THE BASICS

TIME, DAY, PLACE: 2 p.m. Saturday, War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, Wyoming

STREAM: gowyo.com, Wyoming Football Facebook page, Mountain West Conference website (Mike Sylvester, Jared Petrino)

RADIO: Bobcat Radio Network, msubobcats.com (Zach Mackey, Michael Rider, Dan Davies)

WEATHER: 75 degrees, sunny

COACHES

Montana State: Brent Vigen

RECORD: 0-0; YEAR: First

Vigen arrived at MSU after seven seasons as Wyoming’s offensive coordinator. He was an assistant in several roles, including offensive coordinator, before that at North Dakota State.

Wyoming: Craig Bohl

RECORD: 142-76; YEAR: 19th

Bohl is entering his eighth season at Wyoming. Before that, he led North Dakota State to three FCS championships.

MONTANA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH

1 — Matthew McKay — QB

McKay will finally see his first game in an MSU uniform since transferring from NC State. He won the starting job with his dual-threat skills and his work ethic. How the Bobcats will draw up plays for him in a live situation has yet to be seen.

2 — Tre Webb — S

With nickelback Tyrel Thomas out with an injury, the Bobcats will move Ty Okada to that position, leaving Webb a chance to start. Webb is familiar with Wyoming. He transferred from San Jose State this offseason after earning all-Mountain West honorable mention in 2020.

44 — Daniel Hardy — DE

Hardy is among a few Bobcats who have shifted to a new position during their coaching transition. He displayed potential as a backup linebacker in 2019. Now at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Hardy will have more opportunity to showcase those skills which have been evident during preseason practices.

WYOMING PLAYERS TO WATCH

6 — Xazavian Valladay — RB

Vigen called Valladay a “tremendous” running back as he brings a versatile skill set. He was second in the Mountain West a season ago with 110 rushing yards per game and added four touchdowns. He was also second on the team with 13 catches for 105 yards.

48 — Chad Muma — LB

Muma is the focal point of the Cowboys defense. He led the Mountain West in tackles per game with 11.8 in 2020. In six games, the now senior linebacker, who is 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, totaled 71 tackles, eight for loss, and three sacks.

2 — Sean Chambers — QB

Chambers could provide the Cowboys a boost this season through the air and on the ground. His 2020 and 2019 seasons were ended by injuries. In 2019, he threw for 915 yards with seven touchdowns and was second on the team with 567 rushing yards in eight starts.

BY THE NUMBERS

13 — Running back Isaiah Ifanse ranks 13th in Montana State history with a career total of 1,838 rushing yards.

14 — The Bobcats have rushed for at least one touchdown in 15 straight games, 34 against FCS foes.

3 — Of the six Bobcats to rush for more than 100 yards in a game in 2019, three return.

61 — Montana State has run the ball 61% of the time in its last 17 games, including the postseason. In that time, the Bobcats have lost just six fumbles.

54 — In 2019, Kevin Kassis and Travis Jonsen, who have since graduated, accounted for 54% (122) of the team’s receptions. In total, 19 Bobcats recorded 225 catches.

KEY FACTS

- Wyoming is winning its series against Montana State, which began in 1919, 13-6. Wyoming has won the last eight matchups. Montana State’s two most recent wins (1933 and 1930) were in Laramie.

- Matthew McKay will be MSU’s sixth different starting quarterback in the last six seasons.

- Brent Vigen is the first North Dakota State grad and former Wyoming assistant to ever be the head coach of the Bobcats. Vigen will become the first coach to begin a tenure against a school he once coached. Five other MSU head coaches have faced their former teams.

- MSU led the Big Sky with the most rushing yards and the fewest sacks allowed in 2019.

- The Bobcats have lost their last 10 FBS matchups. Their last victory against that level was against Colorado in 2006. MSU has also lost three of its last four season openers.

- Montana State’s 11 regular season wins in 2019 against Division I teams was the most ever for the program.

- Three of the four coordinators calling plays (MSU’s Taylor Housewright and Freddie Banks as well as Wyoming’s Tim Polasek) enter their first year in their current positions. Cowboys defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel will begin his second season at Wyoming.

- Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl is 1-1 against Montana State, both games being in Bozeman while he was with North Dakota State.

THE BOTTOM LINE

After Montana State’s nearly two-year hiatus since playing a game, the Bobcats will be ecstatic to return to the field. Though MSU head coach Brent Vigen knows Wyoming’s personnel and coaches, they know him as well so that should lead to few advantages either way. Though the Cowboys are coming off of a losing 2020 season, they have enough experience to win their season opener at home.

Pool’s pick: Wyoming 38, Montana State 28

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.

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