Another week and another heavy underdog label is hanging around the neck of the Wyoming Cowboys.
They just can't rope any respect despite the fact they've won three of four games.
But that's OK, they'll tell you in Laramie.
Because heading into an even bigger gunfight — against the No. 19 BYU Cougars — than the one they shot their way out of last week — a 17-14 shoot-down of the Air Force Falcons — the Cowboys don't seem to care how dangerous the enemy might be.
They're just doing their own thing.
"It is going to be a great challenge for us," admitted Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl heading into Saturday's late-night contest at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. "But I don't think (our guys) look at all at the people that say you can't do this or can't do that.
"What has been really enjoyable about our players is I don't know if they knew they were 17-point underdogs last week. They just went out and played. And they are getting better, and they will play hard."
They'll have to against the nationally ranked Cougars, who are likely to be cranky after losing ugly to the host Oregon Ducks in Week 3.
The 41-20 decision in Eugene halted any hopes of a perfect season and did damage to their hopes of becoming a long shot for the College Football Playoff.
Now at 2-1, BYU will be looking to rectify that wreck by dominating 3-1 Wyoming. But that was exactly the same thought of then-2-0 Air Force last week in Laramie, and look how that turned out.
"It's important that we learn and improve from last week to this week against Wyoming," BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. "It will be a great matchup for us, especially after what happened over this last weekend."
Wyoming at No. 19 BYU
When Wyoming Has the Ball
The Cowboys will want to duplicate what they did on offense last week — at least in terms of putting together long, sustained drives.
That would be doubly important against BYU, a team that boasts a far more explosive offense than Air Force.
Wyoming did what it did against the Falcons with a balanced attack, getting timely gains from junior running back Titus Swen — who finished with 102 yards on 19 carries, including the go-ahead touchdown run with six minutes remaining — and accurate passing from Andrew Peasley. The junior quarterback went 18-of-23 for 162 yards and a TD to junior tight end Treyton Welch.
The stats might not appear to be sexy, but Peasley & Co. know how to move the ball.
In fact, with the dual-threat QB, feature back Swen, and fellow ball carrier Dawaiian McNeely rolling up a combined 577 yards for more than five yards a carry through four games, they have moved the ball — and scored — enough to position themselves as a surprise contender for the Mountain West title. That win over heavily favored Air Force is proof of that and gives the Cowboys credibility to believe they have an ever-improving offense.
"They build a lot off of their run game," Sitake said. "They're having success for a reason. The variety of things they can do on offense causes problems for defenses."
Sitake's defense has endured its own problems — a Jekyll and Hyde season, if you will — especially against the run. The Cougars couldn't handle the Quack Attack last Saturday, missing tackles and allowing a whopping 212 rushing yards, after doing wonders in surrendering just an average of 2.9 yards per carry on the ground against the ninth-ranked Baylor Bears at home the week before.
So BYU's run-stuffing ability might go a long way in determining this game.
When BYU Has the Ball
The Cougars rolled up 573 yards in Week 1 over the USF Bulls and 366 against the vaunted Baylor defense, followed by another 366 on the road against Oregon. That's an average of 435 yards per game, mostly against good units, with the promise of more to come.
And Wyoming — which will have star linebacker Keenan Pili in the lineup despite dislocating two fingers last week — knows it.
"The biggest thing is you have an offense that truly is balanced," said Bohl of BYU's attack. "You have a quarterback who I think is exceptional. Not only myself, but all the defensive coaches (agree). And they can do so many different things."
That "exceptional" QB is Jaren Hall, who's beginning to turn heads at the pro level. The junior has executed well, with a 68.8 completion percentage to rack up 827 yards and five TDs, making him the heartbeat of the Cougars' offense.
But BYU does like its run game, as well, and that wasn't effective in the Week 3 loss. In fact, totaling up the last two tilts, the Cougs have amassed only 144 yards along the ground.
That's hardly the expectation with what's considered to be a top-shelf offensive line and the forever-aggressive attitude of the program.
"We pride ourselves on running the ball at BYU, and we want to get better," said tight end Isaac Rex. "I think staying on blocks, working on getting hands inside and staying in front of guys is pretty much our goal. We want to improve the running game, and we'll get better this week."
That would make Wyoming's job of picking up a second straight upset all that much more difficult.
The last time these two teams met at LaVell Edwards Stadium, it was a 25-20 victory for BYU back in 2020.
Perhaps a moral victory for Wyoming?
The program is likely tired of that when it comes to playing its longtime rival, dating back to their time together as founding members of the Mountain West Conference.
The Cougars have won eight in a row over the Cowboys and lead the all-time series 45-30-3. BYU's last loss to Wyoming in Provo was way back in 1987.
But again, the naysaying and the underdog label hasn't yet shaken Bohl's confident gang. Just ask Air Force.
"I know this …" Bohl added. "We are going to be jacked up, ready to play. And so it is really going to come down to executing. There is going to be a hard edge that we will have, and I am sure there is going to be a hard edge that BYU has."
Expect BYU to have an edge on the scoreboard, to boot.
Prediction: BYU 30, Wyoming 17
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