Robert Gagliardi of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang was nice enough to answer these pressing questions about Wyoming’s Cowboys. Air Force travels to Laramie on Saturday for a crucial Mountain West Conference game. If Air Force wins, a trip to a bowl game remains a strong possibility, maybe even a probability. If the Falcons lose? Mass depression on this side of the Wyoming border.
It’s been a little bit of everything. Sophomore quarterback Brett Smith was knocked out in the fourth quarter of a 34-31 home loss to Toledo with a concussion, and didn’t play in a 24-22 home loss to Cal Poly the next week. At Nevada, Smith was ejected midway through the fourth quarter after getting his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The defense has struggled all season, mostly against the run, but a Nevada it played the run well but allowed two quarterbacks to throw for 438 yards and four touchdowns. Wyoming simply hasn’t made enough plays late in games to finish them.
1a. Has Smith experienced a sophomore slump after being named the Mountain West Freshman of the Year last season?
When Smith’s played he’s played well. His completion percentage is up and he’s definitely the heart and soul of the offense. The concussion was unfortunate, but the ejected last week was a bad mistake from a young player who must do a better job of controlling his emotions. Smith is a target for teams this year, and he needs to do a better job of handling that. It also would help if the cast around him plays better so he doesn’t have to do it all on his own.
2. Did you expect the defense to be improved this season with a new defensive coordinator, and where have the major problems been?
I thought it would be better than the one that allowed 232 rushing yards per game. Most of the problems have been against the run, but it held Nevada to 127 yards last week after it came in averaging 308.8 per contest. But then the pass defense fell apart. There has been inconsistent play at linebacker and in the secondary, especially at safety. There have been a few injuries, but overall the defense hasn’t been able to put together a complete game.
3. Sophomore receiver Dominic Rufran is a Colorado Springs product who played well last season as a true freshman for the Cowboys. How has he played this season?
Rufran has been solid and consistent. Of the receivers that have caught at least 10 passes this season, he is tops with 16.9 yards per catch. He’s a quiet and reserved player, but always seems to come up with a big play when Wyoming needs it.
4. How do you see this game unfolding and what’s your predicted final score?
Like most of the most recent games between these two teams I think it will be close. The team that makes the most critical plays late will win. Both teams seem due for a win but it’s hard to tell which team will win the fourth quarter. Wyoming needs Smith to be on the field to have any chance, and it has to limit the production Air Force gets along the perimster in the run game. If Smith stays in the game, I will take Wyoming in a close one, 27-23.