No. 17 Fresno St looks for 1st-ever win at Wyoming
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP)
After watching his defense give up more than 50 points in each of the last two games, Wyoming coach Dave Christensen knew a change was needed and quickly, especially with No. 17 Fresno State's high-scoring offense coming to town this weekend.
Christensen fired defensive coordinator Chris Tormey last week and hired veteran defensive coach Bill Young to help for the remainder of the season.
''We're disappointed obviously in giving up the amount of points that we'd given up the prior two weeks and not made much progress from a defensive standpoint, and so we just felt at that point in time it was the best thing for the program and the kids,'' Christensen said.
During a 44-year career, Young has coached defenses at a number of top programs, including USC, Ohio State and Oklahoma. He was last the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State from 2009 to 2012.
Young will be helping interim defensive coordinator Jamar Cain with studying opponents and devising schemes.
Wyoming safety Marqueston Huff said coaching changes don't matter as much as players performing on the field.
''It's still 11 guys out there on the field who have to work together to get one specific job done,'' Huff said. ''Regardless if we put Mickey Mouse out there, we still have to get our jobs done.''
Here are five things to watch when the Cowboys (4-4, 2-2 Mountain West) host Fresno State (8-0, 5-0) on Saturday night:
SPREADING THE OFFENSE: Wyoming and Fresno State feature high-scoring, spread offenses. Fresno State averages 539.9 yards a game, No. 1 in the Mountain West and No. 6 in the country. Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr is No. 1 in the conference and No. 2 in the NCAA in total offense with 389.9 yards a game. Cowboys quarterback Brett Smith isn't far behind, averaging 349.8 yards a game, which ranks No. 2 in the Mountain West and No. 8 nationally. Wyoming's offense is second in the conference and No. 9 in the nation in total offense at 516.2 yards a contest.
PLAYING IN LARAMIE: Fresno State is making its first trip to Wyoming since 1996 and is looking for its first ever win there. The Cowboys have beaten the Bulldogs in their three previous meetings in Laramie, which is about 7,000 feet higher in elevation than Fresno State's home. Wyoming hopes its no-huddle offense will leave Bulldog defenders gasping for air. ''I'll mention to our players that it's part of the challenge because it's a tough place to go win a ball game,'' Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. ''I've been up there.'' But at least one Fresno State player is excited about being in the high altitude. Carr, who averages 382.6 yards passing a game, wants to see how far he can throw the football in the thin air. ''I'll probably do it in pregame, just let one fly one time from the 50, throw it through the goal post or something like that. See how far it will go,'' he said.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Both Carr and Smith are adept at getting the ball to multiple receivers. Bulldogs receivers Davante Adams (88 receptions), Josh Harper (59) and Isaiah Burse (56) have combined for 195 catches on the season. Wyoming's top receivers are Dominic Rufran (51 receptions), Robert Herron (42) and Tanner Gentry (35). Two others have 20 or more catches.
OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: Christensen and his team see the game as an opportunity to not only end a two-game losing streak but as a way to make a statement on the national scene. In their first game of the season, the Cowboys came close to upsetting Nebraska in Lincoln, losing 37-34. ''It presents a big challenge to us, but those are the games that I want to play in and I know the team wants to play in,'' Smith said.
FOURTH QUARTER: If the game is close in the fourth quarter, Fresno State likes its chances because Carr tends to be at his best when the game is on the line. Carr has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 562 yards and five touchdowns against one interception in the fourth quarter and overtime this season.