The UW defense has been very disruptive, leading the conference in both tackles for loss (7.30 per game) and quarterback sacks (2.63 per game),while ranking No. 24 nationally in TFLs and No. 26 in sacks. Wyoming also leads the league in interceptions, with 14, and ranks No. 2 in the nation in that category. The Cowboys have recovered 10 opponent fumbles, placing them second in the MW and fifth nationally.
Among the Cowboy defenders who have been leading the way have been junior defensive end Carl Granderson, junior strong safety Andrew Wingard and senior cornerback Rico Gafford.
Granderson leads the league in tackles for loss (1.6 tackles for loss per game) and ranks No. 12 nationally. Granderson also leads the league in sacks (averaging 0.94 sacks per game) and ranks No. 7 in the nation.
Wingard is 10th in the nation in solo tackles (6.1 per game) and is 18th in total tackles (9.6 per game). He and Gafford are tied for the team lead in interceptions with four each through the first eight games this season. That ranks the tandem tied for eighth in the country.
Colorado State’s strength this season has been the play of its offense. The Rams are leading the league and rank 17th nationally in passing offense (306.1 yards per game). CSU is also atop the conference rankings in total offense (499.0 yards per game) and ranks 13th in the national rankings.
Rams’ senior quarterback Nick Stevens leads the Mountain West in passing offense (306.1 yards per game) and total offense (315.3 yards per game) and ranks No. 12 in the nation in passing and No. 16 in total offense.
CSU senior wide receiver Michael Gallup is No. 1 in the nation in receiving yards, averaging 129.7 yards per game. He also leads the MW and is No. 3 in the NCAA in receptions, catching an average of 8.0 passes per game. The ability of Wyoming’s defense to limit big plays by Colorado State and to get pressure on Stevens could be key factors in Saturday’s game.
The Cowboy offense has been very productive itself the last few games. Junior quarterback Josh Allen and his offensive teammates scored 42 points in the first half of last Saturday’s win over New Mexico. Allen was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week as he threw four TD passes and rushed for another touchdown. He passed for 234 yards and rushed for 20 yards to account for 254 yards of total offense. Allen also generated six explosive plays, with five long pass plays of 21, 31, 19, 38 and 18 yards and a running play of 11 yards.
Wingard was named the MW Defensive Player of the Week, intercepting two New Mexico passes. He added five tackles on the night. Of his five tackles, four of those limited the Lobos to gains of 0, 2, 2 and 5 yards.
Another factor that could be key to Wyoming’s success on Saturday are turnovers. Wyoming’s defense and special teams created a school record seven takeaways last Saturday vs. New Mexico. The Cowboys intercepted five passes and recovered two muffed punts against the Lobos.
This season, only two other schools have forced seven turnovers in a single game — Utah State accomplished that vs. BYU and Cal forced seven turnovers vs. Washington State. Wyoming has been very successful at forcing turnovers all season long. UW currently ranks No. 1 in the nation in forcing turnovers, with 24, and also ranks No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin (turnovers gained minus turnovers lost). The Cowboys have only committed eight turnovers themselves.
Saturday’s game has the makings of another classic in the over 100-year history of “The Border War”.