Brett Smith is Wyoming’s Tim Tebow

A few thoughts on a frosty Tuesday night…

More about football this week. Sorry about that. But with the Wyoming Cowboys off to the New Mexico Bowl this Saturday to face the Temple Owls, it brings to mind a few things.

First, it’s nice to see the Pokes in a bowl game for the second time in three years, a testament to the resurgence led by coach Dave Christensen and his amazing freshman quarterback, Brett Smith. Just six months ago, many were predicting that the Cowboys would struggle this season, with quarterback Austin Carta-Samuels having left the school.

David Peck

Enter Smith, the kid from Salem, Ore. A feisty, tough and competitive quarterback, he’s kind of like Wyoming’s Tim Tebow in that he may have kind of a funny delivery, but he’s an intense competitor with high character who knows how to win and has taken a team that wasn’t supposed to do much and turned it into a winner.

This week, Smith – who was not highly recruited – was named to the CollegeFootballNews.com first-team Freshman All-America team. Smith leads all major college freshmen in total offense with 3,140 yards, with the New Mexico Bowl still to come. He shattered the Mountain West Conference freshman total offense record of 2,691 yards set by Andy Dalton of TCU in 2007. Dalton is now playing on Sundays.

Smith has passed for 2,495 yards this season, with 18 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He has also run for 645 yards and 10 touchdowns.

What a find for the Pokes. I had a feeling this young man would be great when his high school coach talked about his great character and drive to win, saying he once played a key game with a broken arm, refusing to tell his coach how bad he was hurt. But I didn’t know he would be THIS good.

Since Carta-Samuels left the school a year ago, some fans are asking if Smith is going to leave the team after his great season. That’s ridiculous. Just because one quarterback left, why would the next one? Here’s how Smith put it in a recent interview with Robert Gagliardi of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in Cheyenne: “A lot of people have asked me that. I sit back and think, ‘really?’ I’m not going anywhere. First off, it’s not smart to do eligibility-wise – to pack up and go somewhere. For me, I don’t think I’d be able to leave because I wasn’t heavily recruited and for these guys to put confidence in me and to not only offer me a scholarship but to give me a shot to play, I could never go back on my word like that. Plus, how I was raised, you don’t go back on a commitment like that.

“Plus, I love it here.”

In the words of the immortal Packerpoke, a famous member of the Wyoming.rivals.com message board, “Enough said!”

Trivia: Can you name perhaps Temple’s most famous alumnus? Answer at the bottom.

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Speaking of commitment, it was wonderful to hear that Air Force has decided to stay in the Mountain West Conference after the academy’s athletic director was being wooed by and was seriously considering moving the team to the Big East Conference like Boise State and San Diego State are doing.

The University of Utah probably had good reason to leave the MWC for the Pac-12, though we don’t like it, and BYU left for independent status shortly thereafter. TCU leaving for the Big 12 hurts, also, but the Horned Frogs have hopped around a lot over the years. (Sorry.)

But the Big East? – a sinking conference if there ever was one. It makes absolutely no sense – San Diego State in the Big East. Although the Big East currently has automatic-qualifying status for the Bowl Championship Series, that status is in serious jeopardy with the defection of schools like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, with Louisville likely to follow. The Mountain West has been rated far higher than the Big East in recent years. The only advantage to San Diego and Boise is a better television package – for now. The WMC’s new affiliation and possible merger with Conference USA should lead to a better TV deal.

Hope the Aztecs and Broncos enjoy those long, long flights to the East Coast week after week after week.

But some people feel loyalty is more important than money. Here’s what Air Force Supt. Lt. Gen. Mike Gould told the Colorado Springs Gazette about staying in the Mountain West:

“The primary draw to stay put has to do with loyalties, has to do with regional affiliations with traditional rivals, has to do with the commitments we’ve made, and what I feel is the right thing for our cadets, for our Air Force Academy and for our Air Force.”

Great words to hear from the leader of a great institution.

With Air Force staying, the MWC retains its central core of Front Range schools in Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force and New Mexico, along with UNLV. TCU is also moving to the Big 12, but Mountain West newcomers next year include Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii (football only). Look for former longtime WAC rival Texas-El Paso to join a “Western Division” with Wyoming and the others if the MWC-Conference USA merger is completed. That will be a fun league.

I have decided that I don’t care if teams leave the conference, as long as the Front Range core remains in place. Is it worth big money to throw away longtime rivalries? What is amateur sports all about? All of these conference shakeups are sickening.

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Nice ice fog Tuesday night, wasn’t it? We may not have much snow, but we are sure getting hit with winter weather. But unlike last year, when we had already been coated with snow for a month, this is a more typical Big Horn Basin winter – a lot of clear skies and cold temperatures, but not a lot of the white stuff. Maybe that will change in January and February, but for now, we may or may not have a white Christmas.

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We’ve been photographing a lot of school Christmas programs in the last couple of weeks. It always gets you in the holiday spirit to see our young people enthusiastically singing and playing during these programs, showing the hard work their teachers and directors have put in.

Little faces singing “ho ho ho” songs just makes me smile.

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Answer to the trivia question: Bill Cosby, a native of Philadelphia.

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