Bath breaks down UW’s running backs this spring

It’s been three months since Wyoming football played its last game, but football returns to UW starting Tuesday with the first of 15 spring practices.

Brian Hill

The Cowboys must replace junior running back Brian Hill, who left UW after his junior year to try his hand a pro football. Hill was UW’s career-leader in rushing yards (4,287) and rushing touchdowns (35).

The top four guys — in alphabetical order — to watch this spring are junior Nico Evans (5-9, 205), redshirt freshman Mike Green (5-11, 205), sophomore Milo Hall (5-8, 190) and redshirt sophomore Kellen Overstreet (5-11, 215).

“Each one of them is unique,” UW running backs coach Mike Bath said. “Nico physically looks good. He’s strong and works his rear end off. I think he can be a Shaun Wick type of guy, which is positive. He’s smart, reliable and understands hat we want to get accomplished.

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Poinsettia Bowl postgame thoughts

It wasn’t the ending players, coaches and fans wanted, but if anything, UW’s 24-21 loss to Brigham Young in Wednesday’s Poinsettia Bowl was entertaining and exciting — at least in the second half.

The Cowboys (8-6) followed a familiar pattern as the season concluded. Slow or sluggish starts to games — even extending to the first half and third quarter — and then a furious rally late.

But just like in the 27-24 loss to San Diego State in the MW Championship Game on Dec. 3, that rally fell short.

Some initial thoughts/observations:

Brian Hill

Brian Hill

— Disappointing to see junior running back Brian Hill benched for the first quarter by third-year coach Craig Bohl, who said after the game it was a “coach’s decision.” Obviously, Hill didn’t do anything earth-shattering wrong, but disappointing to see. Would things have changed if he played? Maybe, maybe not. Hill played well when he returned (93 yards, 1 TD, and one catch for 19 yards). I thought senior Shaun Wick played really well — even when Hill returned. Wick had 13 carries for 55 yards and caught one pass for six yards.

— Sunny San Diego didn’t live up to its hype. Yeah, the game was at night but it rained like crazy in the first half. Both teams had to play in it, but it definitely affected UW the worst. A bobbled snap on a punt (the snap was good) and a botched hold on a field goal (the snap was good) cost UW dearly. Other shortcomings cost UW, but those special teams gaffs hurt a lot.

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Poinsettia Bowl pregame primer

I’ve done this all season, so why stop now. Here’s my No. 1 key for Wyoming in tonight’s Poinsettia Bowl vs. BYU. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. MT at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The game is televised on ESPN.

Players making plays: Meaning Wyoming’s best players must make plays. Whether it’s on offense, defense or special teams, the guys the Cowboys have leaned on throughout the season must be good from start to finish. If some unsung players do so, even better. But in big games like this, big-time players make big-time plays.

Lucas Wacha

Lucas Wacha

Nineteen seniors will play their last game for UW. Some will have bigger roles than others, but one who will have the biggest role is middle linebacker Lucas Wacha, who also is a team captain. This is what third-year-coach Craig Bohl said of Wacha earlier this week in San Diego.

“The biggest transition he made was taking ownership in the defense. I saw a transition last year when we were struggling, he always had a positive attitude and at times challenged some of the guys that weren’t performing or preparing to perform the way they needed to.

“They say nice guys are a dime a dozen, but a leader is priceless. Lucas is a nice guy, but he’s a great leader.”

Wacha is third on the team with 104 tackles and 8.0 tackles for loss, and is tied for third with three quarterback sacks. He needs three tackles to move into seventh place and 12 to be sixth in career tackles in school history. Wacha enters the game with 340 tackles.

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Williams poses potential problems for Wyoming defense

Wyoming has faced its share of good running backs this season.

It played against the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher twice in San Diego State senior Donnel Pumphrey. Boise State’s junior Jeremy McNichols, Nevada junior James Butler and a whole host of backs at New Mexico were others, and that’s just in conference play.

Jamaal Williams

Jamaal Williams

The Cowboys will see another one in Wednesday’s Poinsettia Bowl in Brigham Young senior Jamaal Williams, who is the Cougars’ career rushing leader with 3,691 yards.

I asked a couple of UW defensive players if Williams compares favorably to any of the backs they’ve faced this season.

