On Sept. 8, 2012, coach Craig Bohl took his North Dakota State team into Colorado State and beat the Rams 22-7.
That was the second game for then first-year Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, and the first of six straight losses for the Rams as they finished 4-8.
A little more than two years later, Bohl will take another team to Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins. This time as the first-year coach at Wyoming. While some of the Rams’ players and coaches will be the same, Colorado State is a much different squad.
Different in the fact that it is the hottest team in the Mountain West. The Rams have won five straight games, are 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference and became the first bowl-eligible team in the MW after its 16-13 home win over Utah State last week. The Rams also have won 12 of their last 15 games dating back to last season.
“They’ve made great strides with the program and it will be a big challenge,” said Bohl during his Monday news conference.
“You look at their quarterback and (senior Garrett) Grayson’s a guy who’s played an awful lot of football; he’s got 27 starts. He’s throwing the football well and he’s got a great touchdown-to-interception ratio (16 touchdowns, five interceptions). He’s operated the offense very well and I’ve seen significant improvement in him personally the last couple of years.
“While they replaced an awful lot of offensive linemen, they’re playing well as a group together. And they got good skilled players. On defense they have a strong conviction in their scheme and what they’re doing. Probably their strongest part of their whole football team is their special teams. When you put all three of those phases together, you’ve got a solid football team that’s well coached and that’s why they’re receiving top 25 votes.”
Here is video of Bohl’s news conference from Monday:
As you heard Bohl in the early part of the video, things don’t look good for two UW defensive starters to play this week — senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha and senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi. Bohl said Nzeocha is doubtful after he left with a knee injury in the first half in last Saturday’s 27-20 overtime loss to San Jose State. Puletasi is questionable after he left with what looked to be a leg injury late in that game.
Those would be huge blows to an already vulnerable defense, which will be going against the best passing offense and one of the highest scoring offenses in the MW in Colorado State.
Bohl said he will know more about Nzeocha and Puletasi by Tuesday, and if they’re out (and I would count on that at this point), who plays for them. Juniors Jeff Lark and
Malkaam Muhammad, along with sophomore Lucas Wacha all saw more playing time when Nzeocha left. Wacha is the most experienced of that group, having started 11 games last season. Lark was in the game late against San Jose State.
Senior Riley Lange and junior Siaosi Hala’api’api are UW’s only experienced options — along with junior starter Eddie Yarbrough — at defensive end right now.
UW already is down a starter on defense after senior free safety Darrenn White suffered a season-ending knee injury Oct. 11 at Hawaii. Now it could be down as many as three when it plays at Colorado State.
“Everybody has to be ready to go. You never know when your opportunity is going to come, and when it does you have to be ready to take advantage of it,” Wacha said.
Here is more from Wacha Monday:
For more on UW football, and even some news on the Cowboys’ short men’s basketball scrimmage Sunday, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.