"We've scouted out some Ohio film and North Dakota State film and we saw the offensive line opening up huge holes," said outside linebacker Coleby Clawson. "The running backs were having huge gains, so we feel that one of the reasons why the running backs are having such huge gains is because of the offensive line up front. They pull well and are light on their feet."
Wyoming has only averaged 92.3 passing yards per game thus far, so any chance of a Cowboy victory against No. 11 BYU will have to start up front with the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage.
"We feel they'll try and establish the run because that's where they've been having the most success," said nose guard Russell Tialavea. "They're pretty quick and have pretty good feet for an offensive line, so we have to be sure that we cover our gap assignments and make our reads up front to know where the play is going. They're a physical run team, and in watching film on their last game they had a lot of rushing yards. So if we can stop the run game by controlling the line of scrimmage, I think we'll be alright."
At left tackle facing Cougar defensive end Jan Jorgensen will be 6-foot-5-inch, 289-pound junior Ryan Otterson. Otterson had faced Jorgensen last year after taking over the left tackle position as a sophomore. He started 12 games and brings experience to the spot.
At left guard is 6-foot-4-inch, 302-pound sophomore Sam Sterner. Sterner may only be a sophomore, but he does have experience after starting all 12 games last season. He is also considered one of the more talented linemen in the group, and he and Otterson possibly make the left side of the Cowboys' offensive line the more athletic side.
At center is 6-foot-4-inch, 300-pound senior Tim Bond. Bond has started on the offensive line for the past two years, receiving playing time at both the right guard and center positions. Tialavea will be Bond's primary responsibility.
"They're not sloppy," Tialavea said. "They're more the tall, lean-type offensive line. "That means they're more mobile and can get a quick push up front in the run game, and it also means they usually have a quick first step in the passing game. We know they want to establish the run because of the type of backs they have. If the offensive line opens up a hole, the backs can get some yards you on."
Taking the field at right guard will be 6-foot-7-inch, 316-pound senior Kyle Howard. Last season, Howard played right tackle and started in all 12 games. During the 2006 season he played left guard and started in all 12 games. Now at right guard, Howard brings both experience and knowledge of the overall offensive line responsibilities. He's considered a leader on the line and earned Honorable Mention All-Mountain West Conference honors in 2007.
At right tackle is 6-foot-6-inch, 312-pound freshman Clayton Kirven. Kirven is the most inexperienced of the Wyoming offensive linemen, but is starting because the Cowboy coaching staff has confidence in his development and abilities. While a senior in high school, Kirven was named to the Casper Star Tribune Super 25 Team honoring the top recruits in the state of Wyoming.
"Wyoming's offensive line, from what I can see on film, is big but not big like Washington's offensive line," said Coleby Clawson. "They average around 6'5", 300 pounds, so they've got some good size up front. They're big and have a couple of seniors and I think they're returning everyone across their offensive line, so they have a lot of experience up front to help with their run game."
Tialavea said the Cowboy offensive line runs a lot of "power" schemes, focusing the point of attack in the middle.
"They're pretty tall, big and fairly physical," said Tialavea. "They run the power a lot, and when a team runs a power offense you have be tough inside. That means they like to pull, trap and do double teams, and so they're going to be pounding me a lot. I have to stay low, and they're a pretty good line."
"I don't think they'll be as physical as Washington simply because Washington's offensive line was so big," said Clawson. "From what we've gathered on film, Wyoming's offensive line appears to be pretty strong, and so we're expecting a physical offensive line from Wyoming. Hopefully we can do as well as we did against UCLA last weekend."
Wyoming's offensive linemen may not be as big as what the Cougars saw in Husky Stadium, but what they may lack in size they gain in agility.
"I think one of the things that stands out about their offensive line is they are very agile," said Fowler. "They take advantage of those guys to pull and trap and create overloads against one side of the defense. They like to bring an offensive lineman from the weak side to get him on the strong side to help with the point of attack. Because of their agility those guys do a great job of getting to the second and third defensive levels. They like to try and get out and get some cut blocks on the linebackers and safeties."
The key for the Cougar defense will be focusing on what the offensive line does. Oftentimes it's difficult to see where the point of attack is, which can make a defender vulnerable to be taken out of the play by an attacking offensive line.
"We have to first attack the block, defeat the block and then make a play," said Fowler. "If we get our eyes looking in the backfield, those linemen will come up, knock you down or cut you at the knees among, other things, to get you out of the play."
It's no secret that stopping the run is going to be an emphasis of BYU's defense this Saturday.
"We've seen the offensive line work well with their running backs," said Clawson. "They definitely have the best combo of running backs that can run downhill and aren't afraid to make contact. They average 158 yards rushing per game, and any team that's rushing for that many yards a game usually wins them. We have to expect the offensive line will be very active up front to help that running back combo. Shutting down the run game is probably going to be a bigger part of our defensive package on game day. Hopefully we can force them to pass."