Wyoming opens season against Montana State
CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- It's the beginning of a new era Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. And despite the pressure and rising expectations, Wyoming coach Joe Glenn can hardly wait.
"This is one of the most exciting days in my life," Glenn said Thursday during a conference call with reporters. "I'm certain the coaching staff feels the same. It's a totally new start at Wyoming, a great challenge."
He does, however, know there's a lot on the line.
The former Montana coach's son and daughter are driving to Laramie for Wyoming's season opener against Montana State, and he has bought more than two dozen tickets for other family, friends and former colleagues.
He'll also have the expectations of about 20,000 fans.
"This is a huge game," Glenn said. "Is it do or die? No. But honestly we're going to have a good crowd here, and the first thing for our kids I would love to see is a smile on their faces. These kids haven't won much and I think this group deserves it."
Coming off five victories in three seasons is tough, but players say Glenn's infectious positive attitude has bolstered the team's downtrodden spirits and given them a will to win.
That won't be an easy task against Montana State, which won a share of the Big Sky Conference in 2002 and made its first playoff appearance in 20 years, beating in-state rival Montana for the first time in 17 years.
Sophomore quarterback Travis Lulay is bigger and stronger this year after starting eight games in 2002, completing 58 percent of his passes for 2,064 yards to earn the conference's newcomer of the year award.
Glenn said he expects Montana State to put the ball in Lulay's hands come Saturday. The team lost its top tailback in senior Ryan Johnson, who owns the MSU rushing record, and also graduated two veteran receivers.
"I really have tremendous respect for Travis," Glenn said. "He's one of the better quarterbacks, came on midseason and rallied the team down the stretch. He's one of those guys that if lanes are blocked and people are covered he starts scrambling and he's an excellent scrambler."
Three new starters will debut on each team's offensive lines, which Glenn said should make for an interesting matchup.
"I think our guys are real athletic," he said. "I think it's going to be an excellent bunch that will get better and better with experience."
Glenn has been impressed with Wyoming's defense -- a big concern in the offseason -- but expected Montana State to come out swinging. The Bobcats' defense topped the conference a second straight time last season.
"We've got to kinda wait and see how they play us," Glenn said. "If they play us like they have the past few years they're going to be bound and determined not to let us run the football. That's why their safeties are their leading tacklers.
"If they do that, then we've got to try and go downtown and go over the top and see if we can't take advantage of their speed."
Senior quarterback Casey Bramlet, who has thrown for 3,290 yards and 24 touchdowns in his career, will lead the Cowboys offense onto the field. Already third on Wyoming's career passing list, Bramlet needs just 1,298 yards this season to become the all-time passing leader.
Senior running back Derek Armah is also chasing greatness. Armah, who ran for 596 yards on 124 carries last season, needs 321 yards to break into Wyoming's top 10 career rushers.
The Cowboys are 66-38-2 in season openers, and have won 30 games against Big Sky opponents. The team leads the Montana State series 12-6, and won the latest matchup 17-9 in 1998.
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