The 4-6 (2-4) Wyoming Cowboys will play host to the 8-2 (5-1) Boise State Broncos in Laramie at War Memorial Stadium this coming Saturday. Head Coach Craig Bohl's Cowboys are coming off a hard fought 20-3 loss to Utah State on November 7th. Boise State comes in with a five game winning streak after their lone conference loss to Air Force in week 5 action. Currently the Broncos are tied with Colorado State at the top of the conference but they hold the tie breaker over the Rams due to their head to head match-up in week 2. Will the Cowboys help out their rival in moving them to the top of the Mountain West Conference?
For Wyoming to come out victorious (12.5 underdogs) against Boise State and keep their bowl hopes alive, the Cowboys will need to take advantage of these three keys.
1) Limit turnovers offensively and force the Broncos to turn the ball over while on defense.
I know this is easier said than done but for the Cowboys to have a legit chance of defeating the Broncos they will need to take good care of the pigskin when on offense and try to force some turnovers of their own.
This Wyoming offense hasn't been a high scoring unit (20.9 points per game average) and it much of that has come due to the fact the Cowboys rank deal last in the FBS in starting field position. With the Cowboys generally starting with poor field position to start, they can not afford to follow that trend in this ballgame. On the flip side if they can force some turnovers while on defense, that will give the Cowboy offense much better field position than they are accustom to. The Broncos have done a fairly good job of protecting the ball this season, so it will be a challenge for the Cowboys to come out on top in the take away/give away department. It is a must to be on the plus side if they want to win this coming Saturday.
2) Neutralize running back Jay Ajayi.
The Cowboys enter the game with opponents averaging 188.3 yards rushing per game. Ajayi enters the ballgame with 1280 yards rushing on 260 carries, 443 yards receiving on 42 receptions and 20 total touchdowns.
For the Cowboys to stand a chance in this contest they will need to keep Ajayi under 100 yards rushing in the ballgame. He averages 128 yards a game on the ground himself alone. The Cowboys defense has not done well against quality opponents in the rush defense department, allowing such opponents like Oregon, Michigan State, Hawaii and Colorado State to run rough shot all over them. This has sadly been a trend with the Cowboys defense the last few years and that needs to change if the Cowboys hope to come out victorious.
3) Need big games from Quarterback Colby Kirkegaard and running back Brian Hill.
Kirkegaard enters the ballgame with 2214 yards passing on 174/301 and a TD/INT ration of 11/8. He averages 221.8 yards per game passing and one would have to expect him to be closer to 300 yards through the air for the Cowboys to win. Limiting sacks and turnovers will also be key for Kirkegaard in this ballgame. One would prefer Kirkegaard not to have to put the ball up 40 times like he did against Utah State but if called upon to throw a high number of attempts, he must perform. The Cowboys would much rather have Kirkegaard be a compliment to the rushing attack.
As for that rushing attack, running back Brian Hill enters this Saturday's contest with 582 yards rushing on 96 carries and 4 touchdowns. With both Shaun Wick and D.J. May still out, the Cowboys will need the true freshman to shoulder the load once again. Hill has rushed for over 100 yards the last three ballgames.
Time of possession will be very key in trying to keep Boise State's potent offense off the field, which comes into the ballgame ranked 8th in the nation.
It would be nice if Hill duplicated his performance against Fresno State where he rushed for 281 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns in a 45-17 blow-out victory.
If the Cowboys can complete these three keys against Boise State, they stand a good chance of pulling the upset. Would be odd to think a victory over the Broncos would be doing a favor for their hated rivals in Colorado State but at this moment Wyoming needs every victory they can get in this rebuild under Craig Bohl. Making a bowl game in year one would go along ways in rebuilding the program due to the extra bowl practices and positive feelings entering year two of the new regime.