It’s Thursday, which means it is time for my players to watch. The Pokes are 2-1 and now have a big conference game as they travel down to Colorado Springs to take on Air Force. We all know the background story from last season and while that adds some context to this matchup, I think this a big game for Wyoming for other reasons. The Cowboys had a good showing against Nebraska after preparing for them since December and then two cupcakes after that. This is their first real test since that first game and should tell a lot about our football team and how improved our defense really is.
Here are my key players to watch this weekend.
Wyoming’s Key Players
#6 Robert Herron, WR- Herron is having a fine season thus far, but he hasn’t made the big time plays we have been expecting from him. He is currently second on the team in receptions (14) and receiving yards (263) to go along with one touchdown. Herron has made big plays in big games throughout his career, i.e. Texas, Nebraska. Air Force’s defense hasn’t been good this year, allowing 35.7 points a game and 470 yards a game. Herron should have plenty of chance to break the big play we have become used to seeing from him
#12 Sonny Puletasi, LB – Puletasi had a fine game against Nebraska and defending their read option well. He only had 3 tackles in that game but his play allowed others to make big plays. Puletasi will be key in defending Air Force’s option attack, as he will be the guy that will force the QB to make a decision. Look for him to cause havoc and free up others to make big plays as well.
#8 Brandon Miller, RB- Miller has been solid this year, he has caught 7 passes for 75 yards and a score and ran the ball 27 times for 133 yards and a score. Shaun Wick has shown that he is the featured back, but Miller, who has played WR and RB in his career, has remained effective. He catches the ball well and runs hard. I think he is a tough match up for Air Force’s defense and could play a major role Saturday night.
Air Force’s Key Players
#12 Jaleel Awini, QB- Awini took over as the starting quarterback after opening day starter Kale Pearson got hurt in their first game. He has carried the ball 36 times for 172 yards and 3 scores, and is 10-24 for 186 yards, 0 TD’s, 1 int. when passing. Awini’s numbers throwing the ball don’t look great but Coach Christensen has been quoted this week saying he is a better thrower than Air Force has had in the past. Awini’s decision making both throwing and while running the option will be crucial for AFA.
#49 Joey Nichol, LB- Air Force’s defense has struggled thus far this season. As I noted earlier, they have allowed 35 points a game, 200 yards rushing per game, and 270 yards a game through the air, while only recording one QB sack. Nichol is their leading tackler with 29 stops on the year, 2 of which were for a loss. He is going to have the set the tone early for this Falcon defense, but if they can’t get pressure on Brett Smith they might be in a lot of trouble.
Air Force’s X-Factor
The Defensive Line – Like I said before Air Force has recorded one QB sack this season, and it came from a defensive back. In order to slow Wyoming down, they are going to have get pressure on Brett Smith early and often. Smith has proven that he can pick apart a defense when he has time. Also, Shaun Wick has had a fine start to his season, rushing for 299 yards on only 43 attempts to go along with 3 TD’s, that’s nearly 7 yards per carry. AFA’s defense has given up 200 yards a game on the ground and nearly 5 yards per attempt. Their DL is going to need to win the battle in the trenches if they want to slow down Wyoming’s offense.