The Cowboys may have not looked great, but they got a much needed win over Hawaii in their MWC opener and are in a position to get over .500 before they hit the heart of their conference schedule. It wasn’t pretty and Cowboy fans certainly have a lot of questions as the Pokes prepare to take on Texas State in Laramie this week in what will be their final non-conference game of the season. Here are a few things on my mind.
- A win is a win, take it, learn from it and move on.
Was last week’s 28-21 overtime win pretty? No, it wasn’t but it was still a win and that’s what matters in the end. Wyoming fans shouldn’t be so quick to forget that the Cowboys have averaged only 4.6 wins a season since the MWC was formed and last week’s win was a big conference win and the Pokes will take those anyway possible.
I personally think there was more good than bad in the win over Hawaii. Some of the good; the running game, led by Trey Woods, had their best game of the season, the defense and special teams made big plays when they needed to, and the Wyoming Cowboys are 1-0 in Mountain West play. I will touch on some of the bad a little later on, but it is a lot better to fix things after a win than it is a loss. The good news is the Cowboys record is exactly what a reasonable person would’ve thought it would be going into their 5th game.
- OC Brent Vigen needs to let his best player make plays.
Vigen’s play calling up to this point in the season has been a bit questionable. It looks like he is hesitant to put QB Josh Allen in a position to run the ball, whether it be designed runs or QB roll outs and it has hurt the team’s offensive production. Allen is a dual threat but after he ran for 523 yards a year ago, he only has 32 through 4 games this season. I understand that he needs to be healthy and he has a future but the lack of aggressive play calling is hurting both Allen and the Wyoming offense.
Last week alone, Allen only ran the ball 6 times (2 were sacks) and threw 19 times. That is 25 plays where you are putting the ball in your star player’s hands giving him an opportunity to make plays. That number needs to be higher, as soon as they give him more play making chances their 3rd down %, total yards, time of possession, and points will all improve.
- The pass catchers need to step up and start making plays.
All of the offensive and passing game struggles do not fall on Josh Allen’s shoulders. His lack of help has been disappointing. Until last week’s emergence of RB Trey Woods, there was no running game and we all know a good running game will open up the passing game. The biggest struggle in the passing game has been the play of the receivers. There has been too many drops, last week alone there was at least 4 balls that went off or through the hands of Wyoming pass catchers. It has unfortunately become a common theme for this group. Getting James Price back will certainly help, but guys like CJ Johnson and John Okwoli need to be better and start making plays if this offense is going to take the next step.
- The defense and special teams made big plays when Wyoming needed it most.
While the offense continues to work out their kinks the defense has remained solid. It was evident that they were getting worn down late, likely due to fatigue from being on the field for the majority of the game but they made huge plays when need be.
The first big stop was a 4th down stop in the first quarter that was followed by the first Cowboy score of the night. The next big play was Hawaii’s first possession of the second half, it appeared the Rainbow Warriors were going to get some points after converting a big 3rd and 19 down to the 7 yard line and then on the very next play Andrew Wingard intercepted Dru Brown’s pass and after a penalty Wyoming took over on the 39. Perhaps the biggest spark came was after a Tyler Hall’s roughing the kicker penalty led to a Hawaii score and 14-7 lead, Hall then took the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a score and completely changed the momentum of the game. Finally, Cassh Maluia’s overtime interception off of Garrett Crall’s deflection clinched the Cowboys’ victory. The defense gave up some yards, but buckled down when needed and ultimately kept the Pokes in the game and gave them a chance to win. That is all you can ask for.
- A win this week and Wyoming is exactly where they need to be.
The Pokes sit at 2-2 (1-0) with one non-conference game left this weekend when they host Texas State. There certainly seems to be more questions than answers on the offensive side of the ball, but the Cowboys have managed to win the games they are supposed to and that is really what matters. As I write this, Wyoming is a 16-point favorite to beat Texas State this weekend in Laramie. As long as they take care of business on Saturday they will be exactly where they need to be going into their bye week at 3-2 (1-0). A couple weeks to get healthy and regroup for the heart of conference play will be exactly what they need.