I hope to make this a weekly thing, interviewing a beat writer of Toledo's upcoming opponent. Not only does it inform you, but it gives me a clearer understanding of what to look for on game day.
Last week we traded thoughts with Ryan Finley of the Arizona Daily Star. This week we do the same with Robert Gagliardi of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang. Here are the questions I posed to him along with his answers. The vice versa will be posted tomorrow.
1. Did anything surprise you from Wyoming's end in the Texas game?
The biggest thing was how well Wyoming held up physically. The Cowboys were not overwhelmed by the Longhorns in that regard. Wyoming gave up 280 rushing yards, but around 100 of those yards came off three plays. Granted, you can't take those three plays back, but it was encouraging for the team that for the most part it took away Texas' power run game. Also, the team threw the ball pretty well against Texas, and made some big plays in the pass game.
2. Wyoming made a big jump to 2011 from 2010, winning eight games after winning three (one of which came at the hands of Toledo). What led to this significant improvement?
Quarterback Brett Smith is the biggest factor. He came in as a true freshman last year and did a lot of good things. He accounted for 31 touchdowns (20 passing, 10 rushing and one receiving). The team rallied around him and went about as far as it could. I also think the overall program took a step forward last season as it added more good players and more depth in certain areas.
3. Is Smith a running quarterback who can pass or a passing quarterback who can run?
He can do both. He led the team in rushing last season with 710 yards. Some was by design, some came when plays broke down. He's worked hard in the off-season being more patient in the pass game, and attended the Manning Passing Academy this summer. I would say he's more of a passing quarterback that can run.
4. Wyoming, from what I've gathered, typically plays four down linemen on defense. Against Texas, it played three. What's the reason for the change, and which scheme do you think will be used Saturday? (Note to Toledo readers: I asked this question because I find it interesting that the Rockets might face back-to-back team thats run an "odd stack" 3-3-5.)
Wyoming is a base 4-3 team, but will be multiple in its formations. New defensive coordinator Chris Tormey likes to keep teams off-balance in terms of formations and schemes. Wyoming dropped one of its defensive ends into more of a strong-side linebacker position against Texas to help in the run game. You should see different looks and formations from the Cowboys Saturday.
5. Who are a couple of players, sort of under the radar, that could make a difference in the game? Also please give your prediction and score.
Junior receiver Robert Herron busted out with the best game of his career at Texas with five catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. He's always had big-play potential and has shown flashes, but now it's time to see it on a consistent basis. Wyoming has a couple of other receivers that can make plays, too, in sophomores Dominic Rufran and Trey Norman, and senior Chris McNeill. Those three could make a big difference Saturday. Defensively, cornerbacks Blair Burns and Marqueston Huff give Wyoming two guys that are good in coverage and good open-field tacklers. Both also play on special teams. Burns returns punts and Huff blocked an extra-point last week.
I think this will be a tight and competitive game. Wyoming wins a close one, 27-23.