In the recent history of Wyoming football, December 9th, 2013 is the most import day to the program. This was the day that Athletic Director Tom Burman announced to the world that Craig Bohl was leaving North Dakota State University to become the head football coach in Laramie. Some years from now, the second most important day in the recent history of Wyoming football might be January 10th, 2017. The day Scottie Hazelton was named to the Defensive Coordinator position, after the firing of Steve Stanard who was the Defensive Coordinator the first three years of Craig Bohl’s tenure as Wyoming’s coach.
Hazelton had familiarity with Bohl, having coached with him at NDSU from 2007 to 2011. Since now and then Hazelton had stops at USC, Nevada and the Jacksonville Jaguars as a position coach and defensive coordinator. He came to Laramie with the goal of simplifying the Cowboy defensive system, allowing the players to go out and make plays. In terms of these adjustments within Bohl’s defensive system, it has been so far so good. Look at this season’s numbers in comparison to the previous three seasons:
Through ten games of this twelve game 2017 season, the results have been nothing short of fantastic. The Cowboys currently rank 1st in the Mountain West and 14th nationally in scoring defense allowing just 18.1 points per game. The Cowboys are 3rd in the Mountain West and 27th nationally in total defense allowing 334.1 yards per game. The run defense which has been a major problem for years sits at 5th in the Mountain West and 80th nationally allowing 177.3 yards per game. This may not sound impressive but it should be knowing Wyoming has finished 92nd, 114th and 103rd in rushing defense the three seasons prior. The points allowed per game have almost been cut in half from 2016 and the defense is allowing roughly 120 yards less of total offense (That is 1.2 football fields less per game!).
Turnovers, which were a major reason for Wyoming’s success in the division championship season of 2016 where the Pokes forced 27 turnovers (in 14 games) has been a calling card of the 2017 squad as well. The Pokes have already matched last years 27 turnovers in just 10 games this season and currently rank, number one in the country in turnovers forced.
All this has been done with a defensive squad that returned 8 of 11 starters from 2016, a defense that allowed 34.1 points per game last season (as seen above). While the Wyoming offense carried the Pokes in 2016 it has been the defense that has returned the favor in 2017. The defensive turnaround has been like nothing Wyoming has seen since maybe the mid 80’s and allowed me to opine this early in the Air Force game:
This defense is nothing short of amazing this year. Scottie Hazelton is one of the best coordinators in the country.
— WyoNation Blog (@WyoNationBlog) November 12, 2017
Let’s hope Bohl and Hazelton are on the sidelines of War Memorial Stadium for years to come because I have a feeling this Wyoming football program is just getting started when it comes to defensive prominence. The Pokes will return 8 of 11 current defensive starters in 2018 so the future of the defense is bright.