UW-Boise State postgame thoughts

The Wild Sam.

That’s what one of my colleagues called the running of redshirt freshman Sam Stratton as he played some at quarterback in UW’s 36-14 loss to No. 7 Boise State Saturday at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Stratton was a quarterback in high school, and a good track athlete. He’s been the scout team quarterback in practice, along with being a back up receiver and holder on field goals and extra points.

No, true freshman quarterback Brett Smith didn’t get hurt. Nor did he do anything wrong. UW didn’t do much on offense in this game, and Stratton provided a bit of a spark, albeit mostly when the game was already decided.

And, I didn’t think it was a case that UW gave up so it just put Stratton in there. Sure, it’s wise not to subject Smith to too many hits, and this partly helped there. It’s another potential wrinkle UW can use, and teams will have to prepare for.

The Cowboys had only 191 yards of total offense, and only 78 passing by Smith. Both season-lows. They just couldn’t do much offensively against a Boise State defense with eight senior starters. If UW could have hit a few deep passes, or a few medium-ranged passes over the middle, maybe the run game would have opened up  more. But it didn’t.

Even though coach Dave Christensen and several players said the 46-yard Hail Mary pass for a touchdown with one second left before half didn’t deflate the team, it certainly sparked Boise State as it scored on its first three possessions of the second half.

But as I wrote for Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, that Hail Mary could have been prevented if UW could have got a first down on its final possession of the half. And, if senior punter Austin McCoy could have had better than a 23-yard punt. Heck, if UW would have let the ball bounce a little longer, maybe there wouldn’t have been time for that last play? Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Boise State may not have played like the No. 7 team in the country at all times, but it did what it had to. And, it showed UW is not ready for that just yet. Like against Nebraska and TCU, there is progress and hope, but it’s just not there yet.

There was disappointment with the loss among the players and coaches, but they immediately turned their attention to next week’s Border War at Colorado State.

As for bowl possibilities, it continues to be cloudy for UW but its looking more like the Independence or New Mexico bowls. Nevada losing at Utah State today could mean a UW-Nevada New Mexico Bowl if the Pac-12 puts two teams in BCS bowls. Stanford and Oregon still could do that. Air Force’s win over CSU makes it bowl eligible, and the Independence Bowl knows it can sell tickets for the Falcons with an Air Force base near by. Sounds like the Independence Bowl could be a tough sell even for its board members to take UW based on the ability to sell tickets.

Air Force could be a wild-card pick for the Military or Kraft Fight Hunger bowls since both had ties with Army and Navy, but neither are bowl eligible. However, I have been told the Mountain West and/or the Independence Bowl must release Air Force to consider it for a bowl not tied within the league. That could be said for all the bowl-eligible teams in the MW.

But in the end, the Las Vegas Bowl holds all the cards, no pun intended. If it takes TCU and Poinsettia takes Boise State, then the dominoes should fall to UW to the Independence or New Mexico bowls. It is sounding like the Poinsettia in San Diego, isn’t high on taking hometown San Diego State, especially now that Boise State seems to be there to take. The executive director for the New Mexico Bowl is a San Diego State graduate, but he knows he can’t use that in who he chooses. It would help if Air Force goes to a non-binding MW bowl, or if TCU or Boise State somehow get into a BCS bowl game.

12 thoughts on “UW-Boise State postgame thoughts

  1. Progress?
    After last year’s horrible loss to Boise, I guess I should feel “good” about this year’s effort. I applaude the plan to rotate Sam Stratton in at QB keeping Brett Smith injury free and in theory it gives Boise a different look. It showed that the coaches, DC and Brandon, full well knowing they don’t have all of the weapons Boise does, have to be innovative. I thought Wyoming played really well for almost the entire 1st half. The hail mary by Boise was just plain dumb and not the fault of any Wyoming player. I thought that the reciever has to CONTROL the football PAST THE GOAL LINE. By the time he caught it and CONTROLLED the ball, it was not across the goal line.

    I don’t think Wyoming is at the TCU or Boise level just yet, but we are getting there. Definitely in third place in the MW. But why the conservative play calling in the 2nd half? Where was the aggressive defense of the first half? Why take Brett out so much that he can’t find a groove? Why do I feel like that when Wyoming plays top ranked opponents we can give em hell for the 1st half and then we basically fall apart or make mistakes in the 2nd half that kills our chances?

