Last week’s game in Las Vegas was as crazy of a game as I have ever seen and very disappointing. It is hard to swallow the fact that Wyoming scored 66 points and lost a game they should have won. The good news is they still control their own destiny and the bad news is they need to win 2 tough football games in order to get to the MWC championship game. Here are the 5 things I think this week:
1. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas
Last week’s 69-66 triple overtime loss in Las Vegas was weird, wild, fun, an emotional roller coaster, and in the end mentally and physically draining. Sounds like a typical Las Vegas weekend, doesn’t it? Once the game finally ended there was a combined 135 points, 1,138 yards, and a lot of drama. The Cowboys did not play well in Las Vegas, the defensive game plan wasn’t up to par and they made way too many mistakes to come away with a road win in the Mountain West, yet they still had opportunities to win the game.
The Wyoming defense did not look like themselves in the slightest. They allowed 69 points, 653 yards, and were on the field for 97 plays compared to the offense, who only had 66. I think Wyoming’s youth showed in this one, for whatever reason, but a letdown felt inevitable. Things were going too good for Wyoming at this point. Who knows maybe this loss is a good thing. Might as well turn a negative into a positive. I would be willing to bet we see a completely different and refocused football team these next two weeks. They are still in control of their own destiny as they try to chase down an improbable conference championship. In order for that to happen one thing is for sure, what happened in Vegas needs to stay in Vegas.
2. Pokes lost in the two most important stats @ UNLV
The Cowboys have been successful this season when they have done two things. 1) Win the turnover battle and 2) Win the battle for time of possession, or at least keep it even. The Cowboys got crushed in both categories in Vegas.
Coming in the Pokes were 7-1 when they won the turnover battle and 0-1 when they lost. Saturday’s -3 in the t/o category proved to be too much to overcome. They turned the ball over 4 times, two fumbles on consecutive plays with the possession and two interceptions when they were in scoring position, including one in overtime that all but sealed their fate.
As for TOP, we all know the Cowboys’ brand of football requires them to run first, pass second wear down opposing defenses, and control the clock/tempo. The offense made some big plays, but they were doing it quick. They only possessed the ball for 21:41 as opposed to UNLV’s 38:19. This is a big reason why the defense looked so sloppy, they were on the field too much. 97 plays to be exact, which is a staggering number. This lead to blown assignments, missed tackles, and 69 points. In order for the Cowboys to compete well in the next two weeks they need to be better in both categories.
3. Josh Allen will bounce back
Josh Allen had an interesting game. When you look at his stats it doesn’t look all that bad. Allen finished the game with 334 yards passing, 4 touchdowns, and ran for 32 more and lead the Cowboys on an epic 99 yard drive with 44 seconds left and no timeouts. But… he was only 14-31 and threw two costly interceptions and Tanner Gentry made some fantastic plays to help out his QB.
Allen was off from the very beginning, he didn’t look comfortable for much of the game and missed on a number of throws. We have become accustom to Allen making big plays time after time, but everyone needs to remember that he is only a sophomore and this was just his his 5th start on the road. Allen competed hard, made some plays, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
I think Allen will bounce back in a big way this weekend at home, where he has been stellar. In 5 home games this season Allen is 79/128 for 1,151 yards with 15 TD’s and only 2 interceptions and run for 281 yards and 3 more scores. Allen will be better this weekend and he needs to be for the Cowboys to pull off the upset.
4. Cowboy defense faces its biggest test yet
San Diego State may be the best team Wyoming has seen this year and a big reason why is due to one guy in particular. That guy is 5’9” 180 pound senior running back, Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey is at the tail end of one of the most storied careers for a collegiate running back. In his career he has rushed for 6,051 yards, 4th all-time and 59 touchdowns, which is 9th all time. In all likeliness, Pumphrey will be the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher by the end of the season. In 2016, the Heisman candidate has run for 1,779 yards and 14 TD’s. He is averaging 6.6 yards/carry and 177.9 yards/game.
The key to beating SDSU seems clear, slow down Pumphrey. He is averaging 177 yards a game, so it is likely he is going to rip off some runs. The Cowboy defense will need to limit those runs. In their only loss of the season, SDSU ran for just 157 yards and only 3.8 yards/carry. Pumphrey finished the game with 151 of those and the quarterback was sacked 4 times. So the keys to me are slow down Pumphrey, pressure QB Christian Chapman, and keep their offense off the field.
5. Senior class deserves a nice send off
Like HC Craig Bohl said during his Monday presser, this year’s senior class has some “dudes.” This class has endured some tough times. They have seen a coaching change, which came with a brand new philosophy, and they suffered through 2 miserable seasons during the rebuild. Yet, they were loyal enough to stick around for their entire career and have played a huge role in the Cowboys’ surprising turn around. In the end, they have been rewarded with their first winning season and along with that comes a much deserved bowl appearance.
These guys deserve everyone’s support on Saturday and the least Cowboy fans could do is show up to cheer them on in the first meaningful November football game at the War in a long time. Cowboy fans, if you can, be at the War on Saturday to support these guys and their team in a very important football game.
I would personally like to thank the seniors for sticking around, when many didn’t and/or wouldn’t have if they were in a similar position. They are the biggest reason that this season has gone the way it has and their leadership and attitude through everything has been impressive.
This year’s seniors playing in what might be their final game at War Memorial Stadium are: P Ethan Wood, LB’s Lucas Wacha, Eric Nzeocha, D.J. May, and Devin McKenna, LS Brendan Turelli, OL Chase Roullier, Eli Moody, and Du’Ryan Ebbesen DL Trevor Meader, Adam Kinder and Chase Appleby WR’s Jake Maulhardt and Tanner Gentry, K Justin Martin, FB Jordan Ellis, TE Jacob Hollister, and RB Shaun Wick.
Pokes will bounce back! #GoPokes