LARAMIE — After the coronavirus pandemic limited Wyoming and many of the Mountain West’s other football teams to a league-only schedule last fall, the plan next season is for each team to return to a full 12-game slate, which was announced Friday by the conference.
UW’s 2021 schedule features matchups against a former assistant and the defending Mountain West champion.
The Cowboys are slated to open the season at War Memorial Stadium on Sept. 4 against Montana State and its new coach, Brent Vigen, who spent the last seven seasons as UW’s offensive coordinator. As for the conference portion of their schedule, the Cowboys will get a week off before starting that with a Mountain Division game at Air Force (Oct. 9).
Out of the West Division, UW will travel to San Jose State (Oct. 30) and host Fresno State (Oct. 16) and Hawaii (Nov. 27). Those teams are back on the Cowboys’ slate as part of the Mountain West’s cross-division schedule rotation every two years. The Cowboys also hosted Hawaii last year after the Warriors replaced San Diego State on UW’s revised league-only schedule, but UW will square off against San Jose State and Fresno State for the first time since 2018.
San Jose State, which will host UW for the first time since 2017, ran the table during the regular season last year to win its first-ever Mountain West championship and its first conference title since 1990 when it was a member of the Big West. The Spartans finished the season ranked 24th in the Associated Press poll.
The Mountain West eliminated divisions as part of last season’s revised schedule but is reinstating them this fall, meaning UW will again face all of its usual Mountain Division counterparts. The Cowboys will host New Mexico (Oct. 23) and Border War rival Colorado State (Nov. 6) before making back-to-back trips to Boise State (Nov. 13) and Utah State (Nov. 20).
The rest of UW’s non-conference slate includes a home game with Ball State (Sept. 18) and trips to Northern Illinois (Sept. 11) and UConn (Sept. 25). The UConn game was added to UW’s 2021 schedule last year after Clemson bought out of the teams’ contract in order to schedule a non-conference game against Georgia.
Game dates are subject to change. Kickoff times and TV designations will be announced at a later date.
The Cowboys are coming off their first losing season since 2015, but with most of their seniors electing to take advantage of the NCAA’s extended eligibility and return to school for another season, UW is set to return a wealth of experience next season. That includes every defensive starter, all five starting offensive linemen, running backs Xazavian Valladay and Trey Smith and quarterback Sean Chambers, who’s working his way back from a season-ending leg injury and is expected to be full go this spring.
UW’s new play caller will be Tim Polasek, who was hired away from Iowa after Vigen took the head coaching job at Montana State last month. Polasek joins offensive line coach Derek Frazier as the new additions to the Cowboys’ coaching staff.