    Okay, onto the Sheep! This is our biggest game of the year! Go Pokes!

    • Hey Brian…good post. However, the rule on the goal is that the ball, any part of it, need only get to the goal line….not cross it. I watched the replay several times and it appared that th receiver took possession of the ball when it was beyond the line. With the receiver lying on his back, he was down immediately and the location of the ball would be fixed at that point. Its all academic, howeverS should have never been in position to make such an attempt.

      All in all, Wyoming played well for a good part of the game and has shown marked improvement over the same stretch last season. It takes time….and experience. They’re getting there. Win two more this season and get to work on next year. Things in Laramie look, from a distance, like they are improving….a far sight more so than with our Volunteers, I might add.

  2. The 6 minute drive in the second quarter was more telling than the hail Mary. The BSU running game was punishing. The defense played well just too often and too long. If they played Stratton to save BS wrong move. The back up should have gotten experience. If, as you say Robert, they played him to add a wrinkle good move. The biggest what if, to me, was “if” the pokes would have come out to the end zone we would have eaten up 3 to 5 more seconds off the clock At the time I thought ‘GOOD’ be smart & play it safe. Unfortunately playing it safe, aganist an opponent like BSU, seldom wins you the game. Last thought! Your survey says “what Game” and that GAME is next week. A win aganist the sheep makes the 2011 campaign all we could realistically be expected. Go pokes

    • Ron,
      The calling off the dogs, play it safe approach at the end of the 1st half was the most frustrating part. Even at halftime down 13-6, Wyoming was “still in the game”. It feels like if Wyoming is down at the half against a ranked opponent the game becomes a write off, a loss… As much as I “prepared” myself that it was 95% certain the Pokes would lose to Boise, I just have a hard time with “lose this battle but win the war” mentality. But with rebuilding, this is the necessary mentality. Likely heading to a bowl game for the 2nd time in 3 years! A freshman QB setting new records. We will obtain that speed and the weapons on offense and defense with this young Poke team to challenge the Boise St, TCU, or Nebraska’s of the world.
      Go Pokes, beat the Sheep!

  3. After reading the “tea leaves”, armchair coaches and qb’s comments on several of the blogs and sitting thru a phenomenal first half performance by our Defense and Special Teams let me lead the horse to water. Boise State is legit. The Cowboys are contenders, that have risen well above expectations under the guidance of DC and staff. I watched that replay of the “hail mary” several times and that one is not on Coach C, but on the secondary. Gipson in the heat of action simply whiffed. He should have planted his size 12 cleat on that fallen receivers chest and firmly batted the ball down. But on further review, the clock manager at smurf turf central salvaged 1 second from a play that should have exhausted on the prior roll out and incompletion for Heisman Candidate Moore. There was no time left, yet you have to play the Officials and home town cronies that are running the show. The game changer was Bretts fumble near the 25, we had several earlier escapes that could have gone against us with near fumbles. We score there and keep momentum on the road at a stifling loud and exuberant stadium. Who knows?

    The real beast was Martin, our achiles heal all year has been stuffing the run. When we went to a 4 man front, we fared better- no question Moore was not at the top of his game for this one, but with the running and blocking of number seven Boise they were moving us around at will. Huge gaps left us exposed and undermanned to try and compliment a sputtering and ineffective Offensive game plan. The speed and physicality of Boise was superior on the senior rich Defense, and wise and capable Offense. That was easily apparent and no Coaching was going to change that element, regardless of what some blogger attest to present. Brett was confused early and often, it looked like we had trouble getting plays in- and that’s quite evident when AA can’t run, our edge screens were stymied and the Coach’s wanted not to sent Brett into the teeth of a vicious bunch of head hunters. Cudos to Coach for not relying on that strategy. We have the best freshman QB in the nation, and we will live to see another day on the field for victory- that is a fact.

