Through three weeks of the 2016 season there is something different about the Wyoming Cowboys defense. After a rough 2015 season where numerous freshman played regularly, improvement on the field can be seen. The brown & gold clad defenders are starting to look the part of a serviceable defense. They are much more organized, individual speed and power looks improved and the number of busted coverage’s leading to big plays has decreased. They not only pass the eye test but they pass the statistical test as well. Here is a look at four key defensive playmaking stats that have improved over the last season.
Tackles For Loss
Even though the Pokes had Eddie Yarbrough the all-time UW leader in tackles for loss the last two years Wyoming only registered 52 tackles for loss in each of the last two seasons ranking them 11th in the conference. This season lead by the very much improved Carl Granderson’s 4.5 tackles for loss, the Pokes already have 18 tackles for loss (ranking them 5th in the MW) putting them on pace for 72 this season.
Wyoming hasn’t put much pressure on the quarterback in the first two years under coach Craig Bohl. They have ranked 11th in the conference in sacks registering 14 and 10 sacks in Bohl’s first two years. Through three games this season the Cowboys have reached half of last year’s season total with five. As with the tackles for loss the Wyoming star in the sack game is Sophomore defensive end Carl Granderson who has a sack in each of the first three games. This is the first time this feat has been done by a Wyoming player since Jeff Knapton did it in 1986.
The category above is all about rushing the passer and the improvement in that aspect of the game has benefited the defensive backs. Wyoming’s secondary ranked last in the Mountain West the past two seasons in interceptions only recording eight in 24 games. Through three games this season Wyoming has two interceptions which would put them on pace for 8 this season matching the total of the last two seasons combined. This is due in part to the improved pass rush allowing the defensive backs to not have to cover opposing wide receivers as long.
A well coached defense is adept at forcing fumbles. The Pokes forced just six fumbles last season and they have reached half that mark already this season with three. The defense is flowing to the ball better making running backs and wide receivers running through more traffic which is testing their ball security skills.
Through three games the signs of this defense improving can be seen with the eyes and in the numbers. The question is, can they keep up this production as the competition gets better with conference play approaching?