All right, it’s Thursday! After a week off, I am back to preview some players to watch for this week’s game. Wyoming (2-1, 1-0) is taking on Florida Atlantic (1-2) on Saturday as the Pokes return to the friendly confines of War Memorial Stadium after losing @ #2 Oregon last weekend 48-14. Wyoming’s opponent this week, FAU, is coming in off of their first victory of the season, a 50-21 victory in their home opener against Tulsa. Like Wyoming, FAU is under a first year head coach, Charlie Partridge. They opened their 2014 season @Nebraska and then @Alabama, losing the two games by a combined score of 96-7. In their win last weekend they racked up 518 yards of total offense and lead the whole way. It is difficult to know what to expect from the Owls, as they have had two very tough road games and then a blowout victory at home. Coming to 7220 ft. won’t be easy for FAU and could play a major factor Saturday. Now, let’s take a look at a few players for both teams that could have a big impact on the outcome of the game.
Wyoming Cowboys’ Key Players
#7 D.J. May, RB- May is arguably coming off of his best game as a Cowboy. He ran for 48 yards on 8 carries, with a long of 25 yards and also caught 4 balls for 101 yards and a TD. He looked electric on Saturday and showed that he is a big play threat anytime he touches the ball. May, a sophomore, is the perfect compliment for bruising RB Shaun Wick (293 yards, 5.6 avg., 1 TD). May now has 273 yards of total offense and 2 TD’s through the first 3 games and appears to have shaken the rust off after missing all of last season with an injury. He will play another big role on Saturday and will likely need to make some big plays in order for the offense to put up more than 17 points for the first time all season. He and Wick are the bread and butter Bohl’s offense and when they have success running the ball it opens up more for QB Colby Kirkegaard, especially in the play action game and may allow him to throw the ball downfield more often.
#1 Jordan Stanton, LB- Stanton, who had 134 total tackles last year, has been solid again through the first three games. He has 18 TT, 2 for a loss, 1 sack, and one FF on a crucial play against Air Force. He and fellow senior LB Mark Nzeocha (32 TT) seem to get their hand on every tackle. Stanton won the MWC Defensive Player of the Week award after his week 2 performance against Air Force and played okay @ Oregon, recording the teams only tackle for a loss. He will play an important role on Saturday against FAU, who has some speed on offense and a dual threat QB. He has a knack for big plays and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come up with one this week.
Defensive Ends Eddie Yarbrough and Sonny Puletasi– One of the biggest surprises of the season is that neither of Wyoming’s defensive ends have recorded a sack through the first 3 games, after combing for 11 last season. That will need to change on Saturday in order for Wyoming’s defensive to have a good day. FAU QB, Jaquez Johnson, possesses the capability to throw and run the ball and in order to keep him contained Yarbrough and Puletasi will need to apply constant pressure on the edge. Yarbrough, who was 1st team All-MWC last season attracts a lot of attention, which should allow for Puletasi to make some plays, but he has only recorded 3 tackles thus far and 0 for a loss. These two need to turn it up a notch on Saturday both early and often and hopefully rush Johnson into some poor throws, creating opportunities for the DB’s to make big plays.
Florida Atlantic Owl’s Key Players
#12 Jaquez Johnson, QB- Johnson is the engine that makes FAU’s offense go. He is coming off of a very efficient game against Tulsa last week, throwing 15-20 for 318 yards and 3 scores and ran 7 times for 18 yards and a score. His numbers from last week may not reflect it, but Johnson is a threat throwing the ball, as well as running it. Last season, in 11 starts, he threw for 1876 yards, 12 TDs, and 8 INT, while running it 172 times for 772 yards and 10 scores. Wyoming’s defense will need to constantly apply pressure on Johnson and get him rattled. If they don’t get pressure he will make the Pokes pay and that could spell trouble for the home team.
#21 D’Joun Smith, DB- Smith, a senior, is a playmaker, plain and simple. Last season he was third in the nation with 7 interceptions. Last week against Tulsa he nabbed his pic first of the 2014 season turning it into 6 points and also recovered a fumble. He has a knack for finding the football and getting ahold of it. Kirkegaard will need to know where Smith is on the field at all times because he will be lurking and if he gets his hands on a ball he could turn it into a touchdown, as he has shown in the past. Wyoming cannot afford to turn the football over on Saturday and knowing where Smith is at all times will help them avoid doing just that.
#1 Lucky Whitehead, WR- No, Lucky Whitehead isn’t a name from the popular Key and Peele East West Shrine Game skit, though it very well could be. Whitehead is a real player, and a good one. He comes into Saturday’s game having ran the ball 8 times for 53 yards and has caught 16 balls for 120 yards and 1 TD, he also returns kicks. Whitehead is Johnson’s go to receiver and possesses the big play ability. Wyoming has done a good job preventing the big play this season and containing Whitehead will go a long way in continuing to prevent the big play. The Owls will find ways to get him the ball, whether they hand it off, throw it, or utilize him in the return game. He will be the one guy, besides Johnson, that the Wyoming defense will need to know where he is at all times.
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