Wyoming needs more on offense against Boise State

BOISE, Idaho (AP) Dave Christensen saw enough improvement in the Wyoming defense and its new coordinator last week to know it's time for the offense to start doing its part to get the Cowboys' season back on track.

Sure, the Cowboys were routed at home 48-10 by No. 16 Fresno State in Jamar Cain's debut as defensive coordinator. But Christensen measured progress in the fact that the defense committed fewer mental mistakes and gave up only a handful of big plays.

The biggest problem was how much time the unit had to spend on the field 96 plays to be exact, Christensen said. In the second half alone, Wyoming's offense managed just 82 total yards and held the ball for less than 10 minutes.

"There was a lot of improvement," said Christensen, whose team has lost four of its last five. "But we have to control the ball better offensively, execute on third downs so we don't put our defense out there for so many plays."

The offense and dual-threat quarterback Brett Smith get their shot at redemption Saturday when the Cowboys (4-5, 2-3 Mountain West Conference) look to beat the Broncos for the first time. Wyoming has lost all six meetings against Boise State, including the last two by a margin of 81-28.

Scoring points and moving the ball typically haven't been a problem for Wyoming this season. Through nine games, the Cowboys are averaging 33.6 points and 492 yards total offense per game, 16th best nationally. With the changes on defense, Christensen is seeking a complete game on both sides of the ball.

"For us to have success, the entire thing has to work together," Christensen said. "The offense has to be executing, putting points on the board and not giving the defense poor field position."

The Broncos (6-3, 4-1) are coming off a bye week and are still in position to win the Mountain Division and play in the conference title game.

The extra week also bought backup quarterback Grant Hedrick more time to prepare with coaches and gain more comfort running an offense that put up 42 points two weeks ago in a victory at Colorado State.

"Nobody wants to finish the season poorly," Broncos center Matt Paradis said of the team's mindset heading into the final three games. "So we really want to use every opportunity we can to play well."

Here are five things to look for when Wyoming plays Boise State on Saturday night:

POINTS APLENTY: The Cowboys aren't the only ones struggling to keep opponents out of the end zone this season. While Wyoming is giving up an average of 33.4 points per game, Boise State is allowing 25.2 points per game. Last week, Colorado State rolled up 626 total yards and ran a whopping 109 plays, but some of that came as the Rams tried to rally from a double-digit deficit.

NO FLAGS: Petersen's speech about avoiding self-inflicted wounds is paying off. So far, the Broncos are among the nation's least-penalized teams. Overall, the Broncos have been flagged 33 times, seventh-best in the country.

ABOUT BRETT: Smith needs 208 yards of total offense to become Wyoming's career leader in total offense. The junior enters the game against Boise State with 9,368 total yards, passing and rushing. The current record is held by Casey Bramlet, who played for the Cowboys from 2000-2003.

JORDAN MEET JAY: Cowboys linebacker Jordan Stanton is third in the nation in tackling, averaging 12.2 per game. Chances are good he'll have many opportunities for more, especially when it comes to Broncos running back Jay Ajayi, who has rushed for 1,008 yards on 168 carries.

EXTRA PREP: Boise State is 17-0 under Petersen when given 10 or more days to prepare for a game. The team is coming off its second bye of the season. The Broncos beat Utah State 34-23 on Oct. 12 after coming off their first break.