Setting aside junior varsity antics, the Cougars are heading up to Laramie this weekend. Accountability will be a topic discussed and had, just not in the same way. Rather than it coming from a disgruntled coach justifying his game management to reporters on television, it will come from Cougars football players focusing on the greater importance of winning the Mountain West Conference outright. Next stop Laramie, Wyoming.
"Laramie is a tough place to play and you just have to phase out that crowd and remember a ball game is a ball game and you're out there to play football," said outside linebacker David Nixon. "You can't let that crowd phase you; otherwise, they've accomplished their purpose. It's a good thing we're not Utah going up there.
"This is another Mountain West Conference game for us and it's another must-win if we want to get that title. We know that and we feel this is something most important for us, and so we're focusing on taking up that cause and we're going to go out there and play like that."
Despite blanking the scoreboard against the U of U, the Cougars are not taking the Cowboys of Wyoming lightly. The zero-point outing was in no way indicative of Joe Glenn's football team, and these Cougars fully understand that.
"I think it's just that we have to expect their best," said Nixon. "For them it's a rivalry game and they're going to come at us with their best, and we are preparing for that. We expect them to throw their whole playbook at us and we expect them to come out there with fire, and that's exactly what we as a team are going to prepare for."
The Cowboys have capable athletes on an offense that features a balanced attack. Commanding the Cowboy offense is Karsten Sween, who was on the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award preseason watch list.
"Sween came in here as a freshman last year, and I kind of think we gave him a bit of a whirlwind," Nixon said. "I think he's matured a lot and you can see he's making better decisions now, so we expect more out of him this time around than last year."
The Sporting News named Sween an Honorable Mention Freshman All-American last year. He was also named preseason All-Mountain West Conference by CBS Sportsline. Sween was partly responsible for Wyoming's 452 yards of total offense in their victory over Virginia, and threw for 255 yards in their victory over Ohio on September 22.
After earning the starting quarterback position nearly halfway through the season, Sween threw for 1,304 yards last year, ranking him sixth in the Mountain West Conference and 80th in the nation as only a redshirt freshman. He also averaged 135.1 yards of total offense in 2006 which placed him seventh in the MWC.
In the Cowboy backfield, the Pokes have two very capable running backs. Devin Moore rushed for 198 yards to help lead to Pokes to a 34-33 come-from-behind win over Ohio. Moore also rushed for 135 yards in the Cowboys' victory over TCU, and for 105 yards against the Fighting Falcons of Air Force.
"Moore is a speedy guy," said Nixon. "We know that. This guy can flat out run the ball, so we're going to have to play a little loose on the outside. We expect them to test us much like Tulsa did, and we'll be ready for it. We're expecting them to throw the dog house at us with both the run and the pass, and they have guys like Moore that can really hurt you. They have nothing to lose and we know that."
Complimenting Moore in the backfield is 6-foot, 214-pound junior running back Wynel Seldon, who also brings a challenge for opposing defenses. Seldon carried the ball 20 times for 100 yards against TCU and ran for another 92 yards against Ohio.
"Seldon is another back that is a good player for the Cowboys," Nixon said. "He was one of their leading rushers last season and brings experience to their backfield. He's not the blazing fast running back like Aaron Brown from TCU is, but he uses his blockers well and has good field vision. Wyoming has some good running backs that can do different things from their offensive formations."
Last year, Seldon followed up a record-setting redshirt freshman season for Wyoming by rushing for 610 yards on 156 carries. Despite the rushing tandem of Seldon and Moore, the Cougars can expect the coaching staff of Wyoming to game plan an offense that will pull out all the stops and that will be balanced.
"We have to expect a balanced attack," said Nixon. "Especially us as outside linebackers, we have to be fully aware of the entire field. The Cowboys have the capability to both run and throw the ball. They do a lot of naked bootlegs that can suck you in and hurt us defensively. They also have some good plays in their playbook that we haven't seen this year that we're preparing for as well. As always, I think we're going to have a great defensive scheme ready. We're going to keep it simple, but at the same time we're going to do a few different things to confuse them a little."