After three “warm-up” games with a 2-1 record, the Mountain West season is now upon us with what seems like the traditional early season conference game versus the Air Force. This year’s game is in Colorado Springs on national television and the Pokes will be looking to get off to a good start in conference play. This is how the schools match-up:
When the Cowboys Run:
Wyoming’s running game has been much improved this year and the Pokes currently rank 39th in the country in rushing at 218 yards per game. On the flip side the Air Force has struggled in stopping the run so far this year giving up yardage totals of 157, 217 and 229 in their first three games ranking the zoomies 97th against the run in the nation. This looks like a matchup the Cowboys should be able to exploit with Shaun Wick running behind an improved offensive line.
When the Cowboys Pass:
With Brett Smith injured in the opening plays of the Northern Colorado game last week. The Cowboys struggled to pass the ball early in the game. According to practice reports this week Smith looks healthy and is moving around well. This bodes well for the Cowboys because when Smith is healthy there are very few defenses that the Pokes will face who can slow down the Wyoming passing attack down.
When the Falcons Run:
The Air Force is obviously a run first team with their triple option based offense. They do rack up yardage because they run the ball so much and currently rank 23rd in the country in rushing offense with 253 yards per game. The Cowboys athletically match up pretty well against the Air Force in terms of stopping the run with the size and speed of the linebackers. It would help to have a healthy Wacha but even without him the Pokes can slow down the Falcons enough to be successful but the AFA still has the edge.
When the Falcons Pass:
Due to injury, Jaleel Awini is a first year starting QB for the Falcons. He has been described in the media this week as one of the most talented passing QBs Air Force has had in several years. His numbers right now don’t support that (41% passing completion and 1 INT with 0 TDs) but you can see the described talent is there and the Pokes will have to be ready for strategic play action passes coming their way. With that said Wyoming has a solid secondary and Awini will have to prove he can pass at a more consistent level than he has in his first few starts.
Air Force is known for having solid special teams and have the edge on Wyoming in the return game and field goal kicking. The Pokes have the better punter which could be a big advantage if the game becomes one based on field position. The field goal kicking department is a concern right now as Wyoming is 0 for 2 in field goals and Air Force is 5 for 5. If the game comes down to field goal kicking the Pokes could be in trouble.
After last year’s post game circus that saw f-bombs and references to 1950’s children’s character, both coaches claim they are focused on the game at hand. It is no secret that Christensen and Calhoun aren’t too fond of each other even though they have made up publicly and the coach who can control his emotions the best will have the upper hand in this battle. I think Christensen has actually moved on from the incident because it seems he has changed and is more relaxed than in the past. Calhoun is a very good coach though with an NFL background and will have his team ready.
Turnovers and Wyoming’s defensive line play are going to be the two major deciding factors in this game. I feel the Pokes have what it takes to pull off a victory in typical Wyoming versus Air Force fashion with a close game that goes right down to the end.
Cowboys 34 – Falcons 29