“He’s kind of like the (junior) Rashaad Penny from San Diego State,” senior middle linebacker Lucas Wacha said. “You don’t see too many backs like him. He’s big, physical and we’re excited to play against him.”

Williams is listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. He missed three games with an ankle injury, but he ran for 1,165 yards, 11 touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. His longest run was 62 yards. He also caught seven passes for 80 yards.

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San Diego State 27, Wyoming 24 – postgame thoughts

As I wrote in my column for Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Laramie Boomerang and online at wyosports.net, Wyoming didn’t make the plays it did two weeks ago in its 34-33 win over San Diego State. The result was a 27-24 loss in the Mountain West Championship Game to the Aztecs Saturday night at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

Here’s the link to that column:

http://www.wyosports.net/university_of_wyoming/gagliardi-column-wyoming-comes-up-short-against-san-diego-state/article_326061ec-b9f0-11e6-b6b2-57d684ce34a4.html

Brian Hill

Brian Hill

The Cowboys were not able to run the ball, aside from a 66-yard run by junior running back Brian Hill. UW had just 95 rushing yards in the game. Take Hill’s big run away and it did little to nothing in the run game. UW’s offensive line struggled from start to finish in both the run and pass game. Credit should be given to San Diego State’s defense, which had been gashed the previous two games.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen was knocked around pretty good throughout the game, and took a pretty obvious cheap shot by a San Diego State defender in front of an official, but no call was made. The offensive line struggled throughout the game, but again, I think San Diego State played much better defensively than it did in Laramie two weeks ago.

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How I voted for the 2016 All-Mountain West football team

Wyoming was well represented as the Mountain West released its all-conference football teams Tuesday afternoon.

Those who voted were the 12 head coaches in the league, and selected media — including myself.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

Third-year coach Craig Bohl was the Coach of the Year. Redshirt freshman linebacker Logan Wilson of Casper was the Freshman of the Year. Four players made the first team: junior running back Brian Hill, senior tight end Jacob Hollister, senior offensive lineman Chase Roullier and sophomore free safety Andrew Wingard — all of whom I had on my first-team ballot. I also voted for Bohl and Wilson in their respective awards.

Here’s the link to see the entire 2016 All-MW football honorees:

http://www.themwc.com/news/mountain-west-announces-2016-football-all-conference-teams-and-individual-honors-11-28-2016

 

There was some controversy, at least among the fans.

Josh Allen

Josh Allen

UW redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen made the second team. Boise State sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien got the nod as the first-teamer. He’s the only player to be the first team quarterback in back-to-back years as a freshman and sophomore in league history. I had Allen as my first team quarterback, but if you look at the numbers, Rypien had the edge. You can’t go wrong with either one, and both were clearly the top two quarterbacks in the conference.

I was a little surprised that UW senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry didn’t make the first team. Colorado State junior Michael Gallup got the nod, along with Boise State senior Thomas Sperbeck, who was a no-brainer in terms of making the first team. Gentry and Gallup had similar numbers. Both caught 11 touchdown passes. Gallup had eight more catches (70 to 62) and 32 more yards (1,164 to 1,132). Gentry had a better yards-per-catch average (18.3 to 16.7).

Brian Hill

Brian Hill

Boise State fans were miffed that junior running back Jeremy McNichols didn’t make the first team. He certainly had the numbers to be there, and the way this league has been with running backs the last couple of years they should have at least three guys on the first team. But you also can make strong arguments that Hill and San Diego State senior Donnel Pumphrey (the MW Offensive Player of the Year) should be on there, too. Who do you leave off? Last year it was Hill.

Below is how I voted. Most of it lines up with the official results.

