Conference play has arrived for the Wyoming Cowboys, who host the UNLV Rebels Saturday night in the Mountain West opener for both teams.

Wyoming (3-1) is playing its third home game of the season. Cowboy fans have responded. The 54,851 fans that have attended the first two home games are the most through two games in school history.

UNLV (1-2) is playing its second straight road game, but the Rebels haven’t played in two weeks. Their lone victory is over Southern Utah (56-23) on Aug. 31. The two losses are at home to Arkansas State (17-43) on Sept. 7 and at Northwestern (14-30) on Sept. 14.

The game starts at 6 p.m. KOWB (AM 1290) in Laramie and KTWO (AM 1030) in Casper will have the radio broadcast. The game is being televised on ESPNU.

Series

This will be the 24th meeting in the football series between Wyoming and UNLV. It stands at 12-11 in favor of the Pokes. That includes a 7-4 edge in games played in Laramie. The last meeting was that epic three-overtime game in Las Vegas in 2016, which was won by the Rebels, 69-66. That was the second three-OT game in the history of the series. The other was in 2004.

Wyoming is a 9.5-point favorite.

Game Matchup

UW is coming off their first loss of the season. They are banged up, as three and possibly four starters from last week’s game at Tulsa will not play versus UNLV. How will that impact Wyoming?

The Cowboys are No. 4 in the nation in sacks with 18, but also in the bottom five in pass defense allowing 345.2 yards per game. UNLV doesn’t possess a major passing attack averaging just 145 yards per game.

What do the Rebels do? Run the ball. UNLV is averaging 243 yards per game on the ground. Running back Charles Williams has 455 yards rushing this season. He’s averaging 9.1 yards per carry. QB Armani Rogers is also a threat with 175 yards and 4.2 yards per rush. By contrast, the Pokes have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.

Player Focus

Sophomore linebacker Chad Muma has seen extensive playing time at both “Mike” and “Will” positions behind starters Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia. He’s the third-leading tackler on the defense with 23 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and one sack. Even head coach Craig Bohl talked about Muma’s play during his weekly press conference and praised his play. Muma spoke with KOWB’s David Settle about the loss at Tulsa, where the team’s at through one-third of the season, his increased role, learning from the veterans, and more.

3 Areas to Watch

1 – Can the Cowboys contain another athletic quarterback? After seven sacks last week at Tulsa, UW is getting after opposing QBs, but UNLV’s Armani Rogers is a talented dual-threat that will keep the Wyoming defense busy as an extra threat in the run game and his ability to escape the pocket and make plays down the field.

2 – How do the injuries to starters Logan Harris and Alonzo Velazquez affect UW’s offense? The Pokes offensive line had been playing well during the first four games, particularly in the run game and only allowing three sacks. Now sophomore Patrick Arnold and redshirt freshman Frank Crum step in at right guard and right tackle, respectively. Can they keep opening the holes for the ground game and protect QB Sean Chambers?

3 – Making plays: Seniors Alijah Halliburton and Logan Wilson are having a terrific start to their final season in the brown and gold. They are the top two tacklers on the Wyoming defense with 43 and 41 tackles, respectively. Both average better than 10.3 tackles per game. They’ll need to fly around against the Rebels to contain UNLV’s ground game and athletes in space.

Just a reminder to Wyoming football fans that KOWB (AM 1290) in Laramie or on through the free KOWB app will air “Cowboy Talk” after the radio broadcast following tonight’s UNLV game. David Settle is the host and takes calls with your comments and questions about Wyoming football. Also, you can Tweet the show @KOWBRadio on Twitter.