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September 7, 2013

High score in store? Wyo to host Idaho

You generally get a good idea for a team's success or lack thereof by looking at what the Sports Information office of a given team hands out.

About four paragraphs into this week's Idaho football release you cringe.

The release starts out touting the fact the 0-1 Vandals allowed North Texas to convert just one of four fourth down attempts last week in their 40-6 loss to the Mean Green. From there, the release mentions the punter's average of 47.3 per kick.

The release makes you want to give the program a collective hug and tell them it is not their fault.

If the Wyoming football team will battle anything this weekend it could be overconfidence. A great showing for the offense in Lincoln, Neb. last week and an opponent who is clearly struggling to find an offensive identity, playmakers and even a conference to play in, could make for a bad combination for the Cowboys.

College coaches are fond of saying a team makes it's most improvement between weeks one and two and my guess is Paul Petrino (Idaho coach) is praying that is the case. While Wyoming has spent the week basking in the glow of their near miss in Lincoln, there is cause for concern with Idaho coming to town.

While Wyoming did account for 602 yards of total offense, they nearly gave up that many as well (530). The Huskers offered a blueprint for how to beat the Cowboys by leaning a large offensive line on the Cowboys to the tune of 375 yards on the ground. In the second half the Huskers pushed around the Cowboys and kept the ball out of Brett Smith's hands, holding it for 12 of 15 minutes of game time.

First the good news - the Husker linemen are not walking through the visitor locker room in Laramie this weekend. Now the bad - the Vandals rushed for 186 yards (before sack yardage was added in) last week will bring an offensive line that averages around 290 pounds per man. Not to mention the fact they have the tape from last week's Wyoming game and last year's 40-37 loss to the Cowboys in which the Vandals torched the Cowboys for 509 yards total offense and 203 on the ground.

Idaho brings in an offense which struggled some last week, has a redshirt freshman for a quarterback (Chad Chalich, who completed 19-of-17 passes for 230 yards) who either had tunnel vision (eight of 19 completions went to Dezmon Epps) last week or doesn't have a large circle of trust when it comes to his wideouts. The Vandals did experience some success in the running game with Jerrel Brown (6 rushes for 70 yards).

Wyoming's front seven have been a work in progress for the past two seasons and will need to show continued improvement this week to keep those numbers down. Wyoming's Bowl chances rest soundly on their shoulders.

Offensively, the Cowboys played very well last week, led by Brett Smith's 383 yards passing and 95 yards on the ground, but they do need to get better on third down. For all of the success they enjoyed on offense, the Pokes converted on just one-of-eight third downs in the game. Where this version of Shaun Wick came from is anyone's guess and left the Brown and Gold faithful asking, "DJ who?"

All of that translates to a monster job done by the offensive line. The group came in with little fanfare and many questions, but the group of Tyler Strong, Walker Madden, Albert Perez, Jake Jones and Connor Rains deserves a huge "atta boy," for their work.

This week Wyoming will face a much different defense, one that allowed 404 yards passing to North Texas last week and proved to be little more than a speed bump for North Texas on its way to the end zone. Another big week by the offensive line will let the Cowboy offense find its identity and give Dave Christensen another week to become more comfortable calling plays with this group readying him for the conference wars to come.

At the end of the day, This one has two defenses who gave up better than 1,000 yards last weekend combined and at least one team - Wyoming - who showed it can move the ball against anyone. The ROTC at Wyoming might consider packing a couple of extra rounds for the cannon this weekend.

Former Michigan State and Louisville coach John L. Smith used to be fond of saying, "first team to 49 points wins."

For this one, he may just be right.


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