The Aggies of Utah State head for Laramie, Wyoming for the 65th installment of this football match-up, which beginning in 2013 became officially coined "Bridger's Battle" to which the victor goes a .50 caliber rifle "trophy." The inaugural battle last year easily tipped in favor of the Aggies who's nationally recognized defense stymied most any attempt by Brett Smith and Wyoming to muster up offensive production of any kind, allowing Utah State to easily cruise to a 35-7 victory and also capture the Mountain Division title.
This year, Bridger's Battle isn't the only battle happening with these teams as they both have an ongoing injury battle to contend with as well. Utah State is riding four deep in their stable of quarterbacks, with all of their chips currently resting on the talent and leadership of freshman Kent Myers who was the poster child of efficiency in last week's 35-14 victory over Hawaii. Wyoming on the other hand had a lights-out record-breaking performance out of their true freshman third string running back Brian Hill, who personally out-gained the entire Fresno State offense in a 45-17 blowout victory in his first official start. The Cowboys, however, have many other problems beneath the surface, coming into this game short 8 total starters, 5 of which come from a defense already hurting on the depth chart.
That being the case, mama always said "Never rule out the home team", so we won't, and no stone will go unturned as we summon the top three ways that Wyoming will top the defensive-minded Aggies.
1) Wyoming FINALLY delivered end-to-end on Craig Bohl's football philosophy last week
Cowboy fans of all shapes and sizes breathed a collective sigh of relief after last week's drubbing of Fresno State, as it appeared the players finally "got it" in reference to the style of football Craig Bohl had been evangelizing all year. They provided, by far, the single most dominant performance of the Craig Bohl era along with the single most all-purpose yards ever gained by a player (Brian Hill) in the Mountain West era.
Wyoming gained 696 yards, running and throwing the ball at will, winning the turnover battle, all-the-while with a make-shift defense that featured some walk-ons as starters. Bohl acknowledged that this was the first end-to-end performance this year that personified their ideal game plan philosophy. It seemed as if, regardless of which players were in the game, the Cowboys finally connected the dots and played an almost unrecognizable new brand of fundamentally sound, physical football. If they can carry those lessons into this game, Wyoming could provide an unpleasant match-up for the Aggies.
2) Without D.J. May and Shaun Wick, Wyoming is still a very legitimate dual threat team
The Cowboys often struggle when one aspect or another of their offense gets isolated and shut down. Knowing what teams know about Bohl's "run first" style of offense, the ones that have been the most successful against Wyoming focus on eliminating their run game and forcing them to rely on the arm of first year starter and red shirt senior, Colby Kirkegaard. There is no question that Kirkegaard has had some very shaky performances, however he is coming off of two of the best performances of his short career, passing for 655 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two outings.
Knowing that Utah State's defense is the "great equalizer" that makes up for the offensive mishaps they have encountered over the past two seasons, Wyoming needs to be able to have reliable and consistent options to leverage on the ground and through the air in order to try to expose the stout Aggie defense. Kirkegaard hasn't always been able to hold up his end of the deal, however has shown great improvement recently, and his timing for gaining confidence could not be better. With a very capable and battle-tested Brian Hill taking the carries for Wyoming, the Cowboys are just as capable of a dual-threat team as ever.
3) Kent Myers will have good days, but there are also those bad days
This young quarterback did exactly what he was asked to do last week, throwing at a 93 percent completion rate, three touchdowns and no turnovers. The Aggies actually could not have asked for more from this young man, and for the time being it would appear that they have several very capable fallback plans at the quarterback position. That being said, he is still a very inexperienced freshman that is very capable of making rookie mistakes.
On the swinging pendulum of the "good game/bad game" spectrum, it would be very difficult for Myers to have a much better game; therefore a less-optimistic person (and statistician....) could infer that there is a much higher likelihood that his next performance will decline substantially in comparison to his unconscious performance against Hawaii. With whatever defensive players Wyoming is able to scrape together this week, it would be wise of Eddie Yarbrough and company to try to rattle this rookie quarterback and take advantage of the potential miscues that may occur.
All things considered, if both teams are playing their preferred brand of football, this should be a great game that showcases competitive Mountain West football in front of a national audience.
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