What a weekend it was for Craig Bohl’s Cowboys. The Pokes pulled off the upset, in what is sure to go down as one of the craziest games in school history. The Cowboys desperately needed to start 2016 off on the right foot and after a lighting delay, a 10:30 kick off and a 2:30 am ending, they did just that. Josh Allen’s touchdown in the third overtime capped off Bohl’s biggest win as the Pokes’ head coach as UW won 40-34. Things don’t get easier for the Cowboys. This weekend they will head to Lincoln to take on Nebraska, where they are big time underdogs. Before we get too much into that, here are 5 things I think after seeing the Cowboys in action in week 1.
1. The Cowboys will be better than I initially thought, but it is still just one game
There is no question that this was the biggest win in Craig Bohl’s tenure as a Cowboy. It was a game that few expected them to win, myself included. After last season, I had to see what the Cowboys had on the field before I was ready to be a believer. After Saturday/Sunday morning, I now know the Cowboys are going to be better this season than I thought. They have drastically improved on defense and the offense will most certainly be better with Josh Allen at QB. With that being said, it is still just one game. The Pokes have been preparing for the NIU game since last November and when they are at home and the game doesn’t kick off until 10:30 pm, anything could’ve happened. Like I said, they will be better, but how much better? That remains to be seen, we should know once they get through September, but I don’t think we could’ve asked for a better start.
2. Josh Allen has all of the tools to be one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, maybe even this season.
Allen definitely stole the show against NIU. The sophomore finished the game 19/29 for 245 yards and 2 scores and added 10 carries for 70 yards and the game winning score on the ground. Maybe the most important stat of the night was that Allen didn’t turn the ball over against the Huskies. Allen, standing 6’5, has the ability to make all the throws and can run very well. The Cowboys will go as far as Allen takes them. I don’t think there is any question he has the talent to be one of the best quarterbacks in the conference while he is in Laramie.
3. The special teams units are no longer such a glaring weakness, particularly the kicking game
Outside of Allen, the story of the game for me was the play of the Cowboys’ special teams. I think we all knew what we had in Ethan Wood, he has been a very good punter since he was a freshman and gets better every season and the coverage units will continue to get better as UW continues to develop depth. The two areas that stood out was the return game and K Cooper Rothe.
Austin Conway had a lot of people talking about him after the game and for good reason. He showed that he can be a game changer when the ball is in his hands. He had a couple of solid returns and even a touchdown that was called back. He is going to be a threat at PR that the Cowboys haven’t had in a long time. At KR DJ May had an excellent game, he had a 48 yard return to set up the Cowboys’ first TD and also had a return touchdown that was called back. With these two returning kicks all season, the Cowboys should find themselves in better field position than years past.
Rothe had a great debut as the Pokes’ kicker that is unfortunately overshadowed by a couple misses. He matched UW’s field goal makes from last season in the first half of the first game. Last season UW was 2/10 all season and Rothe went 2/2 in the first half and didn’t miss a PAT all night. He missed on a couple chances to win the game on the last play of the game, but those misses shouldn’t completely overshadow his game. Rothe has a lot of talent at kicker and he will keep the Cowboys in a lot of football games, and likely win a few for them before his four years is over.
4. Carl Granderson is going to be a problem for opposing quarterbacks all season
Granderson was a solid contributor last season, but this season he added much needed weight to compliment his speed. He is noticeably bigger and he was a problem for NIU all night Saturday. Granderson finished the game with only 2 tackles, but one was the team’s only sack and he had several other close calls and QB hurries. As the season progresses he will only get better and should give Wyoming a solid pass rush.
5. The Cowboys will finish non-conference play with more wins than all of 2015
That’s right, UW will be 3-1 when they go into Fort Collins on October 1st for the 2016 Border War. I don’t think the Cowboys have what it takes to pull off the upset in Lincoln this weekend, but barring major injuries, they should have no problem handling UC Davis at home on the 17th and then Eastern Michigan the following weekend. The Cowboys are much better in 2016 and I like their chances against UC Davis and EMU and I expect them to be favored in both games. 4 games in they could/should be half way to bowl eligibility, could you imagine!?