LARAMIE – This weekend is Homecoming at the University of Wyoming, and the Wyoming Cowboys will play host to the Nevada Wolf Pack in a Mountain West Conference match-up.
Saturday’s game will kick off at 2 p.m. from Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium with temperatures predicted near 70 degrees. Tickets are available to Saturday’s game by going online at GoWyo.com/tickets or by calling 1-877-WYO-FAN1 (1-877-996-3261).
Best Conference Running Backs
Three of the Mountain West’s top running backs will be featured on Saturday. Wyoming’s Brian Hill ranks No. 2 in the MW and No. 10 in the NCAA in average rushing yards per game (132.8), while Nevada’s James Butler ranks No. 4 in the MW and No. 35 in the nation (95.2 yards per game).
Butler’s teammate Don Jackson ranks No. 5 in the league and No. 36 in the country (94.8 yards per game).
At the midpoint of the season, Hill is chasing a number of Wyoming single-season rushing records. His 132.8 average per game is ahead of the UW school record of 121.3 yards per game set by Ryan Christopherson in 1994.
Hill has 797 rushing yards through the first six games of 2015. The school record is 1,455 rushing yards, also set by Christopherson in 1994.
This year’s meeting will be only the sixth between the Pokes and the Wolf Pack. Nevada leads the series 3-2. In two previous meetings in Laramie, the two teams each have won once. Wyoming defeated Nevada 25-6 in 1992 in Laramie.
The Wolf Pack won by a 35-28 score in 2000 in War Memorial Stadium. Saturday’s meeting will be only the second between the two schools as conference foes. The Wolf Pack captured a 35-28 single overtime win over UW in 2012 in Reno.
Last Time Out
Wyoming (0-6 overall and 0-2 in the Mountain West) is coming off one of its best defensive performances of the season last week at Air Force. Wyoming allowed Air Force only seven first half points, which were the fewest the Cowboys had allowed in a half this season.
The Cowboys held the Falcons to only 109 total yards in the first half last week, which was the fewest yards the Pokes had given up in a half this season. UW limited Air Force to 379 yards of total offense for the game, which was nearly 40 yards under the Falcons’ season average of 418 per game.
The Pokes also held Air Force 27 yards under its season rushing average of 326 yards per game, which ranked the Falcons first in the Mountain West Conference entering the game. Air Force ran for 299 against the Cowboys. The Cowboy defense forced two turnovers in the game, which was a season high.
Sophomore cornerback Robert Priester intercepted the first pass of his career, and also forced an Air Force fumble that was recovered by freshman cornerback Antonio Hull.
The Wyoming defense has been led by senior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, junior linebacker Lucas Wacha and freshman safety Andrew Wingard. Yarbrough leads the Cowboys in sacks (3.0) and tackles for loss (4.5), while Wacha and Wingard are UW’s two leading tacklers, with 52 and 51 total tackles respectively.
Wacha ranks fourth in the conference and 45th in the nation in tackles (8.7 per game). He also ranks fourth among all Mountain West linebackers in tackles. Wingard ranks No. 5 overall in the conference in tackles (8.5 per game). He is ranked 56th nationally, and the true freshman leads all Mountain West defensive backs in tackles.
Yarbrough is tied for third among all MW defensive linemen in tackles (4.2 per game), and he ranks 10th in the conference in sacks (0.50 per game).
Nevada (3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Mountain West) is coming off a 35-17 home win over New Mexico last week. The Wolf Pack’s other two wins came at home versus UC Davis (31-17) and on the road at Buffalo (24-21). Nevada’s three losses have been at home to Arizona (20-44), on the road at Texas A&M (27-44) and at home to UNLV (17-23).
Wyoming Receiving Corp Emerges
An area of the Cowboy offense that has emerged during the first half of the 2015 season has been the receiving corps — particularly junior wide receivers Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt. Gentry and Maulhardt are currently the most productive receiving tandem in the Mountain West this season.
They are the only two teammates currently ranked among the Top 10 receivers in the league in receiving yards, and they have combined for 150.7 receiving yards per game. Gentry ranks No. 1 in the league and No. 16 in the nation in receiving yards (98.7 per game). Maullhardt ranks No. 9 in the MW in receiving yards (52.0 per game).
Both also rank in the Top 5 in the league in receptions and are the only two teammates in the conference ranked in the Top 5 in catches. Gentry averages 5.50 receptions per game, and is No. 4 in the MW and No. 46 in the nation.
Maulhardt averages 5.00 catches per game and is No. 5 in the MW and No. 58 in the NCAA. Both Gentry and Maulhardt have three TD receptions this season to rank No. 5 in the conference and No. 62 nationally.
Gentry has three 100-yard games this season — 176 vs. North Dakota, 130 vs. New Mexico and 127 at Washington State. Maulhardt has one 100-yard game this season — 113 yards at Washington State.
The Wolf Pack have a slight edge on offense, averaging 386.8 yards per game to Wyoming’s 381.5 yards of total offense per game. The Cowboys hold a slight lead on defense, allowing an average of 402.5 yards of total offense to opponents, while the Wolf Pack have given up 415.7 yards per game to opponents this season.
Saturday’s game will be televised live on ESPN3. The game will be broadcast on the Cowboy Sports Network beginning with the pregame show at 1 p.m. this week.