Leading up to the Northern Illinois game I outlined some areas of concern both offensively and defensively for the Wyoming Cowboy football team. With the thrilling 40-34 triple overtime win over the Huskies, Wyoming showed improvement on some of these trouble areas I focused on. In general terms, the defense looked especially improved to the eye. They still gave up some big plays (6 of 20 yards or more) but the bottom line is this Wyoming defense looks faster and more physical than in previous years under Coach Bohl. Let’s take a look at a few of the trouble areas I focused on earlier after one week of football below.
Field Goal Kicking
One of the biggest improvements to the Wyoming offense was Cooper Rothe, the freshman kicker from Longmont, Colorado. Rothe converted his first two field goals in the first half against NIU which amazingly equaled the total number of converted field goals made by former kicker Tristan Bailey (2 of 8) for the entire 2015 season.
Yes, it was disappointing Rothe missed two potential game winning field goals of 37 and 48 yards. Last year Wyoming did not have enough confidence in their kicker to even attempt such kicks. With that in mind the presence of Rothe and his big leg, can be viewed as a major improvement. Rothe will give this Wyoming offense a chance to score more points and he should improve over time as he gets used to the pressures of kicking at the Division I level.
Red Zone Conversions
The Wyoming offense had a banner night/morning in terms of red zone conversions against Northern Illinois. As outlined last week, Wyoming converted just 61.5% of their red zone chances into points in 2015 ranking them last in the country. Against NIU the Pokes converted 85.7% of their red zone chances with 6 scores (5TDs and 1FG) out of 7 red zone chances. After one week of college football this ranks Wyoming 62nd in the country which is obviously much better than being dead last.
Red zone efficiency will certainly be a key factor for Wyoming moving forward during the 2016 season. The presence of a strong running game with Brian Hill and Shaun Wick, the arm and mobility of Josh Allen and the kicking of Cooper Rothe as mentioned above should all allow Wyoming to be much improved in this area helping the Cowboys to be a much more competitive football team this fall.
Third Down Conversions
Wyoming’s success on third down both offensively and defensively was a struggle last season. Wyoming converted just 33% of their chances while allowing their opponents to convert 45.6% of their chances. These numbers improved at home over last season against a solid NIU program, with the offense converting 7 of 18 chances (38.89%) and the defense only allowing the Huskies to convert 27.7% of their chances (5 of 18). These numbers helped Wyoming win in the opening week of the season and they will have to continue to put up similar numbers the rest of the season on third downs to continue their winning ways.
We have only seen one game of football in Laramie so far but the early returns are promising. It looks like the Pokes have more overall talent and the pieces are in place to play the type of football the Wyoming coaching staff wants the Cowboys to play.