Tue Sep 01 02:47pm EDT
A cursory examination of D-I's lesser-known elements. Today: The Wyoming Cowboys.
You may remember them from: For those of us of a certain disposition, one bleak day on Rocky Top. Serving as Tennessee's traditional Homecoming cupcake for 2008, Wyoming encountered a dispirited, rudderless Vol squad whose coach had been fired on Monday, whose season was in an utter tailspin, and who, surprisingly, had not yet found bottom. A 13-7 loss to the 3-6 Cowboys took care of that, and turned the day into more of a Home-going by the third quarter. Hey-o! (Laugh through the pain, Vol comrades. That's it.)
If you happened to be in attendance at the Cowboys' 2000 matchup with Auburn, you may also remember this very fine incident, although we can pretty much guarantee Wyoming receiver
Bryan Brock Ralph does not:
That's still not as bad as what Barry Sanders did to them in the '88 Holiday Bowl.
Previously on: Like the abovementioned Tennessee team, Wyoming in '08 was a squad blessed with a stout defense and a hilariously inept offense. Their highest-scoring finish came in the opener, a 21-20 squeaker victory over Ohio U. They would reach the 20-point mark only once more, losing to Colorado State 31-20 in their final outing. They were shut out twice, at the hands of BYU (understandable) and New Mexico (less so). About the only good thing about last year's team was that its 4-8 finish put the Cowboys ahead of 2-10 San Diego State in the Mountain West cellar. Beyond that, they dropped game to such heavy hitters as Air Force, Bowling Green, UNLV and Colorado State, posted an astronomical –22 turnover margin and finished dead last nationally in scoring at a little less than 13 points per game.
Head coach Joe Glenn earned his walking papers in the offseason, and was replaced by Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen. Why on earth Christensen didn't get snapped up by a higher-profile school off two of the most prolific seasons in Mizzou history is anyone's guess, but if he can find anyone at all capable of throwing and catching the ball, things could get interesting.
Possible Encounters: If Tennessee rebounds at all under Lane Kiffin, there's a better-than-even chance a soft-focus feature contrasts the Vols' rejuvenation with the depths of last November by showing Wyoming players returning interceptions down the sideline and dejected UT players on the bench as the Cowboys celebrate the upset. Otherwise, they're destined for the sympathetic end of Texas, Colorado, Utah, TCU and BYU highlights -- the Mountain West's "Big Three" collectively outscored Wyoming last year 138-14. (For good measure, Air Force and New Mexico got in on the act with 23-3 and 24-0 wins, respectively.)
Listen also for the oft-repeated question on and immediately prior to Sept. 12: Why is Texas playing at Wyoming? It's one of the great mysteries of the season.
Stock characters: Keep an appreciative eye on the all-senior lineup along the front four, which for the most part has been quietly doing a bang-up job with two straight finishes in the top 40 nationally in yards allowed while the offense Yakety Saxes around. The departure of actually talented running backs Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon means focus will naturally shift to the two experienced quarterbacks on the roster ... both of whom are pretty terrible. Karsten Sween posted an almost impossibly low 67.9 efficiency rating in '08, while rival Dax Crum notched a relatively blistering 82.8. These were the two worst numbers in the Mountain West and two of the worst anywhere.
Prognosis: Still bottom-ish, but with a brightening horizon. If the defense can maintain anything like last year's mediocrity opposite Christensen's spread philosophy, there's a real if remote possibility of immediate improvement. After last year, though, the rest of the MWC will probably just be shocked to see the Cowboys completing passes again.