Wyoming is coming off a disappointing road loss to Eastern Michigan University because of a game plan that was full of good intentions. The 27 to 24 defeat on the gray field in Ypsilanti, MI was their second loss in consecutive years to the Eagles. You can’t fault the effort of the players as they gave it their all and are still very much improved over last season. You can take issue with the game plan though and especially the play calling in the second half.
Hey I get it; Craig Bohl wants his team to be “cowboy tough”. The foundation of that mindset is to rely on the running game and one of the best running backs in Wyoming history in Brian Hill. Yet, when the basis of your game plan isn’t working you have to have a Plan B. At this point in time Wyoming isn’t an overly talented team that can just line up and run the ball down the throats of their opponents at will this isn’t 1995 Nebraska. Cowboy fans hope the offense can get to that point but it’s clear to see by all that the Pokes haven’t reached that point yet (especially on the road).
Eastern Michigan was selling out to stop the run telling Wyoming we aren’t going to let Brian Hill beat us. This was due in part to the 242 yard and two touchdown performance Hill had against EMU last season in Laramie. The Eagles did an excellent job in containing Hill this time around limiting him to 3.7 yards per carry. It was clear that Wyoming wanted to establish the running game in this game as well but the coaching staff waited too long to switch to a passing game that was more effective. At halftime Wyoming QB Josh Allen was 11/14 passing for 103 yards while the running game was scuffling along. I thought in the second half Wyoming would turn to the passing game because Eastern Michigan was offering easy pass completions with their defensive backs playing five to ten yards off the Wyoming receivers on a regular basis.
This change of focus to the passing game never happened though and Wyoming tried to run the ball to no avail. In the second half Wyoming ran the ball 16 times and attempted 15 passes even though the running game averaged 2.1 yards per carry and the passing game averaged 8.1 yards per pass attempt for the game.
Game plans are needed in football but there has to come a time when you realize it isn’t working and you make the necessary changes in order to win the game. As we all know thanks to Herm Edwards, “you play to win the game” and balance for the sake of balance isn’t winning football. Good coaches put their players in the best position to win and it was clear to see by all that throwing the ball to Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt was Wyoming’s best option to win the game based on what the Eastern Michigan defense was giving them.
Hopefully this will be a learning experience for head Coach Craig Bohl and Offensive Coordinator Brent Vigen. Like Hill, Quarterback Josh Allen has the potential to be a dynamic player and can help this team win games. The coaching staff must trust him and the wide receivers because chances are Colorado State will try to shut down the UW running game in this weekend’s Border War the same way Eastern Michigan did.