Cowboys, Utah State Resume the Bridger Battle, Saturday in Logan

Tracy Ringolsby

From the desk of Nick Seeman/Wyoming Athletic Department

LARAMIE – The Wyoming Cowboys (6-3 overall, 3-2 MW) head to Utah State (5-4 overall, 4-1 MW) on Saturday afternoon for a 2 p.m. kickoff on ESPNU. It will be the 70th meeting between the schools and the seventh meeting for Bridger’s Rifle.

A tradition was incorporated into a century-old rivalry in 2013 when Utah State joined the Mountain West Conference, and the Aggies and Wyoming Cowboys  introduced a Bridger's Battle" to the football series between the two schools. 

As part of the tradition, a traveling "Bridger Rifle" is awarded to the winner each year. The rifle is a .50-caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle that was popular among mountain men of the 1800s, and is widely-considered to be the rifle carried by the legendary Jim Bridger. "Bridger's Battle" was chosen as the name for the new series due to Bridger's ties to the Wyoming-Utah region. The Bridger's Battle portion of the series now stands at 4-2 in favor of Utah State.

The contest will be broadcast on radio over the 26 affiliate stations of the Cowboy Sports Network. The Cowboy Sports Network broadcast will begin at 7:15 p.m. this Saturday.

Wilson Has a Day

Senior linebacker Logan Wilson was everywhere on the field against Boise State. He had 10 total tackles for the game to tie with Alijah Halliburton for the team lead. But he also added an interception for the Pokes and also added a sack. He is tied for the team lead with Cassh Maluia with two interceptions and is second on the Pokes with 72 total tackles.

Halliburton And Wilson Are Quite The Duo

Senior linebacker Logan Wilson and senior safety Alijah Halliburton each added 20 tackles for the Pokes at Boise State. That was 31 percent of the tackles for Wyoming. For the season, the duo has been involved in 26 percent of the defensive plays made by Wyoming. They have combined for 173 tackles.

Wilson Moving Up MW Tackles List

Senior linebacker Logan Wilson added 10 tackles against Boise State. He now has 388 in his career to rank sixth all-time in Mountain West history, Saturday could be a special day. If Wilson gets eight tackles he would pass Kirk Morrison, the color analyst for Saturday’s game against Utah State.

Vander Waal Strong in First Start of Season

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Vander Waal was solid in his first start of the season. He was 15-of-23 passing for the game with 160 yards. He completed 65 percent of his passes, which was a career high and a season best for the Pokes. It was the best percentage by a Wyoming quarterback since Josh Allen completed 69 percent of his passes going 18-of-26 at Utah State in 2017.

Valladay Makes History

Sophomore Running back Xazavian Valladay rushed for 124 yards at Boise State for his third-straight 100 yard game and was the first 100 yard rusher against the Broncos this season. He did so on 37 carries for the night which tied a school record. Ryan Christopherson was the last with 37 against NE Louisiana in 1994 and Steve Cockreham had 37 against Arizona State in 1974.

Harshman Has Career Day

Senior tight end Josh Harshman was Vander Waal’s top target at Boise State. He grabbed a career best six catches against the Broncos. The highest number by a Poke this season. He finished his day with 48 yards receiving. The six catches was more than he has had in the entire season.

Converting on Third Down

The Pokes converted on seven third downs against Boise State on Saturday. It marked the third most this season after 11 against New Mexico and eight at Texas State. Wyoming was 3-of-5 on third down in the third quarter against the Broncos. Wyoming converted 41 percent of their third downs. The Broncos came into the game ranking No. 14 in the nation in third down defense at 30 percent.

Defense Holds on of Nation’s Top Offenses

The Cowboy defense held Boise State to 285 yards of total offense. That was nearly 200 yards under their average of 469 per game, which ranked No. 23 in the nation. The 285 yards of offense by Boise State was a season low for the Broncos. Wyoming also held the Broncos to only 15 first downs, which was also a season low for Boise State.

Under The Century Mark

The Pokes held Boise State to only 91 yards rushing. It marked the sixth time this season that the Wyoming defense has held a team to under 100 yards rushing. It has also been done in back-to-back contests, as Wyoming allowed only 81 yards against Nevada. Wyoming is 4-2 this season when holding the opponent to under 100 yards.

Big Plays Set Up Scores

The Cowboys used big plays on special teams and defense to set up all three scores at Boise State. Wyoming used a punt return of 24 yards by Austin Conway to set up their first score of the game. Wyoming partially blocked a punt late in the second quarter to set up a field goal and used a forced fumble and recovery by Javaree Jackson to score their final touchdown of the game.

The Utah State Aggies come into this week’s game with a 5-4 record and a 4-1 record in the Mountain West Conference.

Utah State and Wyoming share two common opponents thus far this season -- the Nevada Wolf Pack and San Diego State Aztecs. Utah State defeated both Nevada (36-10) at home and San Diego State (23-17) on the road. Wyoming also defeated Nevada (31-3) at home, but lost a close, four-point game at San Diego State (22-26).

Utah State’s other three wins came at home against Stony Brook (62-7), at home vs. Colorado State (34-24) and last week at Fresno State (37-35). The Aggies four losses came on the road at Wake Forest (35-38), at then No. 5 and current No. 1 ranked LSU (6-42), at Air Force (7-31) and at home versus BYU (14-42).

Leading the Aggie offense is junior quarterback Jordan Love. Love was selected the 2019 Mountain West Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in voting by conference media. He has thrown for 2,402 yards this season, averaging 266.9 passing yards per game. He has thrown 11 touchdowns, but has thrown 12 interceptions. Love ranks No. 19 in the NCAA in passing yards and No. 23 in the nation in total offense in 2019, averaging 279.1 yards of total offense per game.

The Aggies leading rusher is senior Gerold Bright. He has rushed for 614 yards, six rushing touchdowns and is averaging 68.2 yards per game. Joining Bright in the backfield is junior running back Jaylen Warren. Warren has rushed for 444 yards and five rushing touchdowns. The two have combined for 1,058 rushing yards in 2019.

Utah State’s receiving corps is led by senior wide receiver Siaosi Mariner, who has 45 receptions for 630 yards and six receiving TDs. Two other Aggies have 30 catches or more. Junior wideout Jordan Nathan has 32 catches for 409 yards, and sophomore Deven Thompkins has caught 30 passes for 372 yards.

The defense was being led by junior inside linebacker David Woodward, but Woodward suffered a season-ending injury prior to the BYU game on Nov. 2. He had recorded 93 tackles through the first seven games of the 2019 season. The Aggies leading tackler entering this week is junior safety Troy Lefeged Jr., who has recorded 63 tackles.

On special teams, junior kick returner Savon Scarver was a Consensus All-American a year ago in 2018. He leads the Mountain West and is ranked No. 5 in the nation in kickoff returns this season, averaging 31.6 yards per return.

The Pokes host Colorado State on Friday, Nov. 22 for a 7:30 p.m. start inside War Memorial Stadium. It will mark the 111th Edition of the Border War.

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