GAME NOTES: The Wyoming Cowboys will look to get on track this weekend when
they storm into the Kibbie Dome for a non-conference battle with the Idaho
The Cowboys' dreadful start to the season got even worse last week as they
lost, 24-22, to Cal Poly to fall to 0-3. It was the first defeat at the hands
of an FCS opponent in school history. Wyoming was playing shorthanded, but the
loss was still shocking after spirited performances in its prior losses to
Texas (37-17) and Toledo (34-31). The 'Pokes have now lost four in a row
dating back to last season after coming into the year hoping to contend for
the Mountain West title. Coach Dave Christensen and his team need to pull
things together quickly, as their trip to the Kibbie Dome is the final test
before conference action begins.
The Vandals have also come up empty in three outings this season, in addition
to a loss to an FCS foe with the season-opening defeat at the hands of Eastern
Washington (20-3). Idaho was more competitive in its second outing, a 21-13
loss at Bowling Green, but was completely outclassed last weekend in Baton
Rouge, getting routed by powerhouse LSU, 64-14.
The Cowboys posted a 28-13 triumph in the most recent meeting in 1999 between
these programs to gain a 4-1 edge in the all-time series. The only game played
in Moscow also was Idaho's lone victory 31-3 in 1921.
Wyoming had a conservative gameplan in its loss to Cal Poly with starting QB
Brett Smith sidelined with a concussion. First-time starter Colby Kirkegaard
was forced into a greater role than expected after the team fell behind, and
he finished with 123 yards with an interception in the loss.
There is hope Smith and WR Robert Herron (shin injury) can both return to the
lineup for this weekend's game, but Smith is questionable and Herron is
doubtful. If Kirkegaard is the starter once again, he will be given more
opportunities to air it out.
Wyoming's rushing attack produced just 3.5 yards per game against an FCS
opponent last week. Shaun Wick had trouble finding running room and produced
just 64 yards on 21 carries. Despite having trouble picking up yardage, Wick
did managed to cross the goal line three times.
The Cowboys' passing attack has a few deep threat wideouts to target. Dominic
Rufran is leading the way with 206 yards and a touchdown on only nine
receptions. Herron racked up 173 yards and two scores on five catches before
injuring his shin. Jalen Claiborne and Chris McNeil need to pick up the slack
until Herron is ready for a healthy return.
Wyoming needs to improve its porous rush defense, which is allowing 269.7
yards on the ground per contest. Cal Poly amassed 325 yards in last week's
loss. Korey Jones (33) is leading the Mountain West in tackles, while Luke
Ruff (29) is close behind in fourth place.
Through three games, Idaho is averaging just 10 points, which ranks 118th out
of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Despite the team's struggles to
generate points, one positive has emerged during the team's slow start, as
transfer Dominique Blackman has shown great potential at quarterback. Blackman
had one of the best first starts in school history, completing 30-of-37 passes
for 352 yards and a touchdown versus Bowling Green.
Against LSU in his second start, Blackman took a step back. The junior QB
completed 23-of-36 passes for 174 yards and two scores, but he threw four
interceptions against the ravenous Tigers.
He has shown an instant chemistry with Jahrie Level, who has 15 catches for
167 yards and a touchdown in the past two games.
However, the Vandals desperately need to bounce back after being held to 213
yards by LSU. Blackman has not received much help from the running game as
Idaho has netted a mere 45 yards on 46 combined attempts in its past two
On the other side of the ball, Idaho held Eastern Washington and Bowling Green
to an average of 20.5 points per contest. Last week, those numbers got
inflated, yielding 63 points and 472 yards of total offense to LSU.
Gary Walker is the anchor of the defense with a team-best 25 total tackles.
Benson Mayowa has been a force and ranks second in the WAC with three sacks.
Wyoming has a few question marks heading into this week, including the health
of Smith and the ability of his backup. Idaho needs to provide a rushing
attack to go along with its new quarterback or it will remain winless.