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Wyoming vs. Utah State game preview: Can Cowboys Overcome Key Injuries Against Aggies?

The Cowboys will need to circle the wagons and play the game of a life time to beat a Utah State team that is playing great football.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The Wyoming Cowboys hit the road to play Utah State this Friday, doing so without some key members of an offense that has put up some good numbers. With senior QB Cameron Coffman and top WR Tanner Gentry sidelined, the Cowboys will have to play the game of a lifetime to beat the heavily favored Utah State Aggies, who are coming off of a 48-14 loss to San Diego State.

Utah State is 4-3 overall and 3-1 in MWC play.

UTAH STATE AGGIES

Date: 8:15 p.m., Oct. 30

Coach: Matt Wells

Last season: 10-4

Offense: Spread

Defense: 3-4

Players to Watch

Kent Myers, QB; Nick Vigil, LB; Kyler Fackrell, LB

The Utah State Defense is Really Good and...

Wyoming must take advantage of opportunities against  a USU defensive unit that ranks 24th in the nation in total defense, allowing 24.3 points and only 321.3 yards of total offense  per game. When facing what appears to be a superior defensive unit, scoring chances may be at a premium. When these chances do pop up, red shirt frosh QB Nick Smith must have the awareness to make the right play. It will be interesting to see how Wyoming OC Brent Vigen calls this game.

According to head coach Craig Bohl, however, not much will change "We need to go in with the attitude to win the game as opposed to protect a quarterback," he said. "We’re going to do everything we can to get ourselves ready to go to have a chance to win the game."

The Cowboy offense has a tough nut to crack. Junior LB Nick Vigil has lived up to his pre-season hype, leading the team with 76 stops that include 7.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and veteran LB Kyler Fackrell has 3.0 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.

The Wyoming offensive line, a unit that is young but that has remained relatively healthy, must not let Aggies defenders play on the negative side of the line of scrimmage. To succeed, the Cowboys must hang their hats on running the ball, thereby shortening the game, so expect to see a heavy dose of running backs  Kellen Overstreet and Brian Hill early in hopes of both loosening up the USU secondary and chewing up clock. If the Pokes move the ball on the ground , look for TE Jacob Hollister to play a big role catching play passes between the hashes.

However...

The USU defense is tied for the MWC lead in take-aways with 18. Holding on to the football may prove to be very difficult versus a team the took the ball away from Boise State eight times. The Cowboys have been OK at holding on to the football, ranking 25th in time of possession at 32.:28 per game, but more plays from scrimmage translates into more chances for mistakes. Couple this with the fact that Wyoming youth is front and (under) center and you have a recipe for creating a frustrating day for the Wyoming offense.

The Other Side of the Ball

The USU offense is led by sophomore QB Kent Myers who is 55-of-89 (61.8%) passing for 647 yards and averages 161.8 yard per contest, putting up six touchdowns and one interception. Not eye popping numbers, but Myers is a dual threat --effective both running and throwing the football, and has proven effective, going 8-2 as a starter for USU.

The Utah State offense has been, if anything, a balanced attack, averaging 338.1 yards of total offense per game (172.4 - passing, 165.7 - rushing). Devante Mays leads the team in rushing with 410 yards on 61 carries (6.7 yards per carry) and senior WR Hunter Sharp leads the Aggies with 27 catches for 341 yards. If Wyoming is to have a chance, the defense must make plays against an average offensive attack. More importantly, the Wyoming defense must find a way to make plays with their backs against the wall. So far this year, offenses have scored nearly 91 percent of the time when they get inside the Wyoming 20 yard line --a dramatic statistic-- showing that, thus far in 2015, the Pokes defense bends AND breaks.

But...

That's why they play the game. On paper, on the field, and in the press box, there are no obvious reasons why Wyoming should beat Utah State. There's also no logic as to why an Aggie team that dropped 52 on Boise State in a winning effort and then gets smoked by San Diego State 48-14 the following week, or why this same USU team only scored 12 against Southern Utah in its home opener either...  Utah State should roll, but if Wyoming has proven anything this year, they cover when they are 23 point plus dogs.