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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 6, 7:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackay Stadium (33,400) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: Wyoming 0-2, Nevada 1-1. Away Record: Wyoming 1-1, Nevada 3-0. Neutral Record: Wyoming 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: Wyoming 0-0, Nevada 1-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: The Wyoming Cowboys kick off their Mountain West Conference schedule on Saturday evening, as they travel to Reno to take on the Nevada Wolf Pack.
After losing three straight to open the season, Wyoming finally put one in the win column on Sept. 22 by overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit against Idaho to win in overtime, 40-37. The Cowboys have been road warriors over the past two seasons, winning five of their last eight games outside of Laramie.
Nevada is off to a fast start, and had it not been for a fourth-quarter collapse against USF on Sept. 8 (32-31 loss), it would be sitting with a perfect record. Since the loss, the Wolf Pack have won three straight by double-digits, most recently taking care of Texas State last Saturday, 34-21.
In four all-time meetings between these two teams, the series is tied at 2-2. Nevada won the last matchup on Sept. 23, 2000, 35-28.
The Wyoming offense has shown signs of life (27.5 ppg, 397.8 ypg) this year, but it has come up small in the clutch, converting just 22 percent (10-of-45) of its third downs. The good news is the team is coming off its most impressive offensive showing of the season in the win over Idaho.
Prior to that game, Brett Smith had thrown just four touchdowns and four interceptions, but he exploded for a career-high five scoring strikes and 370 yards paired with zero interceptions last Saturday. He has now completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 980 yards in just three games.
Wideout Chris McNeill is also coming off a career effort, as he hauled in eight balls for 219 yards and a score against Idaho, and he now leads the team with 19 catches for 322 yards on the season. There's solid distribution among the pass catchers, as Jalen Claiborne, Dominic Rufran, and Robert Herron all have at least 153 yards receiving.
The Cowboys have not been all that effective running the ball this year, with just over 117 rushing yards per game. Brandon Miller is the leading rusher with only 119 yards on 39 carries.
The defense has had trouble slowing teams down, giving up 33 ppg and 455.8 ypg. The unit has suffered from being on the field too much, as the team is routinely beat in the time of possession battle (opponents average 34:31).
There haven't been many big plays on the defensive side of the ball with just five sacks and one interception. Korey Jones (38 tackles), Mike Purcell (35 tackles, 3.5 TFL), and Blair Burns (21 tackles, six pass break ups) have been the unit's top performers.
Nevada sports the top offense in the MWC, no matter which way you spin it (42 ppg, 557.6 ypg, 31 first downs per game). It has also been remarkably consistent, scoring at least 30 points in every game.
Stefphon Jefferson has been arguably the nation's best back through five games this season, leading the country in carries (162), yards (877) and touchdowns (11). He has rushed for 100 yards or more in every game this season, and as a team, Nevada has had at least one 100-yard rusher in 14 consecutive games, which is by far the longest active streak in the nation (no other program has more than five straight).
Quarterback Cody Fajardo also gets in the mix running the ball, gaining over 100 yards rushing per game himself (513 yards, seven TDs). He's no slouch throwing it either, completing 68.8 percent of his passes (108-of-157) for 1,244 yards and seven touchdowns against only two picks.
Coming off a career-best 135 yards in the win over Texas State, Brandon Wimberly now leads the team with 30 catches for 390 yards, although he is still without a touchdown. Zach Sudfeld (232 yards) has most of the passing scores, hauling in four touchdowns on 19 receptions.
A prolific offense has helped mask a shaky defense, which allows more than 430 ypg and 27 ppg.
Brock Hekking is among the national leaders in sacks with six. Duke Williams leads the team with 43 tackles, and Khalid Wooten has a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown.
With a pair of suspect defenses at play in this matchup, there should be plenty of points to go around. Wyoming has looked better of late, but playing on the road against one of the most explosive offenses in the country, the Cowboys have little shot in keeping pace with the Wolf Pack.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 49, Wyoming 31
10/03 10:37:59 ET
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