By DAVE SELLERS
The 12th-ranked Cougars can clinch the first-ever Mountain West Conference title Saturday at Wyoming, but they’ll have to do it in hostile territory.
The crowd at Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium is known for its rowdy, drunken, anti-BYU antics — creating an environment Cougar head coach LaVell Edwards has been on record to say he’s not particularly fond of.
But with a conference title on the line, Edwards has changed his tune this year.
“I’m actually looking forward to going up to Laramie to have a chance to win the championship,” Edwards said. “But it’s going to be a very difficult, tough assignment.”
Kevin Feterik, who has never played in Wyoming, is looking forward to the challenge as well.
“I’ve heard horror stories about Laramie,” the senior quarterback said. “I’ve heard it’s a pretty hostile crowd — but I like that. I’m really looking forward to it; that’s what college football is all about.”
Junior tackle Hans Olsen, still giddy after his touchdown against the Aztecs last Saturday, was eager to share one of those Wyoming-crowd horror stories.
“I was talking to one of my good friends, Derik Stevenson, who played there in ’92,” Olsen said. “And when he came out of the tunnel onto the field some guy in the stands urinated on him.
“I guess I better run fast or bring a tarp.”
But according to Olsen, the tough Wyoming crowd will only pump the Cougars up more.
The Cowboys approach Saturday’s 4 p.m. kickoff with a 2-2 record in the conference and a 5-3 record overall. Wyoming has been inconsistent in conference play this year, losing to UNLV and Colorado State while knocking off Air Force and beating up on Utah last week 43-25.
Wyoming is led by junior quarterback Jay Stoner, who has looked impressive when healthy this year. In the games he’s played, Stoner has thrown for over 1,000 yards, completing 76 of his 125 attempts with two touchdown passes.
The Cowboys will put the ball in the air often, especially with the receiving duo of Wendell Montgomery and Kofi Shuck producing an average of 107.2 receiving yards per game.
“They like to spread you out and throw a lot and keep you on your toes,” junior linebacker Josh Lowe said. “And they do it effectively.”
With BYU bringing its potent passing attack, Lowe says Saturday’s game has all the makings of an old-fashioned, high-scoring WAC game.
But the Cougars also have the nation’s seventh-ranked defense and don’t plan to let the Cowboys move the ball on them.
“Everyone’s really focused because we know we can go up there and clinch it all this week,” Lowe said.
But BYU may have to try and clinch the conference title without running back Luke Staley, who suffered a calf injury against San Diego State. Edwards said it’s possible Staley won’t be ready to play by game time.
But knowing the Mountain West Conference championship can be won Saturday, the Cougars are ready to step up and give it their all.
“We’re going to pour our guts out on the field just to get (the title),” Olsen said.