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Cougars attempt to corral Cowboys in season opener

WSU faces Wyoming’s tough defense, strong ground game in Laramie

Then-sophomore+wide+receiver+Dezmon+Patmon+atempts+to+break+free+from+a+defensive+player+during+the+game+against+OSU+on+Sept.+16+at+Martin+Stadium.
Then-sophomore wide receiver Dezmon Patmon atempts to break free from a defensive player during the game against OSU on Sept. 16 at Martin Stadium.

Then-sophomore wide receiver Dezmon Patmon atempts to break free from a defensive player during the game against OSU on Sept. 16 at Martin Stadium.

OLIVER MCKENNA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

OLIVER MCKENNA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

Then-sophomore wide receiver Dezmon Patmon atempts to break free from a defensive player during the game against OSU on Sept. 16 at Martin Stadium.

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen assistant sports editor

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The 34-week wait for Cougar football Saturday is officially over. To start the season WSU will travel to Laramie, Wyoming, where it will face the University of Wyoming for the seventh time in series history.

The matchup is the latter half of a home-and-home series with Wyoming that was made official in 2012. The former half of the series was played in the Cougars’ breakout season in 2015 and resulted in a 31-14 victory for WSU in Pullman.

But this time around, Wyoming Head Coach Craig Bohl thinks his program is in a better place than it was in 2015.

“I thought we were outmanned the last time we were up there,” Bohl said. “I think Washington State had their way with us, I can remember that. We’re in hopes that–and I know this—we’re a different program now than what we were then.”

Bohl certainly isn’t wrong. His defense boasted a nation-leading 38 takeaways in 2017 in addition to holding its opponents to an average of just 174.9 passing yards a game.

He is also responsible for producing Wyoming’s first-ever top 10 NFL draftee, Josh Allen, who was selected seventh overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. It was the first time a Wyoming product has been selected in the first round since 1976 when the Cowboys produced two first rounders.

The staunch Cowboy defense will be confronted by Head Coach Mike Leach’s explosive Air Raid offense that tallied up to be the nation’s second best passing attack averaging 366.6 passing yards a game.

If you think those numbers should be thrown out the window with all the new faces taking over the Air Raid offense, well, you’re wrong. The Cougs have maintained a national top five passing attack for every year of Leach’s six-year tenure, with the exception of his first year in 2012 when they were eighth.

The Cougs spent the better portion of the spring and fall camp by settling the auditions for starting gigs. Now with his depth chart set, sort of, Leach has shifted his focus to the Cowboys.

“They’re a tough team, they’re experienced, they play together well, very fundamental,” Leach said. “They value their technique and they do their technique well and they play hard. I mean just a very basic, fundamental, play-together team, you know.”

The tough-nosed defense of the Cowboys was certainly on display last week when they breezed past New Mexico State University by a score of 29-7 where they limited the Aggies to a mere 134 total yards of offense.

But even with a tough defensive opponent, WSU typically doesn’t have problems finding the endzone on week one, barring a couple exceptions in 2012 and 2015. Even with the poor performances against Brigham Young University, 2012, and Portland State University, 2015, accounted for, Leach’s offense still averages about 26 points in their openers.

The Cougars’ trip to Laramie will be somewhat of a homecoming for Leach who grew up in the state. Leach grew up in the small town of Cody, Wyoming, 355 miles Northwest of Laramie, and went to Cody High School before he would leave and attend college at BYU.

To sweeten the deal a little more for Leach, a win against Wyoming would bring his overall win-loss record — which currently sits at a dead-even .500 (38-38) — back into the black at 39-38.

Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network and as always can be heard from the WSU IMG Radio Network.

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Cougars attempt to corral Cowboys in season opener