Normally, Western Athletic Conference teams need a stout pass defense to cripple their pass-happy opponents, but Wyoming's defense against the run will be more important against Air Force on Saturday.
In opening the season 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the conference, the Falcons have run the ball 179 times and gained 778 yards, while going to the air just 28 times for 100 yards."I'm really concerned, and for a couple of very good reasons," Wyoming coach Paul Roach said of Air Force's option attack. "The last two times we played them we did not do a really good job of handling the triple option. And last Saturday against Arkansas State we gave up a few big plays, and a really big one when the fullback got loose for 91 yards."
Statistically, however, Wyoming has contained the run a bit better than the pass this year. In opening with a 3-0 record the Cowboys have allowed their non-conference opponents, on average, 132 rushing yards and 235.3 passing yards.
Of course, that rushing yardage was limited by the healthy presence of defensive end Mitch Donahue and middle linebacker Jarod Thiele. In beating Arkansas State 34-27 last weekend Donahue was felled by a bruised shoulder while Thiele went down with an ankle sprain.
Donahue is expected back in the lineup for Air Force while Thiele is questionable, according to Roach.
Air Force left Wyoming shellshocked with a 45-7 win last year, but the 1988 game was a 48-45 nail-biter that Wyoming won on Sean Fleming's last-second field goal.
The series history also shows that the home team usually is the victorious team. Wyoming -which has won 13 of the 28 meetings, lost 12 and tied three-has eight wins at home while Air Force has won nine at home.
New Mexico plays host to Texas Tech Saturday. The Lobos are 1-2 overall but have yet to face a WAC opponent.In the biggest mismatch since the Little Bighorn, Texas-El Paso went to mighty Tennessee last week with five freshmen in the starting lineup. The Miners were missing six starters because of injuries, and they lost two more during the game.
The outcome was hardly surprising. The Vols rolled to a 56-0 triumph.
But this week should be different, in the view of Miner coach David Lee.
The opponent remains formidable - Colorado State (2-1), which has lost only to nationally ranked Arizona State - but Lee has more able bodies on hand for Saturday's game here.
The Miners' two best offensive players, wide receiver Reggie Barrett and quarterback Howard Gasser, missed the Tennessee game, but both return for CSU.
UTEP is 1-2, having beaten winless New Mexico State (27-24) while losing to a pair of nationally ranked teams, Brigham Young (30-10) and Tennessee.
CSU still is smarting from a 31-20 loss to Arizona State that was closer than the outcome would indicate. The Rams ran 92 plays to ASU's 62 and had a 13-minute edge in time of possession.
CSU was trailing 21-14 and driving for the tying touchdown when ASU safety Nathan LaDuke leaped to pick off a Verdugo pass and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown. That play, and the Rams' failure to convert on third-and-two and fourth-and-two situations at the ASU 11-yard line early in the fourth quarter, proved to be the difference.