No. 9 Nebraska makes first visit to Wyoming

When No. 9 Nebraska plays at Wyoming on Saturday, both teams are

approaching the game in the same business-as-usual manner, though

from completely different perspectives.

For Wyoming, Nebraska has stood out on the Cowboys’ schedule

since the game was announced in 2008 because hosting high-profile,

Top 10, non-conference teams are a rarity at War Memorial

Stadium.

”The town of Laramie and the state of Wyoming, they’ve been

getting ready for this game now for three years,” third-year coach

Dave Christensen said.

Wyoming players and coaches, however, are quick to point out

they aren’t doing anything special in preparation and are trying to

keep a matter-of-fact demeanor leading up to what many fans and the

school are calling the biggest home game in Wyoming’s football

history.

”It’s another team,” Cowboys senior linebacker Brian Hendricks

said. ”We’re not going to change the way we prepare for

them.”

For Nebraska, it’s the Huskers’ first road game of the season

and last game before their highly anticipated first Big Ten

Conference matchup at Wisconsin the following week. However,

Nebraska players and coaches say they are taking the usual

one-game-at-a-time approach.

”I don’t want to look forward to conference play when I have

these Wyoming Cowboys,” Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell said. ”This

is college football. You can see No. 1-ranked teams lose to

anybody.”

Both teams enter the contest undefeated after their first three

games. It is Wyoming’s first 3-0 start since 1996, although two of

its games this year were against FCS teams.

”We have to play our best game, probably a near perfect game,”

Christensen said.

Despite being neighboring states, Nebraska and Wyoming have met

only five previous times with the Huskers winning each time – all

at home. The two teams last met in 1994 when Nebraska won 42-32 –

its second-closest game in that 13-0 national championship

season.

Saturday’s game at Wyoming will be Nebraska’s first road game at

a non-BCS conference school since a 38-14 win in 2003 at Southern

Miss.

The game pits two teams whose offenses have been the main reason

both are undefeated.

Nebraska is averaging 44.3 points a game, ranking it No. 13 in

the NCAA in scoring offense. It is the first time it has opened the

season with three straight games scoring 40-plus points since 1995,

when did so in the first four.

The Huskers are No. 11 in rushing offense with 252.3 yards a

game. Wyoming is averaging 36 points a game so far, ranking No. 35.

The Cowboys rank No. 20 in rushing offense at 226.7 yards a contest

and are 16th in total offense at 492.3 yards.

Cowboys freshman quarterback Brett Smith ranks No. 16 in total

offense with 310.7 yards per game, earning the admiration of

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.

”He is tough, and I would say he is a winner,” Pelini

said.

Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez ranks No. 21 in total

offense at 291.3 yards a game.

”Obviously he’s an excellent football player, and we got to do

everything we can to minimize his big plays,” Christensen

said.

Defensively, the two teams have given up chunks of yardage and

points to opponents. Nebraska has surrendered 24.7 points a game,

ranking it 66th in scoring defense, and 364.7 yards a contest, 67th

in the NCAA. Wyoming has given up 23 points (55th) and 414.7 yards

(94th) a game.

Pelini said he isn’t worried about his team looking ahead to the

Wisconsin game on Oct. 1.

”We keep our guys in the moment, and we do a good job of

that,” he said.

But try as he might not to look ahead at Wisconsin, Bell allowed

himself a glimpse of the Big Ten game when commenting about playing

on the road in a small stadium before heading to Madison.

”It’s important to get a taste of what it’s like to be on the

road,” he said. ”It’s hard to compare Wyoming, though, with a

place like Madison.”

Thanks to temporary seating being installed, about 32,500 people

are expected to pack War Memorial Stadium, which has a listed

capacity of just over 29,000. The listed capacity is the smallest

stadium Nebraska has played in since 1971 when the Huskers played

in front of 23,500 fans at Hawaii.

Bob Moen can be reached at www.twitter.com/bobmoen