The Wyoming Cowboys travel to Salt Lake City Saturday to face long-time conference rival Utah for a Halloween matchup. Wyoming and Utah will be meeting for the 82nd time in the two schools’ histories.
The Cowboys enter this week with a 4-3 overall record and a 2-1 Mountain West Conference mark. Utah is 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the MWC. The Utes are ranked No. 16 in this week’s BCS standings are ranked 19th in the Associated Press, USA Today and Harris Interactive Polls.
Saturday’s game will kick off at 6 p.m. The game will be televised live on The Mtn., and will be broadcast on radio over the Cowboy Sports Network. The radio broadcast will begin one hour before kickoff at 5 p.m. with the pregame show.
Trick or Treat
The Wyoming Cowboys will be playing their 13th Halloween game in school history. The last time Wyoming played on Halloween was in 1998 when the Cowboys traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, and defeated TCU, 34-27, when both schools were members of the 16-team Western Athletic Conference.
The only other time that Wyoming and Utah have played one another on Halloween was the first meeting between the two long-time rivals. That meeting came in 1904, and Utah won in Laramie by a score of 23-0. Wyoming played its first Halloween game back in 1896, winning on the road over Northern Colorado by a score of 10-6. Wyoming is 7-5-0 in Halloween games. The Pokes are 4-2-0 at home on Halloween. UW is 3-3-0 on the road in Halloween games.
Bye bye bye week
Wyoming is coming off its one bye week of the 2009 season. Through the years, the Cowboys have been very successful in games played immediately following a bye week. In the modern era of Wyoming football, since World War II, the Pokes have had 40 bye weeks during the regular season. Wyoming has won 25 of its 40 games played following a bye.
Wyoming trails in the overall series versus the Utes 49-31-1. The last time Wyoming defeated Utah was in 2006 in Laramie, by a score of 31-15. Wyoming last won in Salt Lake City in 1999, defeating Utah 43-29. Utah has won the last four meetings in Salt Lake City.
The Cowboys and Utes have played two common opponents to date – Air Force and UNLV. Wyoming defeated UNLV, 30-27, in Laramie, while Utah won in Las Vegas, 35-15. The Pokes lost on the road at Air Force, 10-0. The Utes defeated Air Force in Salt Lake City by a score of 23-16, but it took Utah an overtime period to get the win.
This week’s coaching matchup features two head coaches who have known each other for nearly 20 years. Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham coached on the same coaching staff together at Idaho State back in the early 1990s. Christensen was an assistant with the Bengals for the 1990 and ‘91 seasons, coaching the offensive line, tight ends and running backs during his two seasons in Pocatello. Whittingham served as an assistant at Idaho State for six seasons, from 1988-93. He was the linebackers and special teams coach from 1988-91 and was the defensive coordinator his last two seasons of 1992 and ‘93.
Cowboys in the rankings
Wyoming sophomore inside linebacker Brian Hendricks was credited with 23 total tackles at Air Force on Oct. 17. Not only did his performance earn him Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors, but that tackle total is the best individual performance in the nation this season. In fact, he is one of only two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) players to record 20 or more tackles in a single game in 2009.
He is also one of only two players in the nation to have two of the Top 25 single-game tackle performances this season. The other is Carmen Messina of New Mexico. Hendricks other Top 25 performance was 18 tackles at Colorado on Sept. 19, which ties for the sixth best performance in the nation.
Two other Cowboys also rank in the Top 25 in the nation in terms of single-game tackle performances this season. Sophomore inside linebacker Gabe Knapton had 17 vs. UNLV to tie for 12th in the nation. UW junior free safety Chris Prosinski also is tied for 12th with his 17 tackles coming against Texas.
There are three talented senior defensive linemen in the Mountain West Conference that are running neck-and-neck for the MWC Career Sack record. Wyoming’s John Fletcher, TCU’s Jerry Hughes and BYU’s Jan Jorgensen are all within 2.0 career sacks of one another entering this week. Fletcher has 24.0 career sacks. Jorgensen has been credited with 24.5, and Hughes is the current MWC career leader in sacks with 26.0.
This season, Fletcher and Hughes are also among the nation’s leaders in sacks. Hughes has 9.0 sacks on the year to rank No. 4 in the nation, and Fletcher has 7.0 sacks in 2009 to rank No. 8 in the NCAA. Jorgensen has sacked opposing quarterbacks twice this season.
Wyoming is one of the youngest teams in the country, having played 12 true freshmen and started six true freshmen in ‘09. The six freshmen starters tie Wyoming for the second most in the nation with Miami of Ohio. Texas A&M leads the way with eight true freshmen starters.
Following the Utah game, Wyoming will return home next week to host the BYU Cougars on Nov. 7 in a game set to kick off at Noon.
Utah (6-1, 3-0 MWC) is No. 16 in the BCS standings and No. 19 in the Associated Press, USA Today Coaches and Harris polls. Radio is KALL 700 AM (kall700sports.com).
Saturday's game is the second-annual "Blackout" game at Utah. Fans are encouraged to wear black and the Utah team will wear black uniforms. A year ago, in the first "Blackout" game in Rice-Eccles Stadium, No. 9 Utah handed No. 11 TCU a 13-10 defeat.
Trick or Treat II
In honor of Halloween, there will be a Trick-or -Treat zone for kids in Rice-Eccles Stadium prior to the game. The Trick-or-Treat zone will open at 4 p.m., two hours before kickoff, and will feature a tent with spooky music, fog, balloons, interactive games, a black costume contest and more. Ute student-athletes will be on hand to pass out candy. A giant spotlight up 500 South will lead fans to two giant inflated Halloween creatures outside the Trick-or-Treat zone. A game ticket is required for entry.
Utes jump in rankings
In the latest rankings, Utah jumped two places in the BCS standings to No. 16, held steady at No. 19 in the A.P. and Harris Polls, and improved one spot to No. 19 in the Coaches' poll. The BCS standings are based on the Harris poll, Coaches' poll and the computer rankings--the latter which has the Utes at 15th this week. Utah's only loss this season was to current No. 10/12 Oregon in Eugene.
With six wins, Utah is bowl eligible for the seventh-straight season. Utah has the nation's longest postseason win streak at eight, which includes bowl wins in 1999 and 2001, and from 2003-08.
Another Sellout Saturday?
The Utes are looking for their 10th-straight sellout of Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday. Utah has drawn over-capacity crowds dating back to the first game of the 2008 season, averaging 45,506 during that time in a stadium that seats 45,017.
Utah has won 20 of its last 21 games and 27 of its last 29 games.