Glenn Looks for 1st 2-0 Start vs. Utah State

For four straight years, Joe Glenn's Cowboys have failed to start a season better than 1-1. After a resounding win over Virginia a week ago, however, Glenn has his best shot yet at getting Wyoming over the early hump of past seasons. The Cowboys will take on Utah State Saturday, a team Glenn has never lost to during his UW tenure and one Wyoming has consistently beaten in dominating fashion.

It's not something Wyoming fans talk much about. It's not something the media has dwelt on, and it's definitely not something you will hear out of the mouths of any of his players. But the fact is: Joe Glenn does not have a winning record as the Cowboys head coach.

The Nebraska native is 22-26 (.458) overall in Laramie, but you won't likely hear anyone complaining about the coach's record. Glenn has infused new life into Wyoming football over the five years he has held the head coaching position, and all fans have to do to quell any impatience with the program's progress is remember what the team was like before Cowboy Joe became a Cowboy.

The Pokes had just finished at the bottom of the Mountain West Conference when Glenn took over in 2003, and the new coach made his presence felt immediately. In his first season, he led the team to wins over CSU and BYU at home—the first time since 1988 Wyoming accomplished the feat. He took the Pokes to the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl the next year, where he knocked off UCLA 24-21. The team recorded its first ever home and road wins over an SEC team under Glenn, beating Ole Miss at home in '04 and then again on the road in '05. In his four years as head coach, Glenn has brought the Cowboys from last place to their highest conference finish ever in 2006, a third-place effort that saw the Pokes win five of their last seven contests.

No doubt, the Glenn-led Cowboys have had the look of a program on its way up, and 2007 may be the team's best year to date. Wyoming opened its season with another BCS-conference victory in dominant fashion, blowing out ACC opponent Virginia 23-3 last Saturday. After never beginning a season better than 1-1 during his first four years, Glenn will have as good a chance as he has seen yet at Wyoming to do just that tomorrow when the Pokes take the field against Utah State at 12:00 p.m.

The Cowboys are 2-0 against the Aggies during the Glenn era, including last year's 38-7 season-opening rout of the WAC bottom-dweller. Still, Glenn is not looking ahead to Week Three early.

"It's a must win for us if we want the things to happen with our record this year," Glenn said. "It's a very, very important game for us.

"I told the kids, this isn't baseball where you play 160 games or basketball where you play everybody twice. We get one shot, and nobody works as hard as kids that play this game of football anymore, at least collegiately. They train year round, and there isn't really any time off to speak of. When they only get 12 regular season shots, they have to make the most of it, so for our kids to come into this game and not be mentally ready and mentally focused, and ready to play 60 minutes, it just can't happen. There's no way they would let it happen, and there's no way I would let it happen."

Last Year's USU Game…

The ‘06 victory ended a six-game Wyoming losing streak that carried over from 2005. After a slow start—up by 10 (17-7) after three quarters—the Cowboys got it together in the fourth with three big plays that put the game out of reach. The first was a 51-yard catch and run by receiver Tyler Holden off a Jacob Doss pass. The second score came from the defense. Cornerback Michael Medina intercepted a pass from Aggies quarterback Leon Jackson and returned it 16 yards, putting the Pokes up 24-7. The final touchdown came after Utah State's next drive fizzled out. Just two plays into the ensuing series, the Pokes were back on the Aggies' two-yard line, and wide receiver Hoost Marsh ran the ball in for his second TD of the game.

For the Cowboys, it was a performance they would be hard-pressed to equal over the next two months. They followed up the season-opener with four straight losses before a quarterback change seemed to give them the lift they needed to get back to .500 by the end of the year.

For Utah State, on the other hand, the Wyoming blow-out was simply the first example of what would become a familiar scenario in 2006. The Aggies won just one game last year, finishing the season with 11 losses—many of which came by as much or more than their opener. Preseason voters don't see the lack of success ending in '07; USU is expected to lose every game this year, and they stayed true to predictions last Saturday, opening up their '07 campaign with a 23-16 loss to '06 MWC last-place-finisher UNLV.

A Different USU squad in 2007…

Utah Stated jumped out to an early 10-3 lead in the first half against the Rebels, and it looked like the Aggies had finally found a bit of favor in the eyes of the Gridiron Gods—that is, at least until two Rebel field goals and a 15-yard run by Rebel QB Travis Dixon gave UNLV a 16-10 lead. Still, last season USU led at half time in only two games the entire year, and the Aggies made it close again in the fourth quarter, tying up the score at 16 on a Leon Jackson 1-yard touchdown run. For a few fleeting minutes, it seemed the contest might be heading to overtime before Rebel running back Frank Summers put UNLV up for good on an 11-yard TD scamper with slightly more than a minute remaining.

It obviously wasn't the way the Aggies hoped to open the year, but it was poles apart from where they were in '06.

"I don't think there's any question about it," Glenn said of the game. "When you look at the tape and how close they came to beating UNLV, their numbers are totally different from what they averaged a year ago. Defense numbers are way down, and offense numbers are way up. It looks like Leon (Jackson) is playing within himself and has renewed confidence. They're running the ball much better there in the power…the new coordinator has done a real nice job, and they've gotten better on defense."

Players to Watch…

USU returns 19 starters from a year ago, seven on offense, 11 on defense and one special-teamer. The most notable is wide receiver Kevin Robinson, who Glenn called the leader of the team. Robinson led USU with 36 receptions for 582 yards and five touchdowns in '06, including two games of more than 100 yards receiving. Last week, he posted a team-high five receptions for 62 yards and six kick-off returns for an impressive 166 yards.

The Aggies also return senior QB Leon Jackson, who started five games last year and played most of the season finale. Against the Rebels last week, he went 13-for-19 for 137 yards and also rushed for 11 yards and a score.

On defense, the Aggies are led by defensive end Ben Calderwood, who was named second-team all-WAC in 2006 and earned WAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for a nine-tackle performance against Fresno State. Despite missing two games with a hand injury last year, he finished with 44 tackles and was second on the team in sacks and tackles for a loss with two and 6.5, respectively.

Linebacker Paul Igboeli, who earned WAC Freshman of the Year honors in '06 is behind Calderwood, and he should be a tough run stopper tomorrow. He started only eight games a year ago but still managed to finish second on the team in tackles with 69 and led the squad in sacks with three. He forced fumbles on two of his sacks—against Louisiana Tech and Boise State—both of which were returned for touchdowns. He may be the most explosive player on USU's defense, and last year he had three double-digit tackling performances, including 17 at Louisiana Tech.

The team's most talented position may be the safety spot. Senior Antonio Taylor leads the unit and is all over the field. Last year, he became the first non-linebacker to lead the team in tackles since defensive end Rulon Jones did it in 1978. He finished 2006 with 74 tackles and was a force in last year's season-opener at Wyoming, recording 10 tackles, breaking up a pass, intercepting another and returning it 45 yards for the Aggies' only touchdown.

Make sure to log on tomorrow for message board posts during the game and a recap after.

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