We are back after an off week and the Cowboys (3-2, 1-0) will jump back into Mountain West play as they head to Logan, UT to battle Utah State as they hope to keep the Bridger Rifle in Laramie. The Pokes won last year’s meeting 52-28 but Utah State looks to be a much improved football team. This is a big game for the Cowboy and this week’s post will look mostly at the Pokes season thus far as they get ready for a big stretch of games. Here is what I am thinking as we look into Saturday’s matchup.
- At 3-2 (1-0) Wyoming is right where they should be.
Before the season began many hoped and thought the Cowboys would be able to upset either Iowa or Oregon, but any realist knew that both were a long shot. The Cowboys offense has been inconsistent through the first five games and there still seems to be some unanswered questions on that side of the ball. The good news is that he Pokes have won every game they are supposed to at this point and at 3-2 they are in a great position to play post season football for the second consecutive year. While they haven’t looked quite like the team many projected, they have found ways to win the games they should and their confidence should be trending up as they hit the heart of their schedule.
- The bye week came at a good time.
The bye week was well timed for a couple reasons. The first is that the Cowboys played some physical football games in September and the off week should put them in a pretty good position health wise heading into this week’s game @ Utah State. The second reason is because the Cowboys wrapped up their non-conference schedule on September 30th with a second straight win and the bye week gives them a chance to hit the reset button while feeling confident and really prepare for what should be some big football games in October as they will go on the road to face Utah State, then at Boise before they come home to host New Mexico on October 28th.
- The defense and special teams have been a pleasant surprise.
The defense and special teams have been the most welcoming surprise through the first 5 games. The defensive unit is as good and deep as Wyoming has had since Craig Bohl has been in Laramie. They have been spearheaded by the 4 headed monster of LB Logan Wilson, Safety Andrew Wingard, DT Youhanna Ghaifan, and DE Carl Granderson. Wilson currently leads the team with 49 tackles, followed by Wingard (42 tackles), and Ghaifan (33 tackles). Ghaifan and Granderson have led the way up front and they have combined for 15 TFL, 6 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. The Wyoming defense has been stout as a whole group and in total they have caused 12 turnovers to go along with 13 sacks and 40 TFL. They have had some injuries, but the depth has allowed for them to continue to be strong and lead this football team while the offense works out their kinks.
On special teams Sophomore Tyler Hall has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in each of the last two games and leads the country in yards per return at 44 yards/kick on 6 tries and Austin Conway has returned 12 punts at an average of 12.8 yards/punt and has a long of 45. It is a nice change that Wyoming has the weapons in place to be a scoring threat every time they have a chance to return and/or can get the ball into favorable field position. The kicking game has also been good, Cooper Rothe is 6-8 on the season with a long of 49 yards and it looks like freshman punter Tim Zaleski is improving each game.
- The offense needs to turn take a big step forward.
While the defense has been much improved and a welcome change, the offense has been inconsistent and downright awful at times. They are yet to have a game where they have been balanced in both the run and passing game. The biggest inconsistency has been the running game. Freshman Trey Woods leads the team with 245 yards with 5 yards/carry and 1 TD, he is a promising player and has been pretty good. The offense is going to rely on him quite a bit to be the guy that can keep defenses on their toes and open up opportunities for Josh Allen.
Speaking of Allen, things haven’t gone quite as planned this season. He is currently has a completion percentage of 55.4 and has thrown only 6 touchdowns to 3 interceptions through the first 5 games with only throwing for 175.4 yards/game. The receiving core hasn’t helped him out a whole lot as drops and an inability to get separation have been common themes for the whole group. The offensive unit needed this bye week as much as anyone and it should’ve given them a chance to regroup and hopefully their strong showing against Texas State can catapult them going forward because this team can’t win some of these upcoming games if they continue to play the way they have.
- Utah State will be a good test and we should learn a lot about the Cowboys.
This week’s game at Utah State is a big one. The Cowboys, coming off their bye, have played four consecutive home games and are going on the road for only the second time this season and first time since September 2nd. One would think they have had a chance to put together solid game plans on both sides of the ball with the off week. Utah State (3-3, 1-1) appears to be much improved from a year ago, but this is a game Wyoming has to win if they want to be in the conversation for a MW championship. The Cowboys are in great position to get a conference win on the road and their confidence should be high, having won 2 straight football games. If they can go into Logan and get a win, we could see this team start to roll like many thought they would before the season began.