The Wyoming football season has been over for about a month now, giving us time here at WyoNation to think and reflect on the Cowboys’ 2-10 football season. Here is the first of a three part season review/reflection of sorts starting with the offense. A breakdown of the defense and special teams will follow in the coming days.
The Wyoming Cowboys finished the 2015 season in fairly disappointing fashion. The Cowboys season started off very badly with a loss to FCS North Dakota on opening weekend. They followed that up with a loss to Eastern Michigan of the MAC, who finished 1-11 on the season. The Cowboys only two wins on the season would come at home against Nevada and UNLV. I guess if it’s any consolation you could say that Wyoming was the Nevada state champions this season.
That said, no one was satisfied with this season, from the coaching staff on down to the fans and players.
The Cowboy offense saw a couple of bright spots, perhaps some hope for next season and beyond, but there’s going to have to be some very severe improvement if the offense is going to be better.
What was good with the offense? Brian Hill rushing for more than 1600 yards, breaking the all-time UW single season record. Hill is sitting in fifth place all time, only a few hundred yards behind the all-time leader Devin Moore. He finished the season in the top ten in the country in rushing yards. Hill has been named to the Touchdown Club of Columbus 2016 Players to Watch list, and should be in the running for the Doak Walker award.
Another good thing was Tanner Gentry who was leading the Mountain West in receiving yards before his season ended due to a broken collar bone. The junior receiver will be back next year and should find himself on the Biletnikoff preseason award watch list.
Cameron Coffman had a good season behind center for the Cowboys. He had flashes of being really good, and flashes of being not so good. He missed three games due to injury which didn’t help him build consistency. In his lone season at Wyoming he didn’t light up the scoreboard but he filled in quite well at a position that was sorely needed.
One more player who was recognized for their outstanding performance this year was offensive lineman Chase Roullier. Roullier was recognized by Pro Football Focus as one of college football’s top offensive/defensive lineman. Roullier gave up one sack on the year, and graded out at 90+% by the coaching staff. Roullier, also a junior, will be a very talented player returning to the Pokes next year.
Those are pretty much the good things the Pokes did offensively this year.
There are some very bad things the Cowboys did on offense this year that aren’t pretty.
The statistics of what the Cowboys did on offense this year are very poor.
Wyoming averaged 19 points per game. That was good enough for 115th in the country and 11th in the Mountain West. The Cowboys finished last in the Mountain West in points scored, however, since Hawaii played 13 games the points averaged out to give the Pokes a 1.4 points per game average higher.
The passing offense finished with 187 yards per game, good enough for seventh in the Mountain West and 100th in the country.
The Cowboy offense finished with 360 yards per game, that is ranked 101st in the country, 10th in the Mountain West.
Those are a lot of categories finishing at 100 plus. That is most definitely a recipe for disaster and not how you win a lot of football games.
Comparing those stats to 2014 the Cowboys scored two points per game less going from 21 to 19 this season. Passing yards were down nearly 500 yards from 2733 to 2247. Rushing yards were up to 2081 from 1838. Total offensive yards were down from 4571 to 4328. Last season Wyoming finished 84th in total offense with 380.9 yards. That’s a 21 yard per game difference between the two seasons.
One other big statistic between 2014 and 2015 is turnovers. The Cowboys were -2 in 2014 and this season they were -11. Whenever you’re not on the plus side of turnovers you’re going to struggle. The increase in turnovers this year are bad. There were 11 interceptions and 10 fumbles. The Cowboys lost the ball 18 times in 2014 and 21 times in 2015. That’s a particularly disturbing trend for the Pokes.
All of the things listed above are pretty much why we saw the Pokes win two games this past season.
There is a lot of blame to go around for the inconsistency and lack of production for the offense. At some point Craig Bohl needs to evaluate whether or not Brent Vigen is the guy to lead the offense. It’s popular to bag on Dave Christiansen for “leaving the cupboards bare” but one thing he never neglected in recruiting was offensive playmakers. Bohl and staff inherited a lot of talented skill players, though some of them may not be schematically appropriate for what Bohl wants to accomplish.
The Cowboys had a very difficult schedule in 2014 which featured Oregon, Michigan State, plus a much better version of Boise State, Utah State, and Colorado State. As far as FCS opponents go, Montana was a much tougher team than North Dakota was this season. This season’s schedule featured Washington State, North Dakota, Eastern Michigan, and Appalachian State. Boise State was in a rebuilding year, as was Colorado State, and a Utah State team playing with its third string quarterback. At the start of the season I don’t think anyone could have imagined the Pokes going from not great to even worse.
One thing I will say, though, is the Pokes only gave up 50+ points once this year. They did that twice last season. That’s an improvement, I guess. The Pokes were also 6-6 against the spread this year, so yay for that.
There was plenty of talent at the skill positions for the Cowboys but the Pokes scored over 30 points once this season, a win against UNLV which they scored 35. The Pokes were held to single digits twice this season, versus Colorado State and San Diego State in back-to-back weeks.
Armed with all of that knowledge why should Cowboy fans look forward to the 2016 football season?
As of right now the Pokes are returning playmakers such as Brian Hill, Tanner Gentry, Jake Maulhardt, Kellen Overstreet, and Jacob Hollister. The offensive line will be anchored by Chase Roullier and Ryan Cummings. There’s a remote possibility that Shaun Wick could be back next year if his medical redshirt is approved.
Speaking of offensive line, the Pokes will be fairly young on that front next year, but with any luck they will be a talented group that can improve on pass protection. There will be guys coming off of redshirt that will more than likely see playing time next year.
The Pokes will also be getting a new quarterback next year, right now it’s safe to assume that the starting quarterback next year will be Josh Allen. Allen saw very limited action this year in relief of Cam Coffman but was injured very early in the Eastern Michigan game and broke his collarbone. It’s assumed that he will apply for a medical redshirt which would give him three years as the Cowboy starter. In the limited action he played against Eastern Michigan he was very effective running and throwing the football. There’s reason to believe that he will be very good but no way of knowing without seeing him in games. He’ll have his work cut out for him as the Cowboys open against a very talented defense to start the season, Northern Illinois.
Speaking of Northern Illinois, the Pokes schedule next season will be tough. They will open at home against Northern Illinois, this year’s MAC champion. They will then head on the road to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. They will return home the following week to take on FCS opponent UC-Davis. They’ll then head on the road to take on Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti. The conference schedule has yet to be finalized but you can expect to see improved Boise State and Colorado State squads.
If I were to venture a guess for next season I would say that the Cowboy offense will improve. I would expect that the points per game will go up. However, I will guess that the Pokes won’t win more than six games next year. The schedule is fairly tough, and there’s still a lot of question marks on the offensive line.
I’d say you can cautiously take your heads out of the oven, Poke Nation, but mostly because it’s basketball season and there’s a long time until fall camp. Until then, enjoy the basketball season.