The season-debut of the Wyoming Cowboys is finally here. Today, the Pokes play the Nevada Wolfpack in Reno, NV.

After the season was called off in August, it was brought back in late September, and about a month later, the 2020 season will begin. Teams are scheduled for eight games, but in the year of COVID, it might be tough to get all the games played.

Both teams were picked to finish second in their respective divisions of the Mountain West. Wyoming in the Mountain and Nevada in the West. Both went 4-4 in the conference a year ago.

This will mark the latest season-opener for the Pokes since 1908, all because of the pandemic. Wyoming is 78-43-2, a .642 winning percentage, in their previous season-openers.

Kick-off is at 5 p.m., Mountain Time. You can listen on KOWB (AM 1290) or anywhere with the KOWB mobile app. The game is being televised on CBS Sports Network.

Series

This will be the 9th meeting in the football series between Wyoming and Nevada. The Cowboys have the series lead, 5-3. UW is 2-2 in games played in Reno. This will be the second time these two schools will play each other in an opening game. The previous one was in 1992. The Pokes won that game, 25-6.

Wyoming beat the Wolfpack in Laramie last season, 30-3.

The Cowboys are 4-point favorites.

Game Matchup

UW will rely on its ground attack that was second in the MW and No. 23 in the nation last season with an average of 214.8 yards per game. They are led by all-conference junior running back Xazavian Valladay, who led the MW with 1,265 yards rushing last year. Add to that an offensive line that returns all five starters and several reserves that have experience.

There’s also the return of two quarterbacks with experience. Sophomore Sean Chambers was named the starter. He is 9-2 in 11 career starts. The Cowboys also have Levi Williams, the redshirt freshman, who played in three games last season and led Wyoming to a victory in the Arizona Bowl over Georgia State.

What about the opposition? Nevada is a veteran team. They are led by QB Carson Strong, who threw for 2,335 yards last season with 11 TDs and seven interceptions. Also back are running back Toa Taua (807 rush yards) and receivers Elijah Cooks and Romeo Doubs. Defensively, they are anchored by defensive tackle Dom Peterson, a disruptive force on the line. The Wolfpack also has a weapon in the kicking game with Brandon Talton, who was named to the preseason All-MW team.

Here is what Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl had to say about the game against Nevada.

Player Focus

Two key players that return to lead each side of the ball are QB Sean Chambers and linebacker Chad Muma. Both were selected as team captains by their teammates for the 2020 season. Both video interviews are courtesy of University of Wyoming Athletics.

Chambers was hurt in last year’s win over Nevada. He spoke to the media earlier this week about coming back, plus the QB battle, the Wolfpack defense, and more.

Muma has a difficult task trying to replace ‘the Governor,’ Logan Wilson, as the middle linebacker. Muma was asked about the Wolfpack offense, playing without fans, being the veteran among the linebacker corps, and more.

3 Areas to Watch

1 –What will the new Cowboy defense look like? New defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel was hired in the off-season but with the COVID shutdown, no spring ball, and now no access to practice or scrimmages, what UW will look like with some key departures and opt-outs is anyone’s guess. Veterans like Muma, Victor Jones, Ravontae Holt (who missed last year due to injury), Keyon Blankenbaker, and C.J. Coldon will be asked to do a lot.

2 – How improved is the Wyoming passing game? Everyone knows the Cowboys can run the football, even their opponents, though they’ve still had plenty of success under Coach Bohl even with teams loading the box. That’s a testament to the offensive line and running backs. A lot of emphasis has been placed on making more plays through the air. UW has no receiver in its two-deep on the depth chart that is shorter than 6’2. Can those guys make plays when the ball is in the air? Can Chambers and Williams be accurate and make the right reads?

3 – Special Teams: Wyoming has a new kicker and punter, and Coach Bohl is known for playing field position. What impact will grad transfer Nick Null have punting and on kick-offs? The Cowboys have a homegrown talent in Buffalo, WY native Luke Glassock, a redshirt freshman, handling field goals and PAT’s. How will the young kicker fair in replacing the school’s all-time scoring leader in Cooper Rothe?

Post-Game Call-in Talk Show

Just a reminder to Wyoming football fans that KOWB (AM 1290) in Laramie and the KOWB mobile app will air “Cowboy Talk” after the radio broadcast following today’s Nevada game. David Settle is the host and takes calls with your comments and questions about Wyoming football. Also, you can Tweet the show @KOWBRadio on Twitter.

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