What a win for the Cowboys last week. The Pokes came out right away and made it known that their win over CSU was not a fluke. There is a buzz in Laramie that hasn’t been there in some time and for good reason. The Pokes are 4-2 (2-0) headed into a bye week at the half way point of the 2016 season. It has been fun to watch to this point and it looks like the best is yet to come for Cowboy football. With 6 games left the Cowboys need only 2 wins for bowl eligibility and the bye comes at a good time. It will allow the Cowboys to recharge for the second half of the season. Here are the 5 things I think this week:
1. Craig Bohl’s Cowboys are ahead of schedule
If you would have said at the start of the season that the Wyoming Cowboys will enter their bye week at 4-2 and have consecutive wins against CSU and Air Force, I wouldn’t have believed it. There isn’t a fan that would’ve turned down 4-2 if you would’ve offered it to them at the start of the season and honestly, they should probably be 5-1. Coming into the season, I thought they were a year away from this kind of play.
I knew the Pokes would be much improved from a season ago, but doubling their win total in half as many games in 2016 is impressive.
Craig Bohl has this team rolling right now and they are full of confidence. The bye week comes at a good time. Air Force is a tough team to prepare for and you have to completely change your scheme. The extra week will allow the Pokes defense to get familiar with Neveda, it will get the DE’s practice reps in place of the injured Carl Granderson, and the offense will have a chance to rest up and come up with a good game plan.
2. Losing Carl Granderson for the season is a big blow.
Granderson was having a breakout season at defensive end and was getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. Through 5+ games Granderson tallied 19 tackles, 6 TFL, and 4 sacks and was improving every game. The Granderson loss is a big one and thankfully the Cowboys have a bye to get guys ready to play in his spot. The guys they will turn to are: Nela Lolohea and Kevin Prosser, with the possibility of true freshman Shiloh Windsor. My guess is that Prosser will slide into the starting spot, Lolohea will back up both end spots and Windsor will be the next guy behind them. The defense has been very good and much improved, but depth has always been a question. Now is the time where they will be forced to answer that question.
3. The offense will continue to get better and more dynamic.
It seems the playbook has been opened up more and more each game and more guys are getting involved. Early in the season it was a lot of Hill, Allen, Gentry and Maulhardt. Since then we have seen big plays made by Wick, C.J. Johnson, James Price, Austin Conway and Jacob Hollister and the play calling has been less vanilla and Josh Allen has been given more freedom to make plays. Last week we saw more designed runs for Allen, more attempts to get Conway the ball in space, 6 different guys caught a pass, and 4 were credited with a run.
I think as the season progresses and especially coming out of a bye we should see guys outside the main 4 start to make plays and the playbook will continue to expand. The sky is the limit for the Wyoming skill positions.
4. The Cowboys will be Bohling at the end of the season.
4-2 (2-0) headed into the bye week is a heck of start on the quest to 6 wins. So what is left on the schedule for the Pokes? They go to Nevada (3-3), who was one of their 2 wins a season ago, host #15 Boise State (5-0), host rival Utah State (2-4), go to UNLV (2-4), who was the 2nd of their 2 wins a year ago, host SDSU (4-1), and finish the season @ New Mexico (2-3). So, can the Cowboys find 2 wins in there?
I think they can. I think 2 wins is the minimum, actually, with 4 wins being the max. They have their hands full with Boise and SDSU, thankfully those 2 are in Laramie. Outside of those 2 games their opponents combined record is 9-14 and none of those 4 have a winning record at this point. I think the Cowboys finish the season 7-5 (5-3) and find themselves in Bohl game. (Sorry, I think the pun is an obligation)
5. The state of Wyoming can relate to Craig Bohl, therefore, they’re all in.
I have barely even talked about Wyoming’s win over Air Force last weekend at War Memorial Stadium. It was an awesome win and the crowd of nearly 27,000 was even better. Under the previous coach, a 3-2 Wyoming team was unlikely to draw a crowd that large. The attendance of 26,623 was the biggest since 2011 when Nebraska came to town.
This Wyoming staff is trying to build something special in Laramie and when they got here, they not only had to recruit a completely new team, but they had to win back the fan base. Wyoming fans were tired of Dave Christensen by the time his tenure came to an end. He didn’t seem to embrace the state, he wasn’t personable, and he viewed Wyoming as a stepping stone. The state never got behind him.
From Bohl’s opening press conference, their differences were evident. Bohl made it clear that he wanted/needed the state to buy into his vision and that the state’s support was essential, but he also preached patience. He said he was bringing a brand and style of football that is “Cowboy Tough” and that the transformation would take time, but he promised that the product would be something the state would be proud of. His own personality and style embodies what Wyoming is all about. He is personable, fun, tough, expects a lot, and he is all in on the state of Wyoming and the Cowboys. Unlike the previous regime, Bohl and staff are not trying to make Cowboy football something it isn’t. They are embracing its culture and style and using it to their advantage.
No one has ever questioned whether or not Wyoming loves their Cowboy athletics, they take pride in wearing the brown and gold. Now, “Cowboy Tough” football is coming to fruition right in front of our eyes and Bohl is coming through on his end of his promise and the the state is responding, last week’s crowd is proof. If you haven’t bought into what Bohl and staff are doing, maybe it is time to.