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Wyoming football: Keys to beat Nevada

Nevada is coming off of an impressive offensive performance against New Mexico

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a rough year for Wyoming. There are many things that the Cowboys must improve when Nevada visits Laramie this Saturday.

Nevada Wolf Pack

Date: Oct. 17

Coach: Brian Polian

Last season: 7-6

Offense: Pistol

Defense: 4-3

Key Players: Hasaan Henderson, WR; Ian Seau, DE; Jerico Richardson, WR

Take Advantage of Red Zone Opportunities

Wyoming's red zone scoring percentage stands at a miserable 55.56%. The most frustrating thing about the 2015 Pokes is that they have actually moved the ball well between the 20's only to turn the ball over or give up a negative play when sniffing the goal line. Says Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl regarding his offense: "We have the ability to move the football, but we've got to finish off drives and we've got to prevent some big plays on defense."

This week quarterback Cam Coffman must continue to make good decisions, the running backs must secure the ball and the offensive line must stand firm if Wyoming is to turn it around against Nevada.

Stop the Run

Last week against New Mexico, Nevada was able to run the ball with great success. Senior RB Don Jackson ran 22 times for 152 yards, sophomore RB James Butler added 145 yards and a TD averaging nearly 7 yards per burst and Junior QB Tyler Stewart ran for two scores in addition to passing  for two more.

Stopping the run has not been a forte of the Wyoming defense. The Cowboys have allowed opposing teams to average 5.6 yards per carry so far. More alarmingly this number has ballooned to 6.1 yards per carry as conference play has begun. Frankly, the Pokes have had plenty of chances to make stops for losses this year but have failed to make drive changing tackles. Missed tackles often indicate a lack of effort or discipline. They have to clean this up. Freshman Andrew Wingard has been a bright spot for the Pokes so far this year and appears to be an emotional leader who consistently makes solid tackles behind or near the line of scrimmage.

Compete More When Defending the Pass

Defending the Nevada passing game might be a tall order for a Wyoming secondary that has not been good at breaking up opponents passing attacks overall. 6'5" WR Hasaan Henderson makes quite the compelling target and WR Jerico Richardson is coming off of a 9 catch, 121 yard effort vs New Mexico. More disconcerting is the fact that Wyoming has allowed opponents to complete 68% of passes thrown against them, although it appears that changes to the Cowboy depth chart may be paying dividends: Wyoming has held opponent to a 43.33% completion rate in its last 3 games. However, Tyler Stewart is coming off his best game statistically in 2015, completing nearly 85% of his passes against New Mexico last week.

Though Nevada's passing attack has been somewhat run-of-the-mill, Wyoming's defense has made a lot of opposing quarterbacks this year look pretty good, so look for defensive coordinator Steve Stanard to bring pressure to help the back end this week.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

When Wyoming suits up for their homecoming tilt with the Wolf Pack, one goal will be in mind: get their first win. This is one of those games where a bad team that has been doing a lot of good things has the chance to bring it all together and walk off the field a winner. Wyoming has proven to be resilient. Let's face facts, at 0-6, the ONLY moral victory is a real victory, and I like Wyoming to come away with its first win of 2015.