Wyoming didn’t show up to play last weekend in Albuquerque and left New Mexico with a disappointing loss. Luckily, they still walked away as the Mountain Division champs and earned the right to host this week’s conference championship game against the West Division champs, San Diego State. The Cowboys (8-4, 6-2) survived an SDSU (9-3, 6-2) hail mary in their first meeting. If the first meeting is any indication of this week, we are in for a treat at War Memorial Stadium Saturday night. It should be an exciting game, without a doubt so without further adieu here are the 5 things I think this week:
1. We all just need to forget about last weeks game.
Last weeks game was ridiculous, disappointing, and a major let down. I don’t think I need to say much else. The defense was bad from the beginning and there was too much pressure on the offense to score every possession. The end result was ugly.
The bright side is the Cowboys were fortunate that Air Force took care of business and beat Boise on Friday, which clinched the division and CSU beat SDSU on Saturday to give them the opportunity to host the championship game at War Memorial Stadium. No reason to dwell on last weeks game, the 2016 Wyoming Cowboys are onto bigger and better things.
2. The Cowboys need to win the time of possession.
Time of possession is key. There is no question that the Wyoming defense is struggling and due to injuries their depth has become an issue. This weekend Wyoming’s best defense may very well be their offense. The Cowboys need to control the ball, limit turnovers, stay balanced, and win third down. The offense needs to sustain long drives and turn them into points. The Cowboys were able to score points in the first matchup and CSU put up 63 on SDSU last week. Teams have figured something out. With weapons like Brain Hill, Josh Allen, Tanner Gentry, and Jacob Hollister, Wyoming can put up a lot of points on anyone. If the Cowboys win the TOP, they are going to be in the game with a chance to win, if they dominate it I think they win.
3. The defense needs to rise to the occasion.
As I mentioned above, the injury bug has swept through Wyoming’s defense recently. You would be hard pressed to find a healthy team at this point in the season. The Cowboys are no exception; they are clearly banged up and come into this weekend’s championship down 3 key starters on defense. They weathered the Carl Granderson injury well since he went down against Air Force. Last week was the first time we saw the defense without senior Chase Appleby and his presence in the middle was sorely missed and we have since learned that senior LB DJ May has played his final snap as a Cowboy due to an injury.
Down 3 of your best defensive players is not ideal, but like I said, no team is healthy this late in the year. It is time for someone else on the defense to step up. Andrew Wingard and Lucas Wacha in particular need to be at the top of their game in order for the Cowboys to have a real shot. besides those two the Cowboys need other guys to step up, including Tim Kamana who will start in place of May this weekend. Forcing SDSU into 2nd and 3rd and long and forcing them to throw will be key, as will limiting SDSU’s big plays and winning third down.
4. Special Teams needs to be at its best.
The Cowboys kick coverage was non-existent in the first matchup between UW and SDSU. Back-to-back MW Special teams POY, Rashaad Penny returned the opening kick for a touchdown in Laramie two weeks ago and Juwan Washington took another back in the third quarter. The Cowboys were lucky to survive those returns and pulled out a win. Hopefully the Cowboys learned their lesson and there will be no repeat.
Kickoff isn’t the only area where the Cowboys need to thrive, K Cooper Rothe needs to convert when his name is called and P Ethan Wood can hopefully pin SDSU deep when called upon. The wild card might be PR Austin Conway, he has 1 punt return for a TD and has been close on several others. Don’t be surprised if he gets loose.
5. The Cowboys are hosting the MW Championship in Laramie, WY, be there.
Let me repeat, the 2016 Wyoming Cowboys are hosting the Mountain West Championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, WY! It is hard to believe that this team has gone from an abysmal 2-10 to hosting this game. Craig Bohl has come through on his end of the bargain by putting a product on the field that resonates with the state of Wyoming’s culture and style and it is definitely something Cowboy fans can be proud of. Now it is time for UW fans to show their appreciation to the program, its players, coaching staff, and all those involved by showing up and providing the stadium with electricity and energy.
I realize that it might be cold and windy and kickoff is after sunset, but Wyoming is a state, university, and program that takes pride on being “Cowboy Tough.” So, to ALL Wyoming fans, get your tickets, layer up, get to the stadium early, check out UW hoops if you wish, tailgate, and be in your seat at 5:45 pm to cheer on your beloved Cowboys in the Mountain West Championship game. This team needs your support and most definitely has earned and deserves it.