The Cowboys continue to roll after beating Air Force 28-14. The win ran their record to 7-3, 5-1, and was their 6th win in 7 games. The defense again was outstanding and Nick Smith did just enough to hold onto the win in place of the injured Josh Allen. Allen missed the second half of the game with a shoulder sprain in his throwing arm and his status for Saturday’s game against Fresno State is in serious question. The Bulldogs come in at 7-3 and will be another tough test for the Cowboys. As usual, I have some thoughts heading into the game.
- Youhanna Ghaifan is an absolute monster.
At 6-4 290 pounds, sophomore DT Youhanna Ghaifan looks like a monster, luckily for the Cowboys his play confirms that he is in fact, a monster. Ghaifan burst onto the seen last year as a freshman, appearing in all 14 games. He finished the season with 33 tackles, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble and had 14 of his tackles came in the MW championship and the bowl game. Wyoming fans knew he would be good, I don’t know if they thought he would dominant. After his 11 tackle, 1 sack performance against AFA last week he now has 55 tackles, 12 for a loss, 5 sacks, and a forced fumble in 9 games because he missed the Utah State game due to an injury. The Air Force game was especially impressive because the DL is very thin and Ghaifan didn’t get to come out for a breather as much as the Cowboys would like. He fought through it and had a great performance. It appears Ghaifan is just starting to show his potential and that should scare MW offenses for the next couple of years because the sky is the limit, I could see him playing on Sundays. Ghaifan’s breakout season is a major reason why the Wyoming defense has been much improved.
- The running game is starting to figure it out.
The running game had a lot of success against Colorado State 2 weeks ago and it looked like things were beginning to click. It figured to continue because Air Force was one of the worst teams in the country against the run. I thought the run game was solid again and it looks like they might be figuring it out. He team numbers (43 carries 100 yards) is not good. I think those numbers are a bit deceiving. The running backs as a group ran the ball 30 times for 113 yards and 2 scores, still not great but better? Yes. Trey Woods and Kellen Overstreet split the majority of the carries and keeping fresh legs in the game definitely seemed to help. I think the running game will continue to get better and with Josh Allen’s status in question, it is going to need to continue to get better in order for the Cowboys to move the ball.
- Josh Allen will play on Saturday.
This is my bold prediction for the week. Allen sat out the second half of last week’s win at Air Force due to an injury to his throwing arm, later learned to be an AC sprain, and panic for all Wyoming soon followed. Junior QB Nick Smith finished the game for the Cowboys and they were able to hold onto the win, but it got within a score, before Smith led a much needed scoring drive.
Craig Bohl said at his Monday press conference that they expect Allen to be cleared to practice at sometime this week and they anticipate having him available for Saturday’s game against Fresno State. This is the same Fresno State that Josh Allen grew up watching on Saturday’s with dreams of being a Bulldog. As we all know, the Bulldogs opted not to give Allen a scholarship offer, not once but twice after Allen spent a year at a junior college. Fresno’s loss is Wyoming’s gain and Allen has been playing with a chip on his shoulder ever since to prove his doubters wrong. Allen wants to play in this game more than anything and if there is any possibility of him playing, he won’t pass it up. This game has been circled for too long and he is too competitive (for better or worse). The other motivating factor is that this likely is going to be Josh Allen’s final game at War Memorial Stadium, as he all but guaranteed to declare for the NFL draft after the season. I would be shocked if Allen didn’t play, even if that means Nick Smith sees some time in short yardage, QB run situations.
- The defense/special teams can carry the team to a win on Saturday.
This Wyoming defense is fun to watch and they have impressed every single week and have carried this football team for much of the season. There is no reason they can’t do it again, if they need to. The final score might be low, like 10-7 low, but a win is a win, right? Fresno State and Wyoming come into Saturday with the 2 best scoring defenses in the Mountain West and the game figures to be physical and a turnover could be the difference. Wyoming has an edge in that area, as they have caused 27 turnovers to Fresno’s 17 and only turned the ball over 10 times to Fresno’s 9. I like Wyoming’s chances, especially at home, to cause a couple turnovers and set the offense up with some points. The defense has been the leader all year and once against the Cowboys are going to need them to step up, as well as Tim Zaleski (who has been fantastic as of late), and the leg of Cooper Rothe.
- This senior class, particularly Drew Van Maanen, will be missed.
There isn’t a lot of seniors in this class, 9 to be exact, and the number is probably 8 because I would expect LS Kolton Donovan to get a medical red shirt. That means the senior class is: OL Ryan Cummings, OL/DL Dalton Fields, CB Rico Gafford, S/LB Tim Kamana, DL Nela Lolohea, LB Jalen Ortiz, CB Robert Priester, and FB Drew Van Maanen. Only 3 of the have been full time starters this year (Ortiz, Gafford, Van Maanen) and 2 have started games this year (Priester, Cummings). This group has been very solid and a lot of them have moved positions multiple times to help this football team get better, Fields, Ortiz, Kamana, Priester have all played multiple positions and they are all team guys.
Van Mannen, in particular, is the definition of a team player. He puts his body on the line every play and does all the dirty things. His energy, enthusiasm, attitude, and even position embodies and defines what Craig Bohl wants this football team to look and play like. That dude will be missed in that locker room come next August.
These guys all deserve Wyoming Fans’ support this weekend and it is the last chance you will have to see them, and barring something unforeseen QB Josh Allen, play their final game at War Memorial Stadium. Go out and support them and this team if you can, they have played a major role in changing this football program around.
PAT’S (Points After Thoughts):
- Freshman WR Jared Scott has been seeing more playing time lately and caught his first career touchdown last week, at 6-6, he could become a nice threat for the passing game.
- NT Sidney Malauulu is expected to return this week, which would be a big time boost for the interior DL, which is very thin at this point. Malauulu has only appeared in 5 games this season.
- The Craig Bohl to Nebraska rumors are about to heat up, so be ready. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t at least interview. I do think, however, UCF HC Scott Frost will be their first choice
Special thanks to my editors, The Earthtrotters, they keep me honest.