A look ahead at Wyoming

Washington State opens its 2018 campaign on the road at Wyoming. Wyoming, an out of conference opponent, is one we know little about outside of a 2015 matchup hosted by the Cougs in Martin Stadium.

Coming off back-to-back eight-win seasons, the Pokes are no slouch.

Washington State vs Wyoming History
The Cougs hold an all-time advantage over the Cowboys leading the series 4-2. The most recent matchup came in 2015 and before that it was 1990. Not a lot of relevant head-to-head data is out there.

The Cougs proved victorious in 2015 by a 31-14 margin; however, these are both different rosters. Outside of head coaches, helmet logos and Peyton Pelluer, very little feels constant.

To think historical prominence lends any sort of influence to this game would be a huge mistake.

Wyoming Background
The Cowboys boast a respectable history of 14 conference titles. But, since the 90’s, Wyoming has not had a single head coach leave the program with a winning percentage above .500.

Head coach Craig Bohl, a three-time national champion at North Dakota State, is likely to break the dry spell. He walks into this matchup with a 23-29 overall record in his fifth season with the program.

Wrapping up their 2018 campaign with a decisive 37-14 victory over Central Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the Cowboys posted an 8-5 record (5-3 in conference play) and tied Colorado State for second in the Mountain Division.

It should not be understated that the Pokes will host WSU having already played a game this season. In their opener, the Cowboys bullied the New Mexico State Aggies to a final score of 29-7.

Wyoming was dominant in their performance on both sides of the ball. They passed for 137 yards and rushed for an additional 312. Defensively, they held New Mexico to 135 yards for the day and kept the Aggies rushing total in the negatives.

“They play sound fundamental defense,” said outside receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. “We will have to play well to execute on offense.”

Key Players
Freshman Tyler Vander Waal, senior Andrew Wingard and senior Nico Evans are all worth your knowing.

Vander Waal, the Pokes starting quarterback, looked sharp in his college debut. He completed 59% of his passes with zero touchdowns or interceptions. The signal caller connected with seven different targets. Four of them recorded multiple receptions.

From what I have seen, Vander Waal does not look like a player who will conduct a 2-minute drill at will, but he can manage and execute a game plan. He should not be overlooked.

Wingard, the starting safety for the Pokes, returns to Wyoming as a First Team All-Mountain West selection in 2017. You can bet the Cougar offense will make it a point to know where he is from the line of scrimmage.

Evans, a five-foot-nine halfback, carded a pair of touchdowns on 25 carries for 206 yards last week. Coming off a quiet junior season, he is primed for a breakout year. As of now, he is the Cowboy’s biggest offensive weapon.

After Sunday’s practice, Leach described the halfback as productive, strong and tough when speaking to the media.

Washington State wants to chuck the ball all around the yard while Wyoming would rather run between the tackles. This matchup holds no secrets. All it comes down to is execution.

Washington State’s defensive line against Wyoming’s ground attack is a crucial matchup I suggest keeping an eye on.

While Washington State is just 1-5 in season openers during the Leach era, Wyoming will not add to the latter. Regardless of the Cougs quarterback situation, their offensive depth and senior leadership on defense have me leaning their way.

A dogfight at the half will be sealed away in the fourth quarter.

Cougs leave Laramie with a win, 31-27.

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