2012 Record: 4-8 (3-5 in MWC)
Head Coach: Dave Christensen (22-28 at Wyoming, 13-18 in MWC)
Last Bowl Game: 2011 New Mexico Bowl: lost to Temple 37-15
Stadium: War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, WY (capacity = 32,580)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 41st out of 55 mid-major teams
2013 Schedule Link
Out of Conference: 8/31 at Nebraska, 9/7 vs Idaho, 9/14 vs Northern Colorado, 9/28 at Texas St
Toughest Conference Home Game: 11/9 at Fresno St
Toughest Conference Road Games: 11/9 at Boise St, 11/30 at Utah St
2012 Statistics Link
Stat to Fear: had only 14 sacks in 2012 (last in MWC), let opponents convert on 50.82% of third downs (last in MWC)
Stats to Cheer: lost only 13 turnovers in 2012 (1st in MWC), scored TDs on 72.97% of trips to red zone (1st in MWC)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 94th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 7, Defense: 7, Special Teams: 2
Key Defensive Returnees: CB Blair Burns (60 tackles), CB Marqueston Huff (58 tackles), LB Siaosi Hala'api'api (57 tackles), DL Eddie Yarbrough (4 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Brett Smith (2832 yds pass, 62.1% completions, 27 TD, 6 INT), WR Robert Herron (31 rec in 8 games), WR Dominic Rufran (39 rec), WR Jalen Claiborne (34 rec)
Last year, the Cowboys just couldn't get out of the starting blocks as they won just one of their first eight games. Three of those losses came by three or less points and a fourth came in OT. Fortunes could have been a lot different in 2012 but the Cowboys had trouble finishing games.
Brett Smith returns at QB and despite having a really good year in 2012, the Cowboys still only won four games. Christensen wants his team to be "Fast and Furious" this season so Smith will need some more support this season from the other skill positions. Wyoming was very balanced last year but they didn't run the ball with much success (3.38 ypc). The Cowboys return rising sophomores D.J. May and Shaun Wick at RB and hope they improve with experience. Smith loses his leading receiver but does return four players who caught at least 30 passes in 2012. The OL returns just two starters so that will be a unit that will need to get up to speed quickly if the Cowboys want to get back to a bowl in 2013.
The Cowboys finished eighth in the MWC in points allowed (33.4) and dead last in yards allowed (469) so there is a lot of improvement that will need to be made on defense. The Cowboys must replace their three leading tacklers. One big area of improvement that is needed is getting after the QB as the Cowboys had just 14 sacks last year. If rising sophomore Eddie Yarbrough (led the team with 4 sacks but had 3 in one game) can pretend every team is UNLV then that would be a great start. The DL returns three of it's top four players and the secondary returns four of it's top five so those units should be at least as good as last season. The big question mark is at LB.
The schedule gives the Cowboys a chance to get off to a good start after the opener at Nebraska. The next six games are against teams that had losing records in 2012 (one of those being a FCS team). The closing stretch of the season is pretty rough as the Cowboys get four of the best MWC teams in the last five weeks of the season. Christensen needs to have this team humming early on if he wants to go bowling.
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:
C-USA- ECU, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulsa, Tulane, UAB, UTEP, UTSA
MAC- Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, EMU, Kent State, Miami (OH), Ohio, Toledo,UMass, WMU