From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: War Memorial Stadium in Laramie is the site for this weekend's Mountain West Conference matchup between the Wyoming Cowboys and the 11th-ranked Utah Utes.
One of three teams in the MWC currently ranked in the AP's top-25, the Utes are sporting a perfect 5-0 record thus far and are off to a 2-0 start in league play as well. This is the third time in the last seven years Utah has kicked off a campaign with a 5-0 start, the other two times in 2004 and 2008 the squad ran the table and went undefeated with records of 12-0 and 13-0, respectively.
Last week Utah continued to impress as it completely dominated the Iowa State Cyclones on the road in Ames, posting a lopsided 68-27 final. It was the third straight game in which the Utes had tallied at least 56 points as the team improved its record to 21-11 versus teams from BCS conferences since the BCS was set up back in 1998. Those 21 victories represent the most by any school which is not an automatic qualifier for the BCS.
As for the Cowboys, they faced off against nationally-ranked TCU on Saturday and barely made a sound in a 45-0 shutout loss in Fort Worth. While it may not have made enough of a difference, the fact that starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels was held out of the matchup due to an unspecified injury certainly didn't help matters. The defeat was the fourth in the last five games for a Wyoming program that has wins over Southern Utah and Toledo thus far in 2010.
The Pokes played a strong game against Utah last season before bowing in a 22-10 final, allowing Utah to extend its advantage in the all-time series to 50-31-1. Utah has a mark of just 18-20 in Laramie over the years, but the Utes have taken four of the last five played there.
"A good win for the team on Saturday against Iowa State," noted Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham in his weekly press conference on Monday. "We had a great team effort but we also had great individual efforts. Shaky Smithson did his thing again in the return game and he threw a touchdown pass. Reggie Dunn had another explosive play. Jordan Wynn played well and had good numbers. Shaky and Jordan were Mountain West Conference Players of the Week, which is a great honor for those guys."
Wynn, who managed to play despite suffering a minor injury during the week leading up to the ISU meeting, had strong numbers in the outing as he converted 23-of-31 passes for 325 yards and a couple of touchdowns before taking a seat on the sidelines. The squad rolled up 239 yards and scored four times on the ground as Eddie Wide hit the end zone on two of his 13 carries. Smithson mixed it up a bit for the unit as he both threw a TD pass and caught one of his own.
The Utah offense hummed along with 593 yards, but when drives failed to continue, kicker Joe Phillips came on to knock through all four of his field goal attempts.
Whether directed by Wynn or Terrance Cain, the passing attack for the Utes has few rivals this season. The squad is completing a stunning 70.5 percent of its pass attempts for an average of nearly 250 ypg and has hit the end zone 13 times, against just two interceptions. Obviously the aerial attack could show even better numbers, but with the Utes cruising in almost every win thus far it doesn't make sense to kick the opposition when they are down and that's where Wide and Matt Asiata come into play.
Wide leads the group in rushing with 281 yards and has scored five times, while Asiata contributes with 245 yards and three TDs to a rushing attack that is third in the conference with 188.8 ypg.
It also doesn't hurt that the defense for the Utes is ranked second in the league and 15th nationally in points allowed with a mere 15.6 ppg, but so often that is overshadowed by just how dominant the offense has become for the program.
Directed by senior quarterback Dax Crum, after Austyn Carta-Samuels was left home with an injury, the Cowboys become the second straight TCU opponent to be held scoreless last weekend in a disappointing effort in Texas. Very little went right for the Wyoming offense in the meeting and after his squad registered a mere 191 yards of total offense, head coach Dave Christensen admitted that his team was in a rebuilding mode.
Crum converted 11-of-17 passes for 116 yards and an interception, while Alvester Alexander came away with a paltry 41 rushing yards on 15 attempts. The team as a whole posted only 75 net yards on 28 carries.
Defensively, the Pokes permitted the home team to roll up 297 yards on the ground and 578 yards of total offense, for an average of better than nine yards per snap. Wyoming failed to record a single sack and had just two stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Even though it probably wouldn't make enough of a difference in the final outcome against the Utes this weekend, the status of Carta-Samuels is still a huge issue for the Cowboys. Not only has he completed 65.1 percent of his attempts thus far in 2010, the signal-caller is also second on the team in rushing right now as well. Then again, averaging a feeble 2.1 yards per carry is nothing the Utah defense should really be worried about anyway.
As a group, the Cowboys are posting just 69.2 ypg on the ground which is extremely weak in a league that has the top rushing offense in all of college football (Air Force, 352.7 ypg). Needless to say, the Pokes are dead last in that department in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Not only is the run defense for the Cowboys very suspect this year, giving up a hefty 249.8 ypg to rank 117th in the nation, the overall defense for the home team in this instance is being pummeled by the competition for 469.7 ypg and that doesn't bode well this Saturday against one of the top scoring programs in all of football.
"There have been some great battles in Laramie," coach Whittingham acknowledges. "They smacked us around a few years back in 2006. There have been some right-down-to-the-wire games up there."