Air Force (2-3) at Wyoming (1-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 7:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: War Memorial Stadium (29,181) -- Laramie, Wyoming. Television: ROOT (NW). Home Record: Air Force 2-1, Wyoming 0-2. Away Record: Air Force 0-2, Wyoming 1-2. Neutral Record: Air Force 0-0, Wyoming 0-0. Conference Record: Air Force 1-1, Wyoming 0-1. Series Record: Air Force leads, 26-21-3.
GAME NOTES: Seeking their first home win of the season, the Wyoming Cowboys aim to take out the Air Force Falcons when they two teams collide in Mountain West Conference action at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie on Saturday.
In addition to hunting for their first home win of 2012, the Cowboys are also hoping to keep this meeting to just 60 minutes after going to overtime in each of their previous two games coming into this week. While the overtime meeting with Idaho in Moscow in September went in favor of the Cowboys (40-37), that wasn't the case last week at Nevada when the team bowed to the Wolf Pack, 35-28, after starting quarterback Brett Smith was ejected following a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
With the recent defeat, Wyoming is just 1-4 on the campaign which is rather disappointing given that the team was 8-4 in the regular season in 2011 and made it to the postseason.
As for the Falcons, another MWC squad that earned a bowl bid last year, they have dropped four of their last five outings after opening 2012 with a 49-21 romp over Idaho State. Just like the Cowboys, Air Force also went to overtime last week against Navy and came up short in a 28-21 final which means the Falcons are going to need some help if they hope to retain the prestigious Commander-in-Chief Trophy.
The Academy holds a 26-21-3 advantage in the all-time series, but it was Wyoming that captured a 25-17 win in the most recent meeting last season. However, Air Force does know what it takes to win on the road in this series, having taken three straight from the Pokes in Laramie dating back to 2006.
Last weekend Cody Getz became the first player in Air Force history and just the second player in MWC history to register three 200-yard rushing games in the same season as he finished with 204 yards in the loss to Navy at home. Getz scored once, while Connor Dietz converted 8-of-12 passes for 90 yards and a score and Don Strickland also completed his one pass attempt for a 54-yard TD to Drew Coleman.
As a group, the Falcons recorded 363 yards on 64 rushing attempts, but at the same time the defense allowed the Midshipmen to register 285 yards on the ground and more importantly, three touchdowns.
As has been the case for quite some time, the Falcons base their offensive attack on keeping the ball on the ground and that has the team averaging 389.6 ypg which is second only to Army (397.2 ypg) right now. But even all of that pounding at the line of scrimmage has resulted in just two victories, only one versus another program from the FBS.
Undersized for sure and lacking blue-chip performers that the non-Academies are constantly recruiting, Air Force is again struggling to make plays in the backfield on defense, ranking just 115th in the country in tackles for loss with four per game and 118th in sacks (0.60 per contest).
Before being bounced out of the game by the officials, Smith was a critical part of the Wyoming offense at Nevada as he threw for 197 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a team-best 60 yards and another score. Unfortunately, Smith was not around to try and get the Cowboys into the win column and might not be appearing this weekend either as he is listed as questionable because of possible disciplinary action.
Jason Thompson stepped in for Smith and was not prepared at all as he completed just one of his six pass attempts for 10 yards. Thompson was also credited with six rushing attempts that resulted in minus-seven yards so getting Smith back onto the field is crucial for a Wyoming team that is already having trouble landing in the win column.
On the defensive side of the ball, Ghaali Muhammad had a huge game for the Pokes as he made a career-high 15 tackles, notching a sack and a fumble recovery along the way.
Now second in the league with 9.2 tackles per game, Muhammad is trying to keep the Cowboys from being lost in the shuffle, but the team is having trouble getting beyond the fact that it cannot stop the run on a consistent basis. Granted, the unit did snap Nevada's streak of having at least one player run for 100 yards in 14 straight games, but still Wyoming is last in the conference and 111th nationally with 227.8 ypg allowed on the ground. When opponents can control the pace of the game like that it keep Smith off the field and hurts the Wyoming offense in the long run.
The availability of Smith is a key factor in this game, but so is the fact that Air Force runs the ball almost exclusively and the Cowboys can't seem to get a grip on that defensively.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 27, Wyoming 17
10/10 10:33:00 ET