WYOMING FOOTBALL: Wyoming Cowboys Host No. 24 Fresno State in Mountain West Showdown
Nationally televised night game could determine championship participants
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Oct 07, 2023
Harrison Waylee escapes the Texas Longhorn defense for a 62-yard touchdown. Waylee has been the major contributor to the Wyoming offense this season, totaling over a quarter of the team’s total yardage. (Courtesy photo from Wyoming Athletics)
By Kaycee Clark-Mellott
Special to the Wyoming Truth
There will be a showdown in Laramie tonight when the No. 24 Fresno State Bulldogs (5-0, 1-0) visit the University of Wyoming Cowboys (4-1, 1-0) in a nationally televised match. As two of the major teams in the Mountain West Conference (MWC), there is much more at stake than just a typical regular season matchup.
“It could really benefit you if you win,” UW head coach Craig Bohl said Monday. “If you lose this [game], it makes it a little bit tougher if you want to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”
The Cowboys have never won the MWC championship in the 25 seasons since its founding. Fresno has reached the championship game five times in the last decade, winning three titles.
Saturday night’s stars
On the offensive side, the Bulldogs have introduced two stars from the transfer portal. Quarterback Mikey Keene, from the University of Central Florida, and wide receiver Jaelen Gill, formerly of Boston College and Ohio State, have given Fresno State a top-three offense in the conference.
Keene is having the best season of his career. In only five games, he is within 300 yards and three touchdowns from tying career bests of 1,730 yards and 17 touchdowns. This includes a 366-yard game with four touchdowns to kick off the season with an upset victory over Purdue.
Gill has already eclipsed his career numbers elsewhere, snagging five touchdowns with 331 yards. This includes catching 126 yards and scoring two touchdowns against Nevada last week.
For UW’s offense, redshirt junior running back Harrison Waylee has made up nearly half of all the team’s yards since his debut against No. 4 Texas. Against Appalachian State in late September, the Northern Illinois transfer contributed 78.4% of the Wyoming offense and 88% of the rushing attack.
“He is real mature, measured and centered,” Bohl said of Waylee. “His attitude was not one of ‘I want the ball.’”
On the defensive side, the Pokes have earned consecutive MWC Defensive Player of the Week awards: Redshirt junior Wyett Ekeler, who took down the New Mexico quarterback twice last week, and redshirt sophomore Wrook Brown, who secured an interception in each of the previous two games.
For Fresno State, senior defensive back Carlton Johnson turned in four interceptions this season, including three against Arizona State.
The Cowboys’ special teams also have impacted the outcomes of two straight games, with Devonne Harris blocking a field goal or point after try and Jakorey Hawkins taking both back for a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
Behind the stats
The undefeated Bulldogs have one of the top offenses in the MWC, averaging 425 yards per game. What’s more, the team holds the second-longest winning streak in the country with 14 straight wins, only trailing Georgia, the back-to-back national champions.
Historically, the Cowboys haven’t played well against Fresno State. The Bulldogs outscored Wyoming 87-10 in the last four games, with the previous two matchups being shutouts.
Wyoming is facing a pivotal moment under Bohl. With a win in his 10th season, he can escape a losing record at Wyoming. He currently sits at 46-47.
Will the Pokes be able to right the ship?
The Cowboys and Bulldogs kick off Saturday at 6 p.m. MT on Fox.