    Losing Ghaali and McNeil in this game really destroys are options when playing a team of this caliber. TCU quite honestly is not near the team that this Boise State is. They waxed Georgia, and I believe they are totally deserving of a BCS selection. But the reality is the press and powers that be want no part of that formula. These Pokes have won games they shouldn’t have, broken streaks and done it with a limited number of skill kids that are learning how to get to the next level. Very proud of the Defense yesterday, and like I’ve said before- we’re moving in the right direction with the right formula and leadership. Next year Boise better be ready when they come to Laramie, cause payback is a great equalizer. Go Pokes, smoke the Sheep.

    • Yes! Next year, we are only getting stronger and Boise is only getting weaker. More than anything we lost because we don’t quite have the horses (no pun intended) that Boise does, they’re not 7th in the nation for nothing… That payback is going to be sweeter still. I can honestly say that I’ve always been a passing Poke fan, but have only been an avid Poke fan since 2006. If there is one thing I have learned is patience is key and a little bit of success this early on in the re-building effort can work against you!

      I hope Boise stays in the MW only because they are turning into a good BYU replacement and when it comes to post season, I’m rooting for them all the way, hope they get into a BCS bowl. Maintaining a solid MW conference is gonna be important, and the best part is the Pokes are becoming a key player in that conversation.

      It appears that the weather will be nice for the Border War and Wyoming travel. I hear that there were only 10,000 tops in Fort Collins. Could it be possible there will be as many Wyoming Fans as CSU Fans next saturday?
      Bring on the Brown & Gold Blizzard! Go Pokes.

      • The crowd at csu was weak but the students were gone fit thanksgiving. Still, don’t know if it that made a huge difference. It will be interesting to see the crowd.


  4. WYO is having a good season due to many breaks and good play by the offense. But how can they compete with the defensive front that constantly getting driven off the ball and pancaked, running the same stunts twists (if saw the Boise game that stunt (twist) left the middle wide open with no pass rush, a delayed blitz should have been call with the linebacker blitzing up the middle adding pressure on the QB!!!!! Also, on the goal line the linemen are being blown off the ball, they are too small, big D-Lineman should play inside the 20. In order to compete at a high level changes are needed. Look at other top schools like Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Virginia Tech. It makes you wonder why schools are leaving the Moutain West Conference. The AD and Alumni should address this issue its going to cost Wyo in the future trying to reach the national seen.

    • Dude, we know we’re light in the ass on D.
      We’re making progress, the AD and alumni know the problems. Its up to our Coaches to implement the changes, and get the personnel. Identifying one kid or Coach solves nothing. Teams are leaving the MWC because of $, and the thought of BCS Championships, which is almost disillusioned and completely ridiculous. We need someone other than Craig Thompson at the helm of the MWC, and a new TV contract that is better than the freaking Mountain. But that is entirely another discussion. We’re not Alabama, or CU for that matter- but we are becoming significant as a player in the conference were left to deal with. Thats huge in Laramie, and the state of WYO.

      Wax the Sheep.
      Love it RG!

  5. I thought our defense played as well as can be expected against #7 but I was very disappointed in our offense. The guy that has disappointed me the most is Dominic Rufran. For as many times that B Smith looks his way I have never seen a WR more afraid to catch balls in traffic or over the middle. The INT was partially Rufran’s fault because he chose to run behind the defender instead of infront which is where the ball was thrown. In the first half he flat out stopped running on a ball because he was maybe going to take a shot after catching it. He is usually fine in space but he is not dependable in traffic like McNeill or Ogbonna. If the coaches want the ball in their playmakers hands I say dont take it out of Smiths hands by putting Stratton in but rather put in Stratton for Rufran. He showed on Sat that he’s not afraid of contact and he’s a good enough athlete to catch the ball. Until we can develop a consistent run game with Alexander or Sutton we will struggle against the top teams. 9 total yards from Alexander and Sutton with 13 is not going to get it done and I can’t believe nobody is talking about that glaring issue from Sat. Brett Smith who has been fantastic this season, is fantastic, because usually we have running backs who also have been effective. I don’t care who you are as a QB, if you don’t have an effective running game, you’ll struggle in the passing game as well.

    • It’s hard to establish a running game when you running backs get a total of 10 carries. In fact, the QB position had a total of 20 carries. That didn’t make any sense to me.

      • Don’t think it was planned that way. Run game never got going but no one has run on Boise this year. TCU didn’t.


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