(Laramie, Wyo.) – The wait is almost over for University of Wyoming Football fans as the Cowboys will open the 2018 college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25 in Las Cruces, N.M., versus the New Mexico State Aggies. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 8 p.m., M.T. from Aggie Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and will be broadcast on radio over the 26 affiliate stations of the Cowboy Sports Network, beginning with the radio pregame show one hour prior to kickoff.
The Cowboys and Aggies are both coming off successful seasons a year ago. Both teams ended the 2017 season with bowl victories. Wyoming recorded a convincing 37-14 victory over Central Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to conclude the season with an 8-5 record, and New Mexico State defeated Utah State, 26-20 in overtime, in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl to cap off a 7-6 record.
About the Cowboys
Wyoming returns one of the nation’s top defenses in 2018. The Cowboys led the nation in takeaways last season, forcing 38 opponent turnovers, and ranked No. 9 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing opponents only 17.5 points per game in 2017.
Wyoming returns eight starters from its outstanding defensive unit of a year ago, led by All-America candidates Andrew Wingard at strong safety and Carl Granderson at defensive end. First Team All-Mountain West defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan and Second Team All-MW linebacker Logan Wilson also return, as does four-year starter, and three-year team captain Marcus Epps at free safety.
On offense, the Pokes have nine starters back, including senior offensive linemen Kaden Jackson and Zach Wallace and leading receiver Austin Conway, who is an explosive player both catching the ball and returning punts. The biggest loss on the offense is of course former Cowboy quarterback Josh Allen, who was selected as the 7th overall pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2018 NFL Draft. Taking over as Wyoming’s starting quarterback will be redshirt freshman Tyler Vander Waal from Elk Grove, Calif.
About the Aggies
While New Mexico State lost its starting quarterback, running back, receiver and tackler from last season, they return some talented players in 2018. Junior running back Jason Huntley had 1,317 all-purpose yards a year ago, and he was named to the 2018 Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Watch List and the Paul Hornung Award Watch List. The Earl Campbell Award is presented to the top offensive player in the nation with ties to the state of Texas. The Paul Hornung Award is given to the most versatile player in college football each season. Redshirt senior center Jamin Smith has been named to the Wuerffel Trophy Watch List, which recognizes the college football player who best combines exceptional community service involvement with athletic and academic achievement.
Wyoming and New Mexico State will be playing for only the second time in the two schools’ histories when they play this Saturday. Wyoming won the first meeting back on Sept. 19, 1953, in Laramie by a final score of 47-0. It was the season opener for the Cowboys in 1953, just as it is going to be the season opener for the Cowboys this year. The 1953 meeting also marked the first game that Phil Dickens coached as head coach for the Cowboys.
This week’s 2018 season opener for the Wyoming Cowboys is the earliest season opener in school history, coming on Aug. 25. Wyoming’s previous earliest season opener came on Aug. 28, 1997, when the Cowboys traveled to Ohio State to play in the Inaugural Eddie Robinson Classic. The Buckeyes defeated the Cowboys 24-10 in that 1997 matchup.
The Pokes are 76-43-2 (.636) in season openers and are 19-25-1 (.433) in season-opening games on the road.
Cowboy head coach Craig Bohl, his coaching staff and players are truly “Building Something Special” in Laramie. The past two seasons, Wyoming has posted records of 8-6 (2016) and 8-5 (2017). The Cowboys earned back-to-back bowl appearances in 2016 and ‘17, appearing in the 2016 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl vs. BYU (losing 21-24) and the 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, defeating Central Michigan 37-14.
UW captured the 2016 Mountain West Conference Mountain Division title and finished second in 2017.
The Cowboys earned the right to host the 2016 Mountain West Championship Game as the highest rated team in the conference.
Wyoming accomplished all that against the 19th most difficult schedule in the country in 2016 and the second most difficult schedule among all Group of Five schools.
Wyoming defeated two Top 25 ranked teams in 2016 and received votes itself in the national polls.
UW was named the National Team of the Week by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) for one of those Top 25 wins in 2016.