The Wyoming Cowboys are coming off a 17-13 loss to Hawai’i last week. In that game, the Pokes had just 244 yards of total offense against a Hawai’i football team that had allowed at least 411 total yards of offense against FBS opponents so far in 2018. The Rainbow Warriors entered the game as the 111th ranked pass defense in college football allowing 279 yards per game but the Cowboys could only muster 87 passing yards against their secondary. Those 87 yards were just two yards more than Navy (a triple option team) had against Hawai’i in September.
Now you may view the above stats and the lack of a passing game as just an isolated incident as Wyoming is in a rebuilding year on offense. Wyoming is starting or heavily using freshman at quarterback, the offensive line and at the running back position. Yet, when you look at the complete offensive picture putting together some offensive numbers since Craig Bohl took over in 2014 the picture isn’t pretty. Wyoming has had just one productive offense in five years with the other four years (including this year so far) ranking among the worse in all of college football. Below you can see Wyoming’s points per game numbers along with their national ranking.
As we all know, the Cowboys had a rough start offensively under Bohl as the program transitioned from the spread offense to the power run game system used today. The first two seasons produced just 21.1 and 19 points per game with national rankings in the 110’s. In 2016 Wyoming took a huge step forward averaging 35.9 points per game with an offense that ranked in the top 25 nationally. Since that breakout season with Josh Allen, Brian Hill, Tanner Gentry and Jacob Hollister the offense has regressed quite a bit and the numbers so far this season are worse than they were in 2014 and 2015.
Besides points, another key offensive metric is yards per pass attempt. This statistic measures how efficiently an offense is in the passing game. In 2009 the Fifth Down Blog in the New York Times outlined the statistic summarizing a piece from Kerry Byrne who wrote: “To put it most simply, passing yards per attempt is the single most important indicator of success in all of football. The short version is this: Teams that win the passing YPA battle almost always win the game. Teams that lose the passing YPA battle almost always lose the game.” With that in mind, here are Wyoming’s yards per pass attempt numbers the last few seasons.
As you can see above Wyoming had two so-so years in terms of YPPA then spiked in 2016 but have taken major steps back in 2017 and 2018. This should be a major cause for concern because if the yards per pass attempt is as important as some football statisticians say Wyoming is in some big trouble. To test this number, I decided to calculate the game by game win and loss record for Wyoming under Craig Bohl when winning and losing yards per pass attempt battle and the results were staggering.
As statistical analysis suggests, Wyoming has a much better record when they win the yards per pass attempt comparison against their opponent. They have two undefeated years, 2014 and 2017 and a very solid record in 2016. Wyoming’s overall winning percentage when coming out on top is 73%. When the Pokes lose the yards per pass attempt comparison they are a beyond dismal 4-26 over the past 4 plus years with a winning percentage of just 13 %. As far as I’m concerned a drop off from a 73% win rate to a 13% win rate makes these numbers indisputable about the importance of being able to throw the football. The yards per pass attempt statistic isn’t about racking up tons of offense through the passing game but measures how efficient a team can move the ball through the air and the bottom line is Wyoming hasn’t been good enough in the past few years to be a
We all understand that Wyoming under Bohl wants to hang their hat on the running game but you still have to have a threat of the passing game in order to run the ball efficiently. It’s amazing the numbers RB Nico Evans and the Wyoming run game have put up this season so far (144 yards per game) considering the Cowboys are often facing 8, 9 and even 10 man defensive boxes at times as they don’t view the Wyoming pass game as a threat (and for good reason). In modern college football, you have to be able to throw the ball when needed and the Wyoming passing game has failed to do so consistently the majority of the past five seasons.
The good news under Craig Bohl is he has faced an underwhelming side of the ball before. Under Steve Stanard the Wyoming defense ranked 102nd, 102nd, and 101st in scoring defense giving up 30 points or more per game in his three years as the defensive coordinator. Bohl made the tough decision to go in a different direction for the good of the program. Outside of one season that saw Wyoming host and almost win the Mountain West conference title. The offensive side of the ball has been statistically worse than Stanard’s defenses ranking 110th, 115th, 104th and 127th so far this season in scoring offense under the direction of offensive coordinator Brent Vigen.
With all these stats and numbers, I have some suggestions to improve the Wyoming passing game:
More Up-Tempo Offense
Tyler Vander Waal has looked very comfortable in the two-minute drill. Mix in some up-tempo series to spark the offense and keep the defense on their heels. I doubt this will ever happen though because the coaching staff seems too dogmatic in their style of play even though they aren’t having much success offensively.
Get Your Play-Makers Involved Early
Too often we see Austin Conway or Rocket Ismail Jr not catch a pass or have a target until late in the first half or in the second half. Find a way to get your play-makers the ball early with easy throws like screens and quick outs.
Use The Middle Of The Field
Even when Josh Allen was the QB I had this complaint. Throw some quick slants to your wide receivers, utilize your tight ends in the intermediate passing game. Wyoming often gets too vertical in the passing game for their own good and when the 30 and 40 yard passes aren’t being completed the offense sputters.
Wyoming and the offensive staff still have time to turn this offense around and find a way to be more effective in the passing game but we are going to have to see some major adjustments made. I have to believe that soon the pressure will be on and Bohl will have no choice but to rethink how the offense is being operated and who is pulling the strings as he did with the defense just two seasons ago. His job and the future of the Wyoming football program may depend on it.