CSU vs. Wyoming football preview

Emmett McCarthy

Colorado State (6-1) hosts Wyoming (3-4) in the 115th anniversary of the Border War rivalry this Saturday. Here are the keys as the Rams hope to extend their winning streak to six games while the Cowboys will look to play spoiler:

Offense:

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Garrett Grayson vs. Wyoming pass defense

Colorado State is the only Mountain West team averaging over 300 passing yards per game (307.9). The Rams high-powered offense is fueled by senior quarterback Garrett Grayson who leads the conference with 16 passing touchdowns. Wyoming’s pass defense limits yardage (233.7 yards per game is 4th in MW) but the Cowboys do not have a single interception on the year. They have also given up eight passing touchdowns over their last three games, all of which were losses.

Rashard Higgins vs. Wyoming secondary

At this point, shutting down Rashard Higgins seems impossible. The sophomore receiver finished with 10 grabs for 187 yards against Utah State, but they were able to at least contain him for stretches by rolling coverage toward him. The Cowboys have defended just 23 passes all season, less than any team in the conference. In MW play, the team averages just two passes defended per game. Even if the Cowboys double Higgins, they might still be in for a long night.

CSU offensive line vs. Wyoming linebackers

The Rams offensive line was a question mark heading into the season, and it finally showed last week when Utah State sacked Grayson eight times. CSU lost starting left guard Mason Myers to a knee injury and will be without him this week. The Cowboys have a dangerous linebacker in Devyn Harris who has 54 tackles (26 solo) including four tackles for a loss and one forced fumble. The Rams also need to watch out for Mark Nzeocha who leads Wyoming with 60 tackles (35 solo) and junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough who has 35 tackles and two sacks.

Defense

CSU pass rush vs. Wyoming QB Colby Kirkegaard

The Cowboys don’t throw the ball as often as other teams, but when they do, it’s usually bad news. Cowboys quarterback Colby Kirkegaard has completed 111 of 195 pass attempts this season, giving him a mediocre 56.9 pass completion percentage. He’s thrown just seven touchdowns in seven games to go with six picks and has been sacked 28 times this season. The Rams defense, led by defensive end Joe Kawulok, has nine and half sacks this season and will be rearing to get Kirkegaard down on the ground.

CSU LB Max Morgan vs. Wyoming RB Shaun Wick

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Cowboys running back Shaun Wick is entering Saturday’s game as the fifth-leading rusher in the Mountain West conference with 707 rushing yards. Wick is an essential part of the first-year head coach Craig Bohl’s offense as he’s had a touchdown in each of the last four games. The Rams linebackers, led by senior Max Morgan, know that they have their work cut out for them clogging running gaps against Wyoming’s ground-and-pound style of football.

CSU special teams coverage vs Wyoming return game

Wyoming is effective in the return game, ranking in the top four in the Mountain West in both kickoff return average and punt return average. That has been a weakness for CSU who ranks in the bottom four in kickoff coverage. If the Rams give up any momentum on a big punt or kickoff return, it could easily give the Wyoming offense enough momentum to put up points.

Border War facts:

  • The first Border War in 1899 ended in a 12-0 forfeit win for CSU. Wyoming credits CSU with the victory, but CSU will not recognize the game as a win for themselves in the all-time series.
  • The Bronze Boot trophy originated in 1968 from the boot worn by Cpt. Dan Romero during his tour in Vietnam. Cpt. Romero is a Colorado-native and was an assistant professor in CSU’s ROTC Military Science Department.
  • CSU’s 61-point win in 1913 was the largest margin of victory in the history of the series.

By the Numbers:

79 – Percentage of games the Rams have won since beating Wyoming in last season’s Border War.

106 – Number of games between the Cowboys and Rams after Saturday’s contest.

1 – First-year Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl has beaten CSU once in his career while coaching at North Dakota State.

Collegian Sports Reporters Steven Jacobs and Emmett McCarthy can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22 and @steven_jacobs_.