My responses to questions posed by Robert Gagliardi of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang1. What are some of the major changes with the program with new coach Matt Campbell compared to past years with Tim Beckman?
This is my first year on the beat, so I am probably not qualified to answer this question. I'll try anyway. Campbell, who was Beckman's offensive coordinator, mirrors his former boss in some of the ways he runs the program. For instance, he doesn't let freshmen or first-year players speak to the media, and he prohibits media from watching practices. From a fan standpoint, I understand none of that matters, but it sort of illustrates how Campbell, at 32 and in his first head coaching position, is not above looking at blueprints created by others. As far as schemes, not much has changed. Campbell was the offensive coordinator under Beckman, so we're still seeing the spread attack. The 4-3 defense has been modified slightly under new coordinator Tom Matukewicz, whom Campbell plucked from rival Northern Illinois. Beckman preached accountability and discipline, and I think those are tenets of Campbell as well. I sense Campbell is more of a player's coach than Beckman, which is neither a good or bad thing.
2. How would you analyze the quarterback situation right now with Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens, and who do you expect to start and play the most Saturday?
Owens is expected to start, if for no other reason than Dantin started last week, winning the right based on, believe it or not, a coin flip. There isn't much that separates these two. They've been battling for three years. Both captains, they received the same number of votes from their teammates. I haven't seen enough of them to give an assessment I am confident in, but it appears Owens is the bigger threat to hit a home run ball, and he definitely has the stronger arm. Dantin might be the better option to make something happen with his feet. They both played seven series in the Arizona game, with Owens leading to two touchdowns and Dantin to a field goal. Neither was very effective against an Arizona defense that covered well. Expect to see both get snaps early at Wyoming.
3. What was Arizona able to do well in rolling up more than 600 yards of total offense last week, and what are the biggest concerns defensively right now for the Rockets?
Arizona quarterback Matt Scott attacked soft spots in coverage early and often. It was UT's plan to concede short and intermediate routes so to not give up big plays. They also wanted to see if Scott, who hadn't played since 2010, could really sling it. They found out he could. Of the 624 yards allowed, Campbell counted between 180 and 200 that came after a missed tackle. Arizona had two touchdowns called back because of a penalty. They fumbled twice in UT territory, including once inside the 10 when the receiver inexplicably lost control of the football without being touched. That same receiver dropped a pass at the goal line. What I'm saying is the score could have been worse.
4. Do you think having to play at Arizona late last Saturday night and then coming back west this week is a concern this week for the team?
I don't know that the combination of them is necessarily daunting. I do however think each game in a vacuum is challenging. The Arizona game started late (10:30 EDT) and it was pretty hot. I suspect the altitude in Wyoming could present problems, although Campbell thinks otherwise. Anytime you travel to a different time zone to play a quality opponent, it's going to be difficult.
5. What are the biggest concerns in terms of what Wyoming does, and your predicted final score for the game?Biggest concerns, based on my knowledge of Wyoming, is dual-threat quarterback Brett Smith. Toledo obviously didn't fare well against Arizona's Scott, another dual-threat quarterback. If Toledo tackles better, I think they'll be fine. I think they'll have more success offensively after working out some kinks. I'll take Toledo to win 27-22.