I took part in a question swap this week with Wyoming football beat reporter Robert Gagliardi of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
We asked each other five questions about the game, and I think we each came away with some better insight into Saturday’s showdown between the Mustangs (1-0) and Cowboys (0-2).
Read his answers to my questions below, and if you want to see what I had to say about Cal Poly, check out Robert’s blog HERE on Friday.
Joshua D. Scroggin: 1. So, is the altitude all it’s cracked up to be? People throw around the idea of playing that high up for the first time as a guaranteed disadvantage. We’re out here on the beach, basically at sea level. Is Cal Poly doomed to huff and puff?
Robert Gagliardi: To say the altitude isn’t a factor would be naive, but also it can play more mind games than anything. It’s not much different than preparing to play in heat and humidity. Players need to stay hydrated and take care of their bodies the same way. But if teams worry too much about the altitude and not on the game plan, then it can be a factor. Toledo didn’t seem to be affected by the altitude last week. Everyone reacts to it differently, but teams that don’t put too much emphasis on it normally do fine with the altitude.
JDS: 2. In the case of Brett Smith, what does “doubtful” really mean? How surprised would you be to see him start?
RG: Doubtful means he won’t play, at least that’s how I’m taking it. I would be floored if he starts or plays. He wasn’t even at practice early in the week.
JDS: 3. If Smith can’t go, how good is (backup QB) Colby Kirkegaard? How would his ideal game compare to the numbers Smith put up the first two weeks?
RG: We will find out Saturday. One positive about Kirkegaard is he took all the snaps during the spring, including in scrimmages, when Smith was out recovering from offseason surgery to his thumb. Those reps were huge for him. He came in out of junior college last year and was the backup. He played mostly in mop-up roles and didn’t show that much. Kirkegaard is a smart kid who has a good grasp of the offense. But now he must do it in a game. He played late in the Toledo game after Smith got hurt, but didn’t do a whole lot. He’s not the runner like Smith is, but I think he’s capable of moving the team. If he’s the starter, and I believe he will be, Wyoming likely will try to lean on other players to pick up the slack and not put the entire burden of the offense on Kirkegaard.
JDS: 4. Though 9-0 since 2000, Wyoming has had some close games against FCS teams. Which one should have gone the other way?
RG: A lot of them. Last year Wyoming needed a touchdown pass from Smith in the final seconds to beat Weber State. It had all it could handle the year before with Southern Utah, and in 2008 it needed a field goal late to beat North Dakota State. Even back in the early 2000s in wins over Furman and The Citadel, Wyoming could have easily lost those games.
JDS: 5. If you could give Cal Poly’s hopes of an upset a percentage chance, what would it be and why?
RG: I would give them a 50-50 shot based on no Smith and the struggles Wyoming’s defense had last week. Toledo had a dual-threat quarterback last week that tore the defense apart (300 yards passing, four touchdowns and 74 yards rushing). With a dual-threat quarterback like Andre Broadous and a unique offense like the triple-option, Cal Poly has a chance if Wyoming’s defense doesn’t improve. Wyoming could have a slight advantage against the triple-option as it sees that once a year against Air Force and has defended it pretty well over the last few years. However, there are three new defensive coaches on the staff, including the defensive coordinator, so it’s not a given Wyoming will be on top of its game when it comes to that. With Smith out, other players need to step up offensively. Whoever plays quarterback is the main guy, but I know Wyoming would like to run the ball more and more effectively. But Smith was the leading rusher and two of the top three running backs are true freshmen. Based on all that, Cal Poly looks to be in good position for the upset.