The Horned Frogs, 4-2 overall and 0-2 in conference, look to build a brand new winning streak and get their first Mountain West Conference win of the season Saturday when they host the Wyoming Cowboys for Homecoming.In last year’s game, the Frogs won the first interconference clash between the two teams.
“We had seven takeaways last year and still only won 28-14,” said Gary Patterson, head football coach, about last year’s game.
One of the biggest changes from last years game to this year’s will be where quarterback Jeff Ballard is in his maturation as a starter.
The Wyoming game last year was Ballard’s second start, Patterson said.
“It was after New Mexico where it was his first start, and everything went right in that game,” Patterson said. “He then went to Wyoming, threw two interceptions, and they (the receivers) dropped a couple more (passes). He saw that Division I football isn’t quite as easy as what it looks like.”
Ballard now has a record of 12-2 as a starter, and Wyoming has changed its defense from last year, Patterson said.
“They were a 4-3 defense a year ago and are now a 50,” Patterson said. “They are trying to do the best job of getting players in the correct positions to make plays.”
While Wyoming’s defense may have changed from a year ago, they are still playing well, Patterson said.
“They are not giving up a lot of big plays,” Patterson said. “When you are playing as good on defense as they are, they know they are going to be able to stay in the game.”
Wyoming’s pass defense is No. 1 in the nation, allowing just 120.6 yards per game through the air.
While Wyoming may have the statistically better pass defense, the Frogs’ rushing defense ranks No. 4 in the nation, allowing just 66.7 yards per game on the ground.
“We have played against the run very well,” Patterson said. “That Army team had been able to run the ball on anybody that had played so far.”
One of the bright spots on the defense from the Army game last week was the play of junior safety Brian Bonner, who made his first career start in that game.
“We’ve used both of them (senior safety Eric Buchanan and Bonner), and I’ve really thought of the two of them as starters,” Patterson said. “I never considered Brian as a No. 2 guy.”
One of the keys on offense will be the ability to run the ball, said Herb Taylor, senior offensive tackle. The Frogs are averaging 160.17 yards per game on the ground. The rushing offense is something the team is working to improve, Taylor said.
“We have been working on run-blocking more to try and get better,” Taylor said. “We’re real close to start getting back to that 250 (yards) average running the ball. We just have to keep on pushing, make sure we stay on blocks. And that’s going to be real important against Wyoming.