Well, what can be said about last week that hasn’t already been said. The Cowboys pulled off one of the most surprising wins in the first week of the 2019 college football season. Vegas had the Cowboys as 18-point underdogs at home, but thanks to some huge Mistakes by Missouri and some big plays by Wyoming they pulled off the improbable victory. This week the Cowboys must hit the reset button and will travel to San Marcos, TX to take on Texas State. The Bobcats lost to Texas A&M last week 41-7 to start their season. As usual, I have some thoughts.
- Last week’s win was the biggest home win in school history.
I know 2016’s home wins over ranked teams, Boise State and San Diego State were big, as was Wyoming’s 2004 upset over Ole Miss. There are a couple differences here, in my opinion. The Boise and SDSU wins came from a team we knew was good and had an offense that featured at least 5 professional players and a defense that had at least 5 pros and the 2004 win was over an Ole Miss team that went 4-7.
Last week’s win came against the 26th ranked team in the country that is loaded with talent and had a lot of hype in the preseason as an SEC dark horse. I am willing to bet that by the end of the season, the Cowboys’ win over Missouri will look better than Boise’s win over Florida State. On top of that, this was a season opener and has the potential to catapult Wyoming to the next level for the 2019 season and potentially beyond. These are the kind of wins that can change a program’s trajectory… if they capitalize and continue winning.
It feels like this year is kind of a prove it year for Craig Bohl. Bohl is in his 6th season at Wyoming and was given the freedom to completely rebuild the program and culture. After winning just 6 games in his first season, Bohl has produced three consecutive seasons with a record of .500 or better. It appears that Bohl’s formula is working and this is the year the Bohl’s Cowboys need to take the next step and prove that they are going to be here for the long run. Saturday’s win, the Cowboys’ 5th straight, was a monster statement for the season and the program’s future.
- Wyoming’s backfield is loaded with talent.
If anyone had concerns about Wyoming’s running game and whether they had any depth in that area should no longer be concerned. There are four legitimate running threats on Wyoming’s depth chart, and they all add a little something different. It all starts with QB Sean Chambers, he showed his dynamic talent again on Saturday, finishing the game with 12 carries for 120 yards including an unbelievable 75-yard touchdown. Having him in the backfield changes everything for defenses because they must always account for him and he is a legitimate threat to take it to the house any given play.
Chambers is accompanied by what looks like a 3-headed monster in Xazavian Valladay, Trey Smith, and Titus Swen. The three running backs finished the Missouri game with a combined 29 carries, 179 yards, and 2 TDs. Valladay led the way last week with 118 yards, including an electrifying 61 yard TD. Valladay provides nice speed and is a threat to catch the ball out of the back field. Senior Trey Smith will provide a nice complement to Valladay, at 6’0 218, Smith will provide a nice pop in shorter yard situations and is also a threat to catch the ball. His skill set makes for the ideal third down back. The third guy in the group is the least known. Titus Swen had a nice debut going for 45 yards on 8 carries. The true freshman looks like he has a nice mixture of size, strength and speed. The Wyoming offense should be in good hands as long as these guys are on the field.
- The defense needs to find a pass rush.
The defense was the biggest revelation of the football game, in my opinion. After giving up 14 points right away they settled in a bit and caused three huge turnovers, scored a touchdown, and forced Missouri to punt a few times. The back end of the defense played an excellent game, particularly the cornerbacks and safety Alijah Haliburton. With that being said, they still allowed Missouri to gain 537 yards of offense with 423 of that coming through the air. The run defense was strong, holding Mizzou to only 2.7 yards a carry. I think 423 yards in the air is a concerning number and I think it happened in large part because of a lack of pass rush.
The Cowboys only got Bryant down via sack twice and he had more than 4 seconds to throw the football multiple times. Any quarterback that gets that much time to throw and has that much talent and weapons around him will hurt you. Now, I understand that Missouri’s offensive line is top notch and the best the Pokes will see, and I know that Kelly Bryant is a world class athlete with world class speed, so I am not putting too much stock into the lack of pass rush from last week but it is certainly something to keep an eye on. It cannot become a trend.
