(Editor's note: UW Athletics release)
LARAMIE, Wyo. - The Wyoming Cowboys return to Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium on Thursday night to host one of their oldest rivals in the Utah State Aggies. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m., Mountain Time and will be the 71st meeting.
Wyoming (1-2) had an unexpected week off last week when its home game scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14 versus Air Force was canceled due to increased COVID-19 numbers at the Air Force Academy and within the Air Force football program. Utah State (0-4 for the 2020 season) lost at home last Saturday to Fresno State by a score of 16-35.
The game will be broadcast on radio over the 25 affiliate stations of the Cowboy Sports Network, beginning with the pregame show at 5:30 p.m., M.T. CBS Sports Network will be televising the game live nationally.
The Cowboys enter this week’s game looking to continue the home success they have enjoyed since the beginning of the 2016 season. Over the past five seasons, the Pokes have posted a 21-6 (.778) home record. Beginning with the last two home games of the 2018 season, Wyoming has won its last nine consecutive home games, which ties UW for the nation’s 10th longest home winning streak.
Cowboys Among Nation’s Leaders
A number of Wyoming Cowboys are ranked among the nation’s leaders this season. Junior running back Xazavian Valladay ranks No. 6 in the nation in rushing yards this season, averaging 132.3 yards per game, and he ranks No. 15 in all-purpose yards (rushing+receiving yards), averaging 157.67 per game.
Junior middle linebacker Chad Muma is among the nation’s top tacklers, ranking No. 5 in total tackles per game (12.7). Muma also ranks 23rd in the country in solo tackles for the 2020 season, averaging 5.7 per game.
True freshman place-kicker John Hoyland leads the Mountain West and ranks No. 2 nationally in field goals made per game, successfully converting an average 2.00 field goals per game. He also ranks No. 22 in the NCAA in field-goal percentage (85.7 percent).
Another Cowboy freshman, redshirt freshman wide receiver Isaiah Neyor, is averaging 29.83 yards per reception this season to lead the Mountain West and rank No. 2 in the nation.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Levi Williams is among the nation’s top passers in terms of passing yards per completion as he averages 15.0 yards per pass completion to rank No. 1 in the MW and No. 13 among all FBS players.
“X” Reaches a Career Milestone
Since the Cowboys last played at home, running back Xazavian Valladay reached a career milestone that few have accomplished in UW football history. He became only the 12th Cowboy in history to rush for 2,000 career yards. Valladay ran for 147 yards at Colorado State on Nov. 5 to improve his career total to 2,071 rushing yards.
About the Wyoming-Utah State Rivalry
Wyoming and Utah State first played in football in 1903, and this year’s meeting will be the 71st in the series. Wyoming has won 26 of the previous 70 meetings, while Utah State has won 40 times and there have been four ties.
A new tradition was incorporated into a century-old rivalry in 2013 when the Wyoming Cowboys and Utah State Aggies introduced a new “Bridger’s Battle” tradition to the football series between the two schools. As part of the new tradition, a traveling “Bridger Rifle” is awarded to the winner each year. The rifle is a .50-caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle that was popular among mountain men of the 1800s, and is widely-considered to be the rifle carried by the legendary Jim Bridger. “Bridger’s Battle” was chosen as the name for the new series due to Bridger’s ties to the Wyoming-Utah region. The Bridger’s Battle portion of the series now stands at 5-2 in favor of Utah State.
The last two games have been narrowly won by Utah State. USU won by eight points (24-16) in 2018 in Laramie to take possession of the Bridger Rifle traveling trophy. Last year, the Aggies won by five points (26-21) in Logan, Utah. Prior to that, Wyoming won two in a row in 2016, by a score of 52-28, and 2017, by a final of 28-23.
About Utah State
The Utah State offense is paced by running back Jaylen Warren, who averages 84 yards per game with four touchdowns. He also has five catches for 33 yards. Deven Tompkins is the top receiving threat averaging 53 yards per game with 20 catches for 214 yards and one touchdown.
The Aggie defense is led by linebacker AJ Vongphachanh with 33 tackles. He is also tied for the team lead with 2.0 sacks and has one forced fumble for the season. Defensive back Shaq Bond has 30 tackles for the season. He also leads the team with one interception and has three pass breakups.
Kicker Connor Coles is 1 for 1 on the season, with a long of 38 yards. Punter Stephen Kostanlee has punted 32 times averaging 40.3 yards per punt.
Frank Maile, a 2007 Utah State graduate, was named interim head coach for the Aggies earlier this season. He is in his fifth year on the Aggies’ staff. Maile will continue to serve as co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach this year. Overall, Maile has spent 10 years on the USU staff, as he was the tight ends coach in 2019, co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach from 2016-18, the defensive line coach from 2011-13 and a defensive graduate assistant from 2009-10. In all, this will be Maile’s seventh year coaching the defensive line and fourth year as co-defensive coordinator.