QUARTERBACK

Josh Allen – Wyoming

Brett Rypien – Boise State

RUNNING BACK

Donnel Pumphrey – San Diego State

Brian Hill – Wyoming

Jeremy McNichols – Boise State

James Butler – RB – Nevada

WIDE RECEIVER

Thomas Sperbeck – Boise State

Tanner Gentry – Wyoming

Michael Gallup – Colorado State

Jalen Robinette – Air Force

TIGHT END

Jacob Hollister – Wyoming

David Wells – San Diego State

OFFENSIVE LINE

Chase Roullier – Wyoming

Nico Siragusa – San Diego State

Daniel Brunskill – San Diego State

Mario Yakoo – OL – Boise State

Dylan Vail – Air Force

Fred Zerblis – Colorado State

Austin Corbett – Nevada

Jake Simonich – Utah State

Reno Henderson – New Mexico

Jake Bennett – Colorado State

DEFENSIVE LINE

Alex Barrett – San Diego State

Ricky Ali’ifua – Utah State

Sam McCaskill – Boise State

Kyle Kelley – DE – San Diego State

Nik D’Avanzo – New Mexico

Meffy Koloamatangi – Hawai’i

Ryan Watson – Air Force

Malik Reed – Nevada

LINEBACKER

Tau Lotulelei – UNLV

Dakota Cox – New Mexico

Tanner Vallejo – Boise State

Calvin Munson – San Diego State

Christian Tago – San Jose State

Kevin Davis – Colorado State

DEFENSIVE BACK

Weston Steelhammer – Air Force

Damontae Kazee – San Diego State

Jonathan Moxey – Boise State

Andrew Wingard – Wyoming

Brodie Hicks – Air Force

Malik Smith – San Diego State

Andre Chachere – San Jose State

Trayvon Henderson – Hawai’i

KICKER

John Baron II – San Diego State

Luke Strebel – Air Force

PUNTER

Hayden Hunt – Colorado State

Michael Carrizosa – San Jose State

RETURN SPECIALIST

Rashaad Penny – San Diego State

D.J. May – Wyoming

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

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Wyoming at New Mexico football – pregame primer

Been doing this all season, so why stop now.

First, my No. 1 key for Wyoming to win Saturday night’s game at New Mexico:

Play keep away: Meaning it’s in UW’s  best interest to possess the ball, and obviously score points, to keep New Mexico’s high-powered yet time-consuming triple-option offense off the field. The Cowboys did a good job of this last week against San Diego State. Not saying UW’s defense isn’t capable of stopping or slowing down New Mexico, but it is dangerously thin depth-wise up front and the fewer plays it can be on the field, the more fresh it can stay.

Yes, no? For more keys, along with a cool story on some players on the Cowboys’ last divisional title team from 1996 and their take on this year’s squad, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

With Boise State’s 27-20 loss at Air Force Friday, UW clinched the Mountain Division of the Mountain West. A win Saturday at New Mexico should ensure the Cowboys host the MW Championship Game Saturday, Dec. 3 against San Diego State. A loss could mean UW plays the championship game in San Diego. It would help UW a lot — win or lose — if San Diego State loses at home Saturday against Colorado State.

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UW football weighs in on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be tough for college football players and coaches because, more often than not, they’re season is still going on.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

Wyoming is no different as it prepares to play its regular-season finale Saturday at New Mexico. Third-year coach Craig Bohl said there will be a “big team dinner” planned for Thanksgiving day.

I asked some guys on the team two questions leading into Thanksgiving: What they’re most thankful for and their favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.

For Bohl, he said he was most thankful for this season’s seniors and how they’ve bought in and stuck it out from the start. As for the food, he said cranberries and turkey.

Here are the responses from others:

True freshman kicker Cooper Rothe

Most thankful: My teammates. Even when I struggled early, they stuck by me, supported me and told me they wanted me because I was good.

Food: Pie, and anything sweet.

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Wyoming 34, San Diego State 33 – postgame thoughts

Another game, another amazing, odd, exciting (pick your own word) finish as Wyoming rallied then held on for a 34-33 victory over previously No. 24 San Diego State Saturday at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

How odd and exciting? Check out my late-game highlights that include UW’s game-winning touchdown on a 29-yard pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen to redshirt freshman wide receiver C.J. Johnson. Also included is San Diego State’s Hail Mary pass on the final play to pull to within one (a play that was ruled incomplete and then reversed) and then its failed two-point conversion.

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Wyoming vs. No. 24 San Diego State – Pregame primer

Some pregame reading for Wyoming’s home-finale Saturday vs. No. 24-ranked San Diego State. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m., and the game is televised on CBS Sports Network.

Here is my No. 1 key to the game for UW in the game:

Offense is the best defense: Wyoming faces one of the nation’s best defenses today, and over the last 17 Mountain West games San Diego State has allowed an average of about 10 points per game. Still, the Cowboys must find a way to win the time of possession battle, finish drives with points and most importantly, keep its defense fresh so it’s not on the field for 97 plays like it was last week at UNLV.

For more keys, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

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