This week should be a good indication of what kind of pass rush the Cowboys might have. Texas State threw the ball 46 times last week and completely abandoned the run after only netting 8 yards on 15 attempts. Texas A&M was able to bring down their quarterback 3 times, they had 9 tackles for a loss, and caused 4 turnovers all by way of interception. A&M made Texas State one dimensional and only allowed 219 yards, allowing Texas State to cross midfield only twice. If the Cowboys run defense can play like they did last week, they would likely be able to do the same and that should allow them to get after the quarterback and cause some turnovers.
- Sean Chambers needs to prove he can consistently pass the ball.
I have been hard on Wyoming OC Brent Vigen, but I thought he called a good game after the first 2 drives. He came out boring, predictable, and seemingly unwilling to let his quarterback play to his strengths. After Wyoming got the ball down 14-0 Vigen changed his tune and it led to Wyoming’s first 3 points of the game. As the game progressed Vigen got more creative and it led to some big touchdowns. I thought late in the game he stayed aggressive and gave Chambers an opportunity to throw the ball a little bit. The Cowboys were running the ball well and were getting a lot of third and short situations, so they didn’t need to throw a ton. Vigen did a good job of picking spots to let his freshman quarterback spin it, particularly in 2nd and long.
Chambers showed improvement on his passing, especially on slants. He throws the ball with a lot of velocity and put it in good spots. Chambers did however miss two touchdown throws that absolutely have to be made. The first was on Wyoming’s first scoring drive on third and goal in the second quarter, Chambers underthrew a wide-open Josh Harshman in the endzone and the Cowboys had to settle for a 19-yard field goal. The second one came in the 4th quarter with a chance to put the game away, Chambers rolled right and again underthrew his target, this time John Okwoli. The Cowboys had to settle for a 20-yard field goal and a 13-point lead rather than 17. Wyoming’s red zone efficiency has been a concern the last couple seasons and they need to improve in that area if they are going to continue to win football games. 3 field goals from inside the 5 is inexcusable. Chambers’ ability to complete these kinds of throws will go a long way in drives resulting in 7 rather than 3.
- The Cowboys will finish September undefeated.
The 2019 Wyoming Cowboys have a monster opportunity in front of them. After a massive upset, they have a very favorable schedule in September. It starts this week in Texas, Texas State has won 10 games in the last 4 seasons and was picked dead last in the Sun Belt. The Cowboys are currently a touchdown favorite and there’s no reason they should drop this game.
After Texas State they come home to host Idaho, who is in their second year in the FCS’ Big Sky Conference after dropping down from the FBS ranks. Idaho was picked 8th out of 13 teams in the Big Sky after winning just 4 games in their first season in the lower division. Last week they opened at Penn State and lost 79-7, yes you read that right, 79 to 7.
The Pokes should be 3-0 after their next 2 games and that brings us to an interesting game. The Cowboys will again head south to Tulsa to wrap up their non-conference slate. Tulsa is a hard team to figure out. After winning 10 games in 2016, they went on to win 2 games in 2017, 3 games in 2018 and they were picked dead last in the AAC this year. A lot of people had Tulsa beating the Cowboys before the season started, but that had more to do with Wyoming being a bit of a mystery. Last week Tulsa lost to Michigan State 28-7, but the second half score was just 3-0. This week the Golden Hurricane will travel to San Jose State, who has consistently been at the bottom of the Mountain West before hosting Oklahoma State. It will be interesting to see how those games plays out. Regardless, I like the Cowboys in Tulsa.
If all goes right, the Cowboys will then come home 4-0 to open up conference play with UNLV to finish up September. I like the Cowboys in this one, a lot. UNLV has produced just 2 winning seasons in the last 24 years and was picked 5th in the West division, only ahead of SJSU. The Cowboys will be favored in this game, likely by double digits. As long as the Pokes stay relatively healthy, I think they go into their first bye week after UNLV 5-0.
Let’s hear what you think either in the comments below or on twitter @CDub13