These are tough times for the Wyoming Cowboys.
After a promising 4-1 start, which included victories over Virginia and TCU, the 'Pokes haven't lassoed much success. A 29-24 win over UNLV in Laramie is their lone triumph over the past four games.
Wyoming enters Saturday's game at Utah with a 5-4 record, 2-3 in Mountain West Conference play. The latest blow was a 27-24 setback last weekend at San Diego State.
Head coach Joe Glenn acknowledges that the Cowboys are hurting. Even so, he insists, they're not going to run the white flag up just yet.
"We're licking our wounds a little bit," Glen said. "But I don't think our team is dead yet. I think we still have confidence and optimism."
Wyoming, after all, is just one win away from bowl eligibility.
The Cowboys almost picked up the victory last Saturday but came up short. Glenn explained that SDSU wound up making one more play than they did.
The shortcoming has put Wyoming's back firmly against the wall. Glenn thinks it'll take seven wins to earn a bowl bid meaning the Cowboys will need to prevail twice in a season-ending stretch that also includes a home game against BYU and a road trip to rival Colorado State.
"We're not light years away from anybody," Glenn said.
Wyoming, in fact, sports the league's top-ranked total defense. The Cowboys give up just 287.3 yards per game sixth-best in the nation. They are especially effective against the run. Air Force's Chad Hall, who rushed for 167 yards on Wyoming last month, is the only opponent over the past 16 games to reach the century mark.
Glenn said his team's run defense is effective because the Cowboys have "tough kids" who get after it and are disciplined. He described linebacker Ward Dobbs, who averages 8.1 tackles per game, as a "pit bull" and a sure tackler.
Senior cornerback Julius Stinson is one of 12 national semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award. He's among the conference leaders in passes defended, interceptions and tackles.
"It's a good team concept," Glenn said. "Everybody understands what they're supposed to do, and they're tough kids."
Wyoming's offense, under quarterback Karsten Sween, has been inconsistent but boasts an impressive one-two punch at running back.
Devin Moore (848 yards) and Wynel Seldon (459 yards) have been dubbed "Thunder and Lightning."The Cowboys also have notable performers on special teams. Hoost Marsh is a talented return specialist and Billy Vinnedge is the program's first dual kicker/punter since 1991.
On the air
Wyoming (5-4, 2-3) at Utah (6-3, 3-2)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Rice-Eccles Stadium