Toledo (0-1) at Wyoming (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 8, 4:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: War Memorial Stadium (30,514) -- Laramie, Wyoming. Television: None. Home Record: Toledo 0-0, Wyoming 0-0. Away Record: Toledo 0-1, Wyoming 0-1. Neutral Record: Toledo 0-0, Wyoming 0-0. Conference Record: Toledo 0-0, Wyoming 0-0. Series Record: Wyoming leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Just the second meeting ever between a couple of teams that opened the 2012 campaign with setbacks takes place this coming Saturday, as the Wyoming Cowboys entertain the Toledo Rockets in non-conference action at War Memorial Stadium.
The Cowboys, members of the Mountain West Conference, put up an early fight against 15th-ranked Texas in the Lone Star State last week but eventually surrendered in a 37-17 final. With the setback the Pokes have now dropped two in a row and three of the last four if taking into account the program's loss to Temple in the postseason.
As for the Rockets, a team which competes in the Mid-American Conference, they began their season out in this neck of the woods last weekend when they paid a visit to Arizona. Against the Wildcats, Toledo managed to tie the game in the fourth quarter at 17-17 on a field goal, but in overtime the hosts scored a touchdown on their first possession and kept the Rockets from crossing the goal line.
Toledo had won four straight games to close out their 2011 campaign, including a narrow 42-41 final over Air Force in the Military Bowl. The team had taken eight of the last nine games on their schedule a season ago after enduring a three-game slide during the month of September.
The Cowboys won the first and only other meeting between these two programs by a score of 20-15 in Toledo back in 2010. In that decision, the Pokes jumped out to a 20-0 advantage before having to hold on for the win.
Toledo scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter against Arizona last week, which meant the rest of the time the offense was struggling to keep up with the high-potent offense that the Wildcats have put together. Quarterbacks Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens combined to hit just 21-of-47 passes for 197 yards, the former generating a meager 63 yards on 10 completions.
Running back Cassius McDowell and David Fluellen supplied some much-needed punch on the ground as they logged a combined 136 yards and a score on 33 rushing attempts. Last season, the team leaned heavily on Adonis Thomas coming out of the backfield, particularly in the second half of the schedule when he ran for more than 800 yards and nine touchdowns, which means one of these guys will have to carry much more of the load moving forward.
Jermaine Robinson was a huge factor on defense for the Rockets against Arizona, tying for the team lead with nine tackles and also picking off a pass. Danny Farr stepped up with seven tackles of his own, three of which were for a loss and that's a good sign considering the team was fifth in the MAC and 52nd nationally with 6.0 TFL per outing.
In 2011, the Rockets were the third-best team in the country when it came to turnover margin (plus-1.23 per game), but as good as the team was at forcing miscues (30), much of the credit has to go to an offense that maintained possession of the ball.
Showing similar success in the turnover department a season ago, the Cowboys were not only tops in the Mountain West Conference, they were tied for ninth in the nation with a plus-0.92 per game. Unfortunately, Wyoming came out on the wrong side of that stat against nationally-ranked Texas as quarterback Brett Smith tossed a couple of interceptions in the setback in Austin.
Smith, one of the most exciting players in the MWC, converted 16-of-28 passes for 276 yards and a couple of touchdowns and also placed second on the team in rushing with 18 yards in the losing effort. Making Smith look good down the field was Robert Herron who had a huge game with five catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
Where the Pokes came up short was when they tried to run the ball, accounting for just 69 net yards on 30 attempts, the yardage total being just a fraction of the 181.6 ypg the squad averaged a season ago.
The other concern for Wyoming has to be the team's inability to stop the ball on the ground. In 2011, the unit was sixth in the MWC and 115th in the country as it allowed a whopping 232.0 ypg rushing, and last Saturday it was more of the same as the Longhorns rolled to 280 yards and four touchdowns on 47 attempts. Sure, the numbers show that the pass defense was rather stingy, giving up only 156 yards to Texas on 20 completions, but if an offense can run all over the Pokes to begin with, why should they care about their aerial attack?
Unable to get much of a push at the line of scrimmage in the opener after placing 108th in the country in TFL (4.4 per game) last year, the Cowboys will have their hands full trying to stop a Toledo group which has proven it can attack from many different angles.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 27, Wyoming 24
09/05 10:32:01 ET