Wyoming coach Craig Bohl described his squad as an “emerging football team” after the Cowboys upset Air Force 17-14 on Sept. 16 in their Mountain West Conference opener.
Beating old rival BYU on Saturday night in Provo, Utah, would not only lend credence to Bohl’s thoughts but also give the 19th-ranked Cougars consecutive losses.
It will be the second time the programs have met since BYU left the Mountain West 11 years ago to go the independent route.
The Cougars (2-1) were ranked No. 12 after an overtime win against then-No. 9 Baylor on Sept. 10, but they had no answer for Oregon last week in a 41-20 rout that wasn’t too close. The Ducks established a 38-7 third-quarter lead in Eugene, Ore., and never looked back.
“I didn’t have this team ready, so that’s on me,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We’ve got to figure out how to start better and faster. It seemed like we just dug ourselves too much of a hole to climb out.”
The same Oregon team that got manhandled 49-3 to start the year against then-No. 3 Georgia rattled off scores on its first six possessions against BYU, bagging five touchdowns and mixing in a field goal.
The Ducks gained 439 yards, splitting them almost equally between running (212) and passing (227). Meanwhile, BYU rushed for 61 yards, abandoning the running game as the margin grew larger.
Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns, although most of those totals came with the game long decided. Hall was more concerned with the inability to convert a fourth down on the Cougars’ initial possession, leading to Oregon’s first score.
“You hate to give up opportunities on fourth down. It’s a turnover,” Hall said. “It’s just as devastating as throwing an interception or fumbling the ball to us. We rely a lot on converting fourth downs to give our defense a break.”
Wyoming’s game plan figures to be a simple one: Turn Titus Swen loose at the BYU front seven. Swen supplied 102 rushing yards and the game-winning score in the win over Air Force, running through three defenders for a 5-yard touchdown with 6:06 left.
Equally as impressive was the Cowboys’ response after forcing a punt from the Falcons’ vaunted triple-option attack: They chewed up the game’s final five minutes, earning three first downs and improving to 3-1. Wyoming’s lone setback was a season-opening 38-6 loss at Illinois.
“We are a young football team in a lot of spots and a lot of those guys are growing up fast,” Bohl said. “I really think our coaching staff did a great job composing a game plan and the players went out and executed it.”
Swen has 316 rushing yards and four touchdowns through four games, while quarterback Andrew Peasley bounced back from a 5-of-20, 30-yard effort at Illinois to hit 57 of 83 attempts for 562 yards over the past three games.
The Cougars own a 45-30-3 lead in the series, including a 24-21 victory in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl.