Gray has spent several years waiting for his turn to lead. Both quarterbacks took a redshirt in 2013 in order to finally get the chance that they both now have. Wyoming coach Craig Bohl also has nothing but respect for Gray's accomplishments this year, commending him on mobility, vision and overall speed. Though he currently has more interceptions than touchdowns, he is throwing the ball quite a bit better and Wyoming should expect a much more composed opposing quarterback.
In summary: This game is considered a must-win by both teams, and surprisingly San Jose State comes into Laramie as a negligible favorite, yet still a favorite. Wyoming will clearly need to establish a dominant run game against these Spartans and avoid blown blocking assignments and defensive coverage if they plan to come out on top. If San Jose State can take advantage of Wyoming's inconsistency, stymie their running game and force the Cowboys to go to the air for yards, the Spartans could make it a very long day for Wyoming and come away with a win.