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(AP) — The Wyoming Cowboys don’t need to be reminded of their past.
Already owners of an 0-2 record last season, Wyoming fans assumed a visit from FCS program Cal Poly would help stop the bleeding. Even without Wyoming’s quarterback, Brett Smith, many thought the team had too much depth and too many athletes to fall to a foe used to playing in the Big Sky Conference, a far cry from the Mountain West.
Many thought that, and many were wrong.
The Cowboys suffered perhaps their most painful defeat of the 2012 season on Sept. 15, falling to Cal Poly inside War Memorial Stadium, 24-22.
Almost a full year later, Wyoming’s players haven’t forgotten. The recent past — marked by a particularly embarrassing low point in an already disappointing season — has changed the way they look ahead.
“It’s always in everybody’s mind that we can’t let the same thing happen that happened last year,” cornerback Blair Burns said Monday.
As it turns out, the Cowboys’ pain from last season has been felt by more and more FBS teams in 2013. Through the first two weeks of the season, a staggering 11 Football Bowl Subdivision teams have fallen to Football Championship Subdivision teams, a staggering number when compared to previous seasons.
Northern Colorado coach Earnest Collins Jr. said that there are so many promising players and so few FBS scholarships available, that much of that talent is now making its way to the FCS.
“With the limitation to 25 scholarships that FBS schools have, they can’t get all the players,” Collins said in his weekly teleconference on Wednesday. “So it’s one of those deals where the gap is starting to close a little bit.”
Wyoming coach Dave Christensen is well aware of the current trend, and he’s made sure that his players are aware of it, too.
“I hope that information gets our players’ attention,” Christensen said on Monday. “We’re nowhere near good enough as a program where we can overlook or think we can just show up and win a football game.”
Northern Colorado’s offense, specifically, could present challenges for the Wyoming secondary. Senior quarterback Seth Lobato, 6-foot-6, 223 pounds, has thrown for 704 yards and six touchdown passes in two games, and he has more than enough arm strength to spread the ball around on Jonah Field on Saturday.
He also has plenty of guys to throw to, led by junior receiver Dimitri Stimphil.
“I know they’ve got some good receivers. They’ve got a good quarterback who’s got a strong arm,” Christensen said. “They’ve got some very skilled defensive players.
“We just made a comment today in our staff meeting that their corners, when they’re up in Cover Two, were as physical as any we’ve played so far this year.”
While there is often the lingering concern that players will see the letters “F-C-S” and take the upcoming game lightly, Christensen said after Wednesday’s practice that he hasn’t seen that from his players.
Maybe that’s because the Cowboys have been trained to treat every opponent like they’re Nebraska.
Or, maybe it’s because they know what it feels like to get burned.
“That’s one thing I didn’t mention,” Christensen said Monday, referring to the 2012 loss to Cal Poly. “We’re such a different football team right now. Brett Smith didn’t play in that game. Robert Herron didn’t play in that football game.”
Wyoming’s fifth-year coach smiled, before delivering a somewhat predictable vow.
“They’ll both be playing Saturday.”