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2011 College Football Preview: Wyoming Cowboys

2010 Record: (3-9, 1-7 in MWC)

Head Coach: Dave Christensen (10-15, 5-11 in the MWC)

Last Bowl Game: 2009 Season New Mexico Bowl: beat Fresno State 35-28 (2OT)

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9/3: Weber State (2009 result: won 29-22)

9/10: Texas State

9/17: at Bowling Green

9/24: Nebraska

10/8: at Utah State

10/15: UNLV (2010 result: lost 42-16)

10/29: at San Diego State (2010 result: lost 48-38)

11/5: TCU (2010 result: lost 45-0)

11/12: at Air Force (2010 result: lost 20-14)

11/19: New Mexico (2010: result: lost 34-31)

11/26: at Boise State (2010 result: lost 51-6)

12/3: at Colorado State (2010 result: won 44-0)

2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 19.2 ppg (6th in MWC, 107th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 119.5 yds/game (6th in MWC, 99th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 166.0 yds/game (7th in MWC, 100th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 285.5 yds/game (7th in MWC, 116th in Nation)

2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 30.3 ppg (6th in MWC, 85th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 205.08 yds/game (7th in MWC, 106th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 207.9 yds/game (5th in MWC, 42nd in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 413.0 yds/game (6th in MWC, 92th in Nation)

2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: -0.17 per game (6th in MWC, 67th in Nation)

Penalties: 46.8 yds/game (5th in MWC, 43rd in Nation)

Returning Starters:

Offense: 7

Defense: 8

Kicker/Punter: 1

Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: No QBs with returning stats

Rushing: RB Alvester Alexander, Jr (189 for 792, 14 TD)

Receiving: WR Chris McNeill, Jr (28 rec for 257 yds, 3 TD)

Tackles: LB Brian Hendricks, Sr (80)

Sacks: DE Josh Biezuns, Sr (6.5)

Interceptions: CB Tashaun Gipson, Sr (3)

In his debut season as Head Coach at Wyoming, Dave Christensen increased Wyoming's win total by 3 over the previous year and took them to a bowl game where they were victorious. Last year was not as fortunate for the Cowboys as they won only three games.

In 2010 the Cowboys had a really tough schedule as they took on Boise State, TCU, Utah, Texas, BYU, San Diego State and Air Force. Unfortunately, Wyoming failed to capitalize on their games with New Mexico and UNLV (which combined to win 3 games last year) as they fell to both of them. In year three, the Cowboys return a lot of players but took a hit in the off-season when QB Austyn Carta-Samuels and starting Safety Shamiel Gary both transferred. The third year is always an interesting one to watch as the coaching staff is starting to get their players in place and the team has been in the system going on three years. We caught up with Robert Gagliardi of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle to get his take on the 2011 Wyoming Cowboys. Make sure you check out Robert's on-line blog Cowboy Chronicles and also follow him on Twitter @rpgagliardi.

Wyoming was 3-9 in 2010 after going 7-6 in 2009. What were the major causes of the drop-off and what needs to be corrected to turn the ship around in 2011?

The offense could never get rolling. The Cowboys ranked 98th or worse out of 120 FBS teams in the nation in scoring (19.2 ppg), rushing offense (119.5 ypg), passing offense (166.0 ypg), total offense (285.5 ypg), first downs (173) and third-down conversion percentage (31 percent). Their turnover margin went from +8 in 2009 to -3 in 2010. The offensive line struggled and five different starting combinations were used, which also forced the team to deviate from the spread offense coach Dave Christensen likes to run. The defense also struggled in its first year in a 4-3 after being a 3-4 team the past few seasons. The defensive line struggled to get a push up front and the unit forced only 15 turnovers.  

There will be a freshman quarterback this season as sophomore Austyn-Carta Samuels, the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, left after the 2010 season. Whoever the quarterback is, and it's a battle of three guys that will go into fall camp, his progression is critical. But not more than more consistent and better play from the offensive line. The defense looks more comfortable in the second year of the 4-3, and could be as fast and athletic than in recent memory.

Dave Christensen is 10-15 in two years at Wyoming. What are the overall thoughts on his around campus and what does he need to do better this year?

Christensen has total support from the administration at Wyoming, and among most of the fans as well. Sure, it was a disappointment from 2009 to 2010, but Christensen is confident that the way he's doing things in the program will work and will progress. I think the best start to turn the ship around in 2011 starts up front on both the offensive and defensive lines. If they play well, this team should play well.

For those that don't follow Wyoming that closely...who are the players to watch on this team?

Junior running back Alvester Alexander has 1,432 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first two season. Sophomore receiver Robert Herron split time at running back and receiver last season as a true freshman, but will play exclusively at receiver this season. Herron is small at 5-10, 187, but he's fast and made a lot of big plays during spring ball.  

Defensively, seniors Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton could be the best defensive end duo in the Mountain West. They combined for 128 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks last season. Both are former linebackers in their second season as defensive ends. Senior linebacker Brian Hendricks was third on the team with 80 tackles last season, and senior cornerback Tashaun Gipson is one of the better and more physical corners in the conference. He also can play safety.

Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games for Wyoming this year?

The conference opener Oct. 15 at home against UNLV. Wyoming won only one conference game last season, and that came in the regular-season finale. A good start in the conference this season, followed by a bye week, should give this team -- especially a young offense -- a big boost.

What is the one game on the schedule that the fanbase wants to win the most this year?

A Sept. 24 home game with Nebraska. As of early May the school had already broke its record for season-ticket sales with nearly 8,500. The game will be a sellout and televised nationally. Wyoming hosted Texas in 2009, which also drew a sellout. But the buzz for Nebraska is ten fold than the Texas game. This will be a once in a lifetime experience for most Wyoming fans. Teams like Texas and Nebraska don't often come to Wyoming. As a result, Wyoming must play twice at Nebraska, and after a game at Texas in 2010 it must go there again in 2012.

What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

With two FCS teams to open the season, and seemingly winnable road non-conference games at Utah State and Bowling Green, Wyoming could win seven games to become bowl eligible. That would constitute a successful season. My gut tells me the 2011 team will be similar to the 2009 squad. It won't be flashy on offense, but will do enough to get the job done. The defense will force more turnovers and Wyoming will grind out wins instead of blow people away. But even if it does that I see this team falling just short of seven wins and going 6-6.

Next Preview: Florida Atlantic Owls

2011 Team Previews

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MAC- Buffalo, Central Michigan, Temple


Sun Belt- North Texas


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