Wyoming native Brady Poppinga, and the rest of the Cougars, will take on Wyoming, beginning at 8 p.m. (MT) on Saturday, Oct. 16 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
COUGARS LOOK TO REBOUND AGAINST COWBOYS
Following a close loss last week to UNLV, the Cougars look to pick up a win against conference rival Wyoming Oct. 16 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The Cowboys are coming off of a 20-10 victory over San Diego State and are currently 4-1 and are tied with Utah atop the MWC standings. Wyoming's only loss came against Texas A&M, and they own a victory over Mississippi of the Southeastern Conference. Last season the Cowboys defeated BYU 13-10 in Laramie. The Cougars' comeback hopes were dashed last year when a Matt Berry pass was tipped and intercepted late in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars hold a 36-30-3 edge in the series against Wyoming, dating back to BYU's inaugural football season in 1922. The Cougars won that game to earn their first-ever football win. BYU owns a 23-12 advantage in Provo, including a hard-fought 35-31 shootout in 2002 the last time the two teams squared off at LaVell Edwards Stadium. In that game, quarterback Matt Berry, starting as a redshirt freshman, threw for a career-high 360 yards and three touchdowns.
SETTING THE GAME
KICKOFF: 8 p.m. (MST)
SITE: LaVell Edwards Stadium (64,045)
TELEVISION (Local): SportsWest; Tom Kirkland and Blaine Fowler
LAST TEN: BYU leads 8-2
LAST FIVE: BYU leads 3-2
RADIO (Local): KSL-Radio; 1160 AM (Greg Wrubell, Marc Lyons, Andy Boyce)
INTERNET WEBCAST: http://www.byucougars.com/football
THE SERIES: BYU leads 36-30-3
IN PROVO: BYU leads 23-12
LAST MEETING: Oct. 18, 2003 (Wyoming, 13-10)
LAST MEETING IN PROVO: Nov. 9, 2002 (BYU, 35-31)
TIES TO WYOMING
Two members of BYU's squad hail from Wyoming. Starting linebacker and Nagurski Award candidate Brady Poppinga is from Evanston and prepped at Evanston High School. While playing at Evanston, Poppinga earned all-state honors as both a linebacker and tight end. Also hailing from Wyoming is reserve defensive lineman Kyle Tew. Tew is from Gillette and prepped at Campbell County High School. While at Campbell, Tew was a unanimous all-state selection at linebacker while helping to lead his team to a 5A state championship.
TALE OF THE TAPE
BYU's projected starting offensive line averages an enormous 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds. They will face a Wyoming defensive line that averages 6-foot-1 and 297 pounds. When the Cowboys have the ball, Cougar defensive linemen that average 6-foot-4 and 293 pounds will face a Wyoming front five that are listed at 6-foot-4 and 268 pounds.
After six games, Todd Watkins is currently second in the MWC and ninth nationally in receiving yards per game, averaging 109.2 yards per contest. Through six games, Watkins has accumulated 655 yards, which is more than last year's leader, Toby Christensen, had all season. Watkins has touchdown receptions of 69 and 79 yards and was referred to as possibly the nation's best "deep threat" by Sports Illustrated. He scored the Cougars' only offensive touchdown against UNLV, stretching above Rebel defenders to make the seven yard grab. He is tied for the team lead with three touchdown receptions.
THE HOUSE OF PAYNE
Six games into the 2004 season Ray Guy award candidate Matt Payne has punted 40 times for 1,849 yards, including a 79-yarder against USC. He leads the MWC in punting and is fifth in the nation with a 46.23 yards-per-punt average. Payne also wreaks havoc on punt and kick coverage, recording two highlight-reel-quality hits on Boise State punt returner Chris Carr as well as on an unsuspecting kick returner for Colorado State. Payne also hasn't been a slouch when kicking field goals or extra points. The Lou Groza award candidate has scored a team-leading 40 points, including three field goals 50 yards or greater. He is a perfect 8-8 from 40-plus yards. Payne has hit all 13 of his extra points this season and 9 of 11 field goals.
LAST WEEK: BYU vs. UNLV
UNLV forced six fumbles recovering four and intercepted one pass en route to a 24-20 victory over the Cougars Oct. 8 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The Cougars beat UNLV in almost every statistical category except the one that matters most, scoring. The Rebels were able to take advantage of BYU's five turnovers, usurping any momentum the Cougars gained during the game. Quarterback John Beck attempted a BYU and MWC record 67 passes, completing 34 of them for 356 yards for his second 300-plus yard performance of the season. Also of note, kicker Matt Payne kicked a 47- and 50-yard field goal in the game. He has now hit his last three from beyond 50 yards and his last 11 from 40-49 yards.
The Cougars enter this week's game against the Cowboys ranked sixth in the conference in total offense, averaging 355 yards per game. Despite improvements over the last two weeks, which saw BYU rush for over 200 yards against Colorado State and have its first 100-yard rusher of the season against UNLV, the Cougars rank last in the nation in rushing offense with 66.5 yards per game. BYU has faired better through the air, ranking second in the MWC and 12th nationally in passing offense. The Cougars average 288.5 yards passing. BYU will face a Cowboy defense that ranks second in the MWC and 35th in the nation, but they only rank seventh in the conference in pass defense, yielding 262.2 yards per game through the air. Wyoming ranks second in the conference in rushing defense and 32nd nationally, allowing 113.2 yards per game. Overall the Cowboys rank fourth in the MWC in total defense.
Defensively, the BYU ranks fifth in the conference and 74th nationally in total defense, allowing 379.8 yards per game. The Cougars rank 8th in the MWC against the pass and third against the rush. The Cougars face a Wyoming offense that ranks fifth in the conference in total offense, averaging 363 yards per game. The Cowboys average 150.8 yards on the ground and 212.2 through the air.