Throughout a career that includes building championship programs at Division II Northern Colorado and I-AA Montana, Joe Glenn has abided by a homespun aphorism. "I'm the sixth of 12 children, and growing up our bedrooms were a mess on Saturday mornings," says the third-year Wyoming coach. "My mother would tell my brothers and me to clean our room before we went outside. We'd be like, 'Aw, Mom.' But she had a motto. She'd say to us, 'How do you eat an elephant?' And we all knew the answer: One bite at a time. That's been our motto at Wyoming."
Even Glenn concedes the Cowboys have progressed faster than expected, considering the elephantine task he faced upon arriving in the winter of 2002. He took over a team that had lost 18 of its last 20 games under former coach Vic Koenning. After a 4--8 season in '03, Wyoming jumped to 7--5 last year--including the school's first bowl victory since 1966, a 24--21 win over UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. Now, with 19 returning starters, including two of the Mountain West's top players in senior quarterback Corey Bramlet and wideout Jovon (Playmaker) Bouknight, the Cowboys are vying with 2004 national darling Utah for conference supremacy. "The expectations I like," says Glenn, 56. "When we've had high expectations at other places I've been, the kids have risen to that."
Rising above opposing cornerbacks the past three years has been Bouknight, who's third in the nation among active receivers in career yards (2,510) and fourth in receptions (173). He has caught at least two passes in 36 consecutive games. "I never go into the game thinking, Let's not have the streak be broken," says Bouknight. "But I approach every catch like it could be the last." Wyoming's top two rushers, junior Ivan Harrison and senior Joe Harris, both had off-season knee surgery. Harrison should be ready for September, but Harris's status is up in the air. In the wings is an unproven quartet of junior Alex Renshaw, redshirt freshmen Wynel Seldon and Devin Moore, and true freshman J.R. Moore. The defense, with eight returning starters, provides stability. The secondary, led by junior cornerback Derrick Martin (14 passes deflected) and junior free safety John Wendling (89 tackles), is among the best in the country.
The Cowboys will be tested at the outset: a Sept. 3 game at Florida, where former Utah coach Urban Meyer has set up shop. "We're going to find out in a hurry whether we belong," Glenn says of the Cowboys' newfound prominence. "But we think we can touch gloves with any of the heavyweights now. And I think our kids believe it too." --Richard Deitsch
2004 RECORD 7-5 (3-4, 4th in MWC)
FINAL AP RANK NR
RETURNING STARTERS 19
KEY RETURNEES (2004 stats)
WR Jovon Bouknight (Sr.) Closed with four straight 100-yard games
QB Corey Bramlet (Sr.) Career-best 307 pass yards in Vegas Bowl
CB Derrick Martin (Jr.) 14th in nation with 17 passes defended
K Deric Yaussi (Sr.) All-MWC had 90 points, second in league
Wyoming's record against SEC schools, the win coming against Ole Miss at home last year. The Cowboys face two SEC teams in 2005.
Junior cornerback Derrick Martin is a superb cover corner and an even better trash talker, but he excels at making big plays. In last year's 37--32 victory over Mississippi, the 5'11" 189-pounder made a diving interception in the end zone to kill a fourth-quarter drive. What's more, his 4.38 speed comes in handy on special teams: Martin has returned two blocked punts for TDs.
Sept. 3 at Florida
17 at Air Force
24 at Mississippi
Oct. 1 UNLV
15 NEW MEXICO
22 at Colorado State
Nov. 5 at Utah
19 at San Diego State
Bouknight is among the top five in the nation in career receptions and yards.