Wyoming Looks Familiar to U

So, let’s see?

The Utah football team is hosting an opponent that runs a quick-attack offense, makes almost exclusive use of the passing attack in that set, but in spite of the unconventional attack, is nevertheless struggling to defeat its opponents.

No, South Florida does not get a do-over.

Instead, the 4-1 Utes are hosting the Wyoming Cowboys?an MWC squad that apparently differs from the Bull team that was on the wrong end of a 52-21 trouncing at the U?s hands only in that it wears brown jerseys, as opposed to green ones.

Consequently, when the Cowboys come into Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday looking to end Utah’s three-game winning streak, it well could be dj vu all over again.

“There’s a lot of carryover in Wyoming from South Florida,” said Utah coach Ron McBride. “They run a no-huddle offense. They’ll spread it out and give you problems.”

Lest anyone think the Utes are in for yet another cakewalk, however, McBride is inclined to disagree.

While it’s true that Wyoming, at 2-4 overall, 0-3 MWC, is not completely removed from last year’s horrendous 1-10 finisher, a team that fell 34-0 to the Utes in a game played in Laramie, Wyo., the Utes say they’ve been preparing to face a team ready to put up a fight. The Vegas oddsmakers may have Utah a 16-point favorite, but no one on the U team is taking the Cowboys lightly.

“They’re a dangerous football team because their backs are to the wall, they have to win,” McBride said. “That’s the most dangerous time to play a team.”

Defensive end Josh Savage agreed.

“Wyoming’s a lot better than Southern Florida. They should have more wins than they do now,” Savage said. “We can’t overlook anybody.”

The Cowboys pose a threat primarily because of their vaunted passing attack. Though he has a poor 7-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio, sophomore quarterback Casey Bramlett is a dangerous thrower, ranking first in the MWC and 15th in the NCAA in passing yards per game (296.2), and second in the conference and eighth in the nation in total yards per game (293.8). He has a league-high four games of at least 300 passing yards.

“Their quarterback has done a lot of good things. He escapes a lot, he makes a lot of big plays,” McBride said. “He looked awful good [last week] against [Air Force].”

It helps Wyoming’s cause that Bramlett has targets to throw too. Receiver Malcolm Floyd has three straight games of at least 100 yards receiving, while fellow wideout Brock Ralph has two. Sophomore Ryan McGuffey, a Second Team All-American last year, totaled a pair of 100-yard games before suffering a shoulder injury against Utah State and missing the last two games.

“They’re a good-looking group,” McBride said. “All three of them are very good receivers.”

In fact, Wyoming is particularly lethal in the field’s first 80 yards. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, once they get to those last 20, they tend to bog down.

“Their biggest problem is the red zone. That’s where they struggle,” McBride said. “They have no problem moving the ball between the 20s.”

However, thus far, opponents have been equally adept at moving the ball against them. Despite the efforts of senior linebacker Leo Cairnes?whose 17-tackle performance against Air Force earned him MWC Defensive Player of the Week honors?the Cowboys are last in the league in total defense, allowing 454.7 yards per game?some 55 more than the second-to-worst Falcons.

That’s good news for a Utah offense finally starting to come into its own, as evidenced by its 474-yard average over the last three games.

And while the Utes will certainly look to exploit that advantage, Savage still believes that if Utah employs that which it learned against South Florida, virtually everything else will be irrelevant against this clone.

“The [defensive backs] had a big job two weeks ago [against USF], and they did a great job,” he said. “That’s helped us a lot. We’re going to be prepared to play the pass.”

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