Two issues about Wyoming’s defense was brought up to first-year Wyoming coach Craig Bohl this week.
–The Cowboys have no sacks from their defensive ends, and only one sack from a defensive linemen through three games.
–UW has allowed opponents to convert 51 percent of their third-down chances, including 9 of 11 in last week’s 48-14 loss at No. 2 Oregon.
Bohl didn’t seem too concerned about the play of the defensive ends. Any sacks or tackles for loss against Oregon and junior Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Marcus Mariota would have been tough.
There were times UW pressured him, but Mariota outran the rush and most of UW’s defense for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
In the Cowboys’ 17-13 win over Air Force on Sept. 6, they had two sacks — one by senior defensive tackle Patrick Mertens. The Falcons threw a lot early, but UW faced more of a run-oriented option offense.
UW had one sack in its 17-12 season-opening win over Montana, but it pressured and hit quarterback Jordan Johnson a lot and kept him out of sync for most of the game. Doing that is just as important as getting sacks, and could be a key in Saturday’s home game with Florida Atlantic.
The Owls have a dual-threat quarterback, much like Johnson and Mariota, in Jacquez Johnson. It would be nice if UW sacked him a lot, but more importantly, not let him get into a rhythm where he can hurt the Cowboys with his legs and his arm — especially the deep pass. “It would be good to be in more third-and-eight situations where we can pin our ears back a little bit,” Bohl said. “I believe we have good defensive ends, but over the first couple of games I don’t know if we’ve been able to highlight their skills.”
Mertens leads UW’s defensive linemen with 14 tackles, followed by junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough (12).
Mertens’ 2.5 tackles for loss is first among the defensive linemen, and Yarbrough has two.
Of UW’s 14 tackles for loss, 5.5 have come from defensive linemen.
Speaking of third down, Bohl said UW’s third-down defense can and should improve if its does better on first and second downs.
Bohl said defenses that force second-and-8 or longer situations get off the field 60 percent more often. When teams have more manageable third downs, like four yards or less, the percentages drop for the defense to get off the field.
Against Oregon, the Ducks turned third downs into first downs from both short and long distances. UW simply didn’t have an answer for the Ducks on any down. On four touchdowns drives, the Ducks didn’t face a third down.
Air Force and Montana were a combined 16 of 38 (42 percent). That isn’t bad, but it needs to be better. It will be interesting moving forward where that percentage ends up.
For more on UW football, including a story on true freshman cornerback Robert Priester who had his first significant playing time on defense against Oregon last week, see Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and log on to wyosports.net.