The Wyoming Cowboys football team preparing for its first bowl appearance in five years when it faces an old foe in Brigham Young in the Poinsettia Bowl. The two teams have not played each other since 2010 when BYU decided to leave the Mountain West Conference. Over the years BYU has dominated the rivalry and if the Cowboys win it will be the first victory over the Cougars since 2003.
But it won’t be easy. The first thing that caught Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl’s attention is how strong and athletic BYU is. The Cougars will likely be playing backup quarterback Tanner Mangum after starter Taysom Hill was injured at the end of the season. But Bohl notes that Mangum is a former starter who throws very well. UW Linebacker Lucas Wacha is also impressed.
“You know he can throw the ball, they throw the ball very well and they got a big running back who can run over people and runs hard and big offensive line, physical, physical guys. You know they are definitely older and more mature than people that we have on our team, but I also think we got guys that are going to go out there and compete.”
While BYU has always been famous for its offense, it’s the defense that has gotten the Cowboys attention. Bohl said they are impressive.
“Big, strong, imposing front and they make you earn it. And so when you have a physical, disciplined team, that’s always a challenge, and that’s gonna be a challenge for us as far as moving the football.”
Wyoming All American Center Chase Roullier agreed and said they will present challenges.
“They’re strong, and fast, and athletic up front, both at the linebacker and defensive line positions. Those are tough defenses to go against.”
Roullier said that the key for Wyoming is to get its running game going, but he is confident they can find a way to move the ball. For most of the Cowboys this is an exciting time to finally get to play in the bowl game. Roullier noted that the team has come a long way in a short time.
“It’s been tough as a senior having the last four seasons that we’ve had, but you know to be able to come out this season and have the year that we’ve had it’s been very exciting and I think we’re all very proud of it.”
Running Back Brian Hill said he can’t wait to get on the field.
“Super excited man, it’s been a real goal coming into this off season, one of our goals was to get into a bowl game and we did that fairly early in the season. And now that’s it’s finally here, the excitement is just bubbling over. I can’t wait to get to San Diego and experience it.”
In the past Wyoming players would also be expressing their excitement over facing BYU, but since they’ve never faced them, none of these players have a good understanding of what this rivalry has meant. Wacha said some people have tried to educate him.
“Teachers, older teachers, they’ve been talking to me about BYU versus Wyoming rivalry and how huge it is to this state and how many games they’ve had in the past that’s been by points. How much they don’t like BYU, they are definitely making the point.
Roullier said while this crop of players may not completely understand the rivalry, he said that this team is filled with big time players who thrive on big time games. He predicts that the team will do the state proud. Kickoff is Wednesday at 7 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN.