(UW Athletics release)
LARAMIE, Wyo. – The Wyoming Cowboys will host the Washington State Cougars on Saturday in the home opener for the Cowboys and the season opener for the Cougars. Saturday’s game will kick off from Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium at 1:30 p.m., M.T. Tickets are available for purchase at GoWyo.com/tickets, by calling (307) 766-7220 or by stopping by the UW Athletics Ticket Office on the west side of the Arena-Auditorium. Game-day tickets sales will be available at the War Memorial Stadium Ticket Office on the east side of the stadium.
Wyoming has won 13 of its last 15 home openers. The Cowboys have also won 12 of their last 15 home games in War Memorial Stadium.
Saturday’s game will feature one of the nation’s top defenses a year ago in the Wyoming Cowboys against one of the nation’s most explosive offenses in Washington State. Wyoming ranked 16th in the nation in scoring defense last year (allowing opponents only 17.5 points per game). The Cowboys also ranked 13th in the country in pass defense (giving up on 174.9 passing yards per game) and was No. 1 in the NCAA in takeaways, with 38. Last week in the win at New Mexico State, the Cowboy defense allowed the Aggies only 135 yards of total offense, including holding NMSU to a -9 yards rushing. UW also recorded 4.0 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss.
Washington State’s offense ranked No. 2 in the NCAA in passing offense at 366.8 passing yards per game in 2017. While the Cougars have not played a game yet this season, their defense in 2017 also enjoyed a productive year, ranking ninth in the nation in pass defense and 16th in total defense.
In last week’s season opening win for the Cowboys, the offense was very productive, generating 449 yards of total offense, including 312 rushing yards. Senior running back Nico Evans enjoyed the best game of his Wyoming career against New Mexico State as he recorded his first 100-yard rushing game.
Evans ran for 190 yards and scored two touchdowns of 24 and 56 yards. He also caught one pass for 10 yards and accounted for 200 yards of total offense — also a personal high. Redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal, playing in his first college game, completed 13 of 21 passes (61.9 percent) for 137 yards against New Mexico State last Saturday. The native of Elk Grove, Calif., began his first college start at quarterback by completing his first seven passes of the night. The redshirt freshman led a Cowboy offense that scored on five offensive possessions, did not commit a turnover and did not give up a quarterback sack.
On defense, the Cowboys were led last week by middle linebacker Logan Wilson and defensive end Carl Granderson. Wilson had a team high four tackles. Granderson recorded two tackles, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry. The two combined in tackling a New Mexico State runner in the Aggies’ end zone for a safety.
The WSU offense must replace one of the school’s greatest passers in Luke Falk. He threw for 3,593 yards and 30 touchdowns last season. Replacing him is Gardner Minshew II an East Carolina transfer. He was named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Watch List. James Williams returns at running back after leading Washington State with 71 receptions in 2017, most by a running back in the FBS and most by a running back in WSU history. He tallied 482 receiving yards and caught three touchdowns. He also rushed for 395 yards and one touchdown on a team best 92 carries. He was second on the team with 964 all-purpose yards.
The Washington State defense is led by safety Jalen Thompson. He led the team with 73 tackles a season ago and also led the squad with four interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Linebacker Jahad Woods also returns for the Cougars. He was second on the team in tackles with 64. He added 11 tackles for loss.
Two of the nation’s most successful coaches will lead their teams into this week’s game. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl has won 67.6 percent of his games as a college head coach, posting a record of 127-61. Entering his fifth year at Wyoming and his 16th season as a college head coach, Bohl has guided the Cowboys to back-to-back, eight-win seasons the past two seasons, two consecutive bowl appearances and a victory in last year’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He was named the Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2016 after leading Wyoming to the Mountain West Championship Game. Bohl was named the Eddie Robinson FCS National Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2013 at North Dakota State. He led the Bison to three consecutive FCS National Championships in 2011, ’12 and ’13. As an assistant coach at his alma mater, Nebraska, Bohl was part of National Championship teams in 1995 and ’97.
Washington State head coach Mike Leach is returning to his home state this weekend. Leach is a native of Cody, Wyo. He has won 60.1 percent of his games as a college head coach at Washington State and Texas Tech, building a record of 122-81. He is in his seventh season at Washington State and his 17th season as a college head coach. Leach was named the 2015 Pac-12 Co-Coach of the Year. His Cougar Air Raid offense has led the Pac-12 in passing offense in five of his previous six seasons at WSU.
This weekend marks the Hall of Fame Weekend at Wyoming. The 26th class of the University of Wyoming Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame will be inducted on Friday night in ceremonies at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center. That event is sold out. This year’s inductees will be recognized at halftime of Saturday’s game.
This weekend also is the “Gold Rush” game. A total of 4,000 free T-shirts will be handed out at the gates to War Memorial Stadium on Saturday. In partnership with the University of Wyoming, the T-shirts will feature the new university marketing campaign tagline of “The World Needs More Cowboys.”
Saturday’s game will be televised by CBS Sports Network and will be broadcast on radio over the 26 affiliate stations of the Cowboy Sports Network. The Cowboy Sports Network broadcast will begin at 12:30 p.m. this Saturday.