Wyoming Football Game Day: Cowboys vs. Panthers in the Arizona Bowl
After a little more than three weeks of preparation, it’s finally here. The Wyoming Cowboys take on Georgia State in the Arizona Bowl at 2:30 p.m.
The game is being played at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. You can listen to it on KOWB (AM 1290) or the KOWB app with coverage starting at 1:30 p.m. You can watch the game on CBS Sports Network. The TV piece begins at 2:30 p.m.
Wyoming (7-5) is in its third bowl game in the last four seasons under head coach Craig Bohl. They are 7-8 in bowl games all-time, which included a 37-14 victory in the Potato Bowl two years ago.
Georgia State (7-5) is making its’ third-ever appearance in a bowl game. The Panthers are 1-1 with both previous appearances coming in the Cure Bowl. Those were in 2015 and 2017, so this is Georgia State’s third bowl in the last five seasons.
These two teams have one common opponent in Texas State. Wyoming beat the Bobcats on Sept. 7, 23-14. The Panthers lost to Texas State, 37-34 in triple overtime, on Sept. 21. Another interesting link is that both teams defeated an SEC opponent to start their season. For the Cowboys, it was Missouri, while Georgia State defeated Tennessee. Both teams also went 4-4 in their respective conferences.
This will be the 1st-ever meeting in the football series between Wyoming and Georgia State. The Panthers just started playing football in 2010. They are a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
Wyoming is a 7-point favorite.
UW enters with three losses in its last four games with all three coming at the hands of MW teams that went bowling. The victory in the Border War over rival Colorado State clinched a postseason berth for the Pokes.
Georgia State also lost three of its final four games. Their big win was over South Alabama on Nov. 23.
This game features a strength-on-strength matchup. The Panthers like to run the ball and average 245.2 yards per game on the ground. Wyoming is sixth in the nation against the run and allows only 99.4 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys have held seven opponents under 100 yards rushing this season.
On the other side of the ball, UW loves to run it, while Georgia State has a hard time stopping it. Wyoming is averaging 209.5 yards per game on the ground. They have a 1,000-yard rusher in sophomore Xazavian Valladay, who is a First Time All-Mountain West selection with 1,061 yards this season. He’s had six 100-yard rushing games during the year. The Panthers allow 211.6 rushing yards per game. That equates to 116th in the country against the run out of 130 teams.
Another key factor is Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington. The senior has had an outstanding season with 2,291 yards passing and 21 touchdowns, plus an additional 598 yards rushing and five TDs. Ellington is hurt. He tore his ACL and is playing through it. How much does that limit his mobility? We’ll have to wait and see.
Tra Barnett is the key running back to watch for the Panthers. He has rushed for 1,389 yards and 12 touchdowns. Two more backs, Destin Coates and Seth Paige have over 400 yards on the ground and a combined 11 TDs.
Seniors Logan Wilson and Alijah Halliburton have been a 1-2 punch on defense all season long. Halliburton leads the UW defense with 119 tackles on the season. Wilson is second in the squad with 98 tackles. Both are First Team All-Conference honorees.
Perhaps the bigger player to watch is freshman quarterback Levi Williams, who will start his first game in the Arizona Bowl. Williams played in two games during the regular season. He has rushed for 128 yards and one touchdown. His passing stats are 8-13 for 109 yards and one interception (at Air Force). He was announced as the starter on Monday at a pregame press conference by Coach Bohl. It wasn’t known until that time who was going to start for the Pokes.
3 Areas to Watch
1 – Can the Cowboys contain another ground attack? While Georgia State has a good passing game, the Panthers rely on the run. They have four players with 400+ yards rushing and 29 TDs on the ground. When Wyoming has made opponents one-dimensional, they’ve given themselves a much better chance to win a game.
2 – How effective is Williams at QB? More than likely the freshman will have some nerves in his first start on a bigger stage with this being a postseason game. How quickly can he settle in? Some easy and short throws early to find a rhythm will be key. The offensive line has to do a good job in protection to give Williams time to find open targets.
3 – How motivated is this team? Throughout the season, Wyoming players and coaches have talked about how not going to a bowl last year was a motivating factor. Can this team keep its focus and use that motivation as fuel to win over an unfamiliar opponent? The Cowboys must open holes on the ground and stuff the Georgia State run game for any shot at winning.
Just a reminder to Wyoming football fans that KOWB (AM 1290) in Laramie or on through the free KOWB app will air “Cowboy Talk” after the radio broadcast following today’s Arizona Bowl 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.