Mountain West championship: Wyoming, San Diego State gear up for rematch
A week ago before their final regular-season games, San Diego State and Wyoming knew they would be playing this weekend for the Mountain West Conference championship.
And both teams looked bad: San Diego State lost at home to Colorado State 63-31, while Wyoming fell at New Mexico 56-35.
"So we're both coming from the same situation and whichever team rebounds the best is going to win it," Aztecs coach Rocky Long said.
And which team has the shortest memory.
"If we linger in that rearview mirror, we're going to let one team beat us twice," said Cowboys coach Craig Bohl, who was named the Mountain West's coach of the year for leading Wyoming back from a 2-10 season in 2015.
San Diego State (9-3, 6-2 Mountain West) travels to Wyoming (8-4, 6-2) on Saturday afternoon to determine the conference title.
It is the second meeting in three weeks between the two teams. The Cowboys beat the Aztecs 34-33 on Nov. 19 during the regular season when Long went for the win on a two-point conversion with no time left and it failed.
Things to know when Wyoming hosts San Diego State:
DEFENDING CHAMP VS NEWBIE: The Aztecs are seeking to repeat as conference champions and to win their third league title in five years.
Wyoming is playing in its first Mountain West Conference title game. The Cowboys have to go back to their days in the Western Athletic Conference to find their last conference title — 1993 when they shared the regular-season title with BYU and Fresno State; and their last outright conference title — 1988. Also, it's the first postseason game ever at the 67-year-old War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
"That's a lot of water under a bridge," Bohl said. "And we got one shot. We got one shot at this deal and so that comes down to us as coaches to maneuver this thing around to put ourselves in the best position to win it."
GROUND GAME: Saturday's game features two of the top five running backs in the country.
San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey is second in the nation in rushing yards with 1,908 and rushing yards per game at 159. He is third in all-purpose yards with 2,119. He is currently third on the NCAA career rushing list with 6,180 yards. He needs 153 yards to pass Ricky Williams for second and 218 yards to surpass all-time NCAA rushing leader Ron Dayne. However, yards have been tough to come by the past couple of weeks for Pumphrey, who was held to 53 yards against Colorado State and 76 yards against Wyoming on Nov. 19.
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Wyoming's Brian Hill is No. 5 in the nation with 139.5 yards per game and No. 3 with 21 rushing touchdowns. Hill had 131 rushing yards in the first meeting with the Aztecs.
COACHING CHALLENGE: Playing a team twice in one season is new to Long, who is in his 17th season as a college head coach.
"I've never played the same team in the same year," Long said. "...It's kind of a weird deal. From year to year, you try to change things up, so they don't zero in. But in two weeks, I don't know how much you can change up because you confuse your own guys if you change up too much."
Bohl has faced the situation during his coaching tenure at the FCS level.
"I can tell you this — when you beat a team it's hard to beat them twice," he said. "It's not like it's not doable, but you look through past years, that one's a tough order."
WEATHER: Cold, windy weather could play a role in the game.
The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures around 20 degrees at kickoff along with 15 to 25 mph winds gusting up to 30 mph. Wind chills at kickoff are expected to be around 5 degrees.
While Long said his Southern California squad should be able to handle the cold, he said the wind is a different story because it can cause issues for quarterbacks, receivers, kickers and kick returners.
"If you have a lot of wind, it really increases the difficulty of the game, and makes it more likely of mistakes," Long said.
This article was written by Bob Moen from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.