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Poke Preview: Week 1

Wyoming faces off against top FCS school Montana State

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What: Montana State Bobcats vs. Wyoming Cowboys

When: 2:00 p.m. MT

Where: Jonah Field @ War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, WY

Network: Mountain West Network

Recent Success:

Montana State - After opting to sit out the 2020 FCS season, the Montana State Bobcats feel that they have established themselves as an FCS powerhouse and are looking to make a run similar to the one they made in 2019. That year, the Bobcats finished their season with a record of 11-4, making it all the way to the semi-finals of the FCS, eventually losing out to North Dakota State in that game.

Wyoming - Following an odd season in 2020 where the Pokes’ shortened season left them finishing it out with a record of 2-4, the Cowboys return a full list of starters that are looking to replicate a lot of what unfolded for them in the year prior where they finished the season with an 8-5 record and a victory in the NOVA Guaranteed Rate Arizona Bowl over Georgia State.

Three Things to Look For...

  1. Wyoming establishing the run-game early and often

Wyoming returns two quality, experienced backs to begin the new campaign. Xazavian Valladay is arguably the most talented player in the Mountain West this season, and his partner in crime Trey Smith will look to build off a very efficient 2020. Wyoming also brings back a lot of experience at Offensive Line which will only make Valladay and Smith’s jobs easier. The weak spot for Wyoming is still the passing game, so they’ll look to play off their strengths early on in order to get comfortable being back in-game speed.

  1. The defense will play the biggest role for both teams throughout the contest

Both of these squads take the utmost pride in the defensive side of the ball and they run similar schemes. Wyoming returns multiple starters on that front and Montana State does so as well. LB Chad Muma will look to be the leader on the defensive front for the Pokes, leading his defense last season in tackles and forced fumbles. Look for him to be the biggest presence for them on that side of the ball. As for the Bobcats, the uncertainty given that the team sat out last season leaves this a bit less clear, however, they will return enough players from their 2019 defense to ensure that Saturday will be no walk in the park for the Pokes of Laramie.

  1. Familiar faces on each sideline

A lot of the intrigue to this game will be directed toward the coaching battle between Wyoming’s Craig Bohl and Montana State’s Brent Vigen. Vigen was the Offensive Coordinator for the Pokes from 2014-2020 under Coach Bohl, and while each coach has become very familiar with the other’s style of play over the years, we’ve never seen them up against one another while both men hold the mantle of Head Coach. Expect the unexpected in this much anticipated head to head matchup.

Game Prediction:

This week should be a pretty telling week for both of these squads. The Pokes will be challenged with knowing that their former OC will hold no information back in preparing his defense for this high powered Poke run game, and must be able to execute their game plan regardless. On the flip side, Coach Vigen knows that he’s going up against a team that may be one of the most sound and experienced in the country. I could see this game getting off to a relatively slow start, but I’ll have the Cowboys by a considerable margin of victory.

Final Score:

Wyoming 28

Montana State 13