The Cowboys are rolling and are bowl eligible at 6-3 after their memorable win over rival Colorado State in what will be remembered as “the snow game.” Maybe more importantly, the Pokes are still in the hunt for a Mountain West Championship. Things don’t get easier this week as the Cowboys head south to Colorado Springs to take of the Falcons of the Air Force Academy. I have a few thoughts leading up to Saturday.
- Kellen Overstreet earned more carries.
Kellen Overstreet was fantastic in Saturday’s win. The sophomore ran for 43 yards on 7 carries and the game winning score. The numbers don’t jump off the page but don’t be fooled, he ran hard and he ran well. Trey Woods has a bright future but he just hasn’t gotten it going and I think it is time to switch his role. I think Overstreet has finally gotten comfortable after his ACL injury and could really come on late in the season, when the Cowboys need him most. Overstreet’s hard nose running and 4th quarter boost is a big part of why the Cowboys got a late touchdown and were able to run the clock out. The Pokes will have every opportunity to run the ball this week because Air Force is allowing 250 yards/game on the ground at 6.4 yards a carry. If the Pokes can’t open the run game this week, then they can’t against anyone and Overstreet earned his chance to be the guy on Saturday.
- The depth at defensive tackle is a major concern.
Another game and another defensive tackle gone for the season. Lost in the snow, rain, and win was freshman Ravontae Holt to a torn ACL. This marks the 2nd DT the Cowboys have lost for the season, the other is Conner Cain. The Cowboys have also been without Sidney Malauulu and Youhanna Ghafain for periods of the season. Malauulu has missed last 5 games with a knee injury and it doesn’t look like he will return against Air Force. The lack of depth is officially a concern for the Pokes, especially against a team like Air Force. It looks like this week’s starters will be Ghaifan and freshman Javaree Jackson, with Dalton Fields and likely Josiah Hall backing them both up. I think Jackson and Ghaifan are a more than capable duo, but fatigue becomes a major factor against the AFA option attack especially late in the game.
- The Cowboy defense needs to create turnovers.
In order to get it done Saturday the Cowboy defense is going to need to create a couple turnovers, good news is they have knack for doing so. The defense has carried this football team all year and Saturday will be more of the same. Turnovers are always key, but especially against a team like Air Force because they like to wear defenses down. Fumbles are always there for the taking when you face an option, but last year the Cowboys were able to intercept the Falcons three times because they were forcing 3rd and longs, getting pressure, and built a lead. They need to repeat that formula. If the Cowboys can get the Falcons into 3rd and long situations d-ends Carl Granderson and Kevin Prosser will have opportunities to make big time plays with their ability to pressure.
- Josh Allen is going to have to make some plays.
As I mentioned before, Air Force is allowing 250 yards/game on the ground. So you would think Cowboys should be able to pound the ball more successfully like they did late against CSU. A big player in that will be Josh Allen, he has run the ball effectively more recently and Vigen has been more willing to design runs for Allen. If Overstreet can get going, the option read will play a bigger role than we have seen. Once the run opens up, Allen is going to have a lot of opportunity to air out the football. Teams have been going one on one man against the Cowboy receivers and they need to take advantage of that with some deep balls. If the Pokes can find some balance on offense and strike on a couple big plays I like their chances.
- The Cowboys have a great opportunity to win the rest of their games.
The Cowboys are going to go bowling for the second straight year, that is obviously great, but this football team has a terrific opportunity to do a lot more. I think they have a very realistic chance to win the rest of their games. After they travel to Air Force, they will host a good but not great Fresno State team, then they go to San Jose to play a one win football team. With this defense and Josh Allen being led by Craig Bohl a 9-3 (7-1) finish would not surprise me one bit.