Wyoming enters week two a disappointing 0-1 after an abysmal performance against FCS foe North Dakota. This week the Cowboys will host the MAC’s Eastern Michigan Eagles, who are 0-1 after an opening season loss to Old Dominion. While embarrassing, Wyoming’s season is far from over. Their 11 game season starts on Saturday and is a very winnable game. The Cowboys are double-digit favorites and absolutely need a rebound win. So, without further adieu, here are some players to watch.
Offense: Tanner Gentry, WR:
Tanner Gentry was quite possibly the only bright spot for the Wyoming offense last week. His 9 catches for 176 yards rank at the top of the MWC and were among the best in the nation. Gentry, who also caught a 92-yard touchdown against UND, possess good size, strong hands, and solid route running. Senior quarterback Cam Coffman didn’t have a bad game in the opener, going 19/37 for 282 yards and 2 scores and will likely continue to rely on his junior pass catcher. It is not known yet if Cam Coffman (knee) or sophomore Josh Allen will start on Saturday, but who ever it is expect them to look Gentry’s way early and often.
Defense: Eddie Yarbrough, DE:
Last week the Wyoming defense was, for lack of a better word, bad. The success of the defense starts up front and the defensive line struggled last weekend to get a push. This lead to holes in the running game, which allowed UND to run for 276 yards on 54 carries for 3 scores. I could have chosen the entire defensive line here, but the DL goes as Eddie Yarbrough goes. Last weekend he finished with 3 tackles and the loan UW sack, which came early in the game. Yarbrough and the rest of the big boys up front need to get that push to relieve some pressure off of the back 7 guys. UND converted 9/17 third downs last week, due in large part to their success in the running game. This week Wyoming will go up against a running attack that gained 252 yards on 47 carries last week, posing yet another challenge. If the DL can win first and second down, it will go a long way in allowing the Wyoming defense to have success.
I know, I know. I chose these two as my x-factor last week, but the fact of the matter is that they are the x-factor. Last week the 2 running backs, who are supposed to be among the best in the MWC, combined for 46 yards on 16 carries. 16 carries is far too few, but that is in large part due to the fact that they couldn’t get going and then Wyoming was forced to play catch up in the second half of the ball game. Wyoming lost the time of possession battle 22 minutes to 38, a stat that they need to win in order to succeed. Eastern Michigan appears to struggle against the run, last week against ODU they allowed 229 yards on 41 carries, which is well over 5 YPC. Wick and Hill need to get going early and often and find the end zone on Saturday, or the Pokes could be in for another long afternoon.
Offense: Darius Jackson, RB
Wyoming’s first order of defense will be stopping the run and this week they will go up against talented running back, Darius Jackson. Jackson ran for 295 yards last season, appearing in all 12 games and starting 4. This season, he was named to the Doak Walker watch list and seems to be the guy in the Eagles backfield. Last week Jackson ran for 117 yards on 19 carries and 2 scores, he also caught 5 passes for 67 yards, which lead the team. If Jackson is able to have similar success this week, the Eagles will have a real chance at leaving Laramie with a win.
Defense: Anthony Zappone, LB
Zappone, who is a junior, lead the Eagles in tackles last weekend with 11, including one for a loss. He finished third on the team last season with 90 tackles and it appears that he has a nose for the football. Wyoming wants to establish their ground game early in Saturday’s contest and Zappone is going to be the guy leading the charge for the Eagles to try and slow it down. The Eagles will continue to play without one of their better defenders, Pat O’Connor, and with him out it just puts more pressure on Zappone to make plays. If Zappone and his running mates are able to do what UND did to Wyoming and not let Wick and Hill get going, the Eagles will be in a great position to win the football game.
X-Factor: Great Ibe, LB
Aside from having a “great” name, Great Ibe appears to be the real deal on defense. It appears that he is far and away EMU’s best defensive player and one of the top players in the entire MAC. Last season Ibe was selected as a 2nd team All-MAC performer, he finished the season with 133 tackles, which was 3rd in the conference. This preseason Ibe was selected as a preseason 1st teamer and named on the Rotary Lombardi watch list. Last week Ibe finished the game with 9 tackles and between him and Zappone they appear to have a talented LB corps. Ibe, who had 21 tackles in a single game last year, will be instrumental in stopping the Wyoming ground game. Wyoming better know where he is on the field at all times, because if they don’t he is going to make a lot of tackles.
So there are a few players that figure to play key roles on Saturday. Who are some guys you will be watching?
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