A few notes and quotes leading up to Saturday’s home-opener for the Wyoming football team against Washington State. Kick off is at 1:30 p.m. MT.
— “I’ve always believed a football team improves most between its first and second game.” — Fifth-year UW coach Craig Bohl.
— If that’s the case for the Cowboys, things could be fun to watch for the home fans. UW opened the season with a 29-7 win at New Mexico State last Saturday. The offense ran for 312 yards, had more than 400 yards of total offense and the defense held the Aggies to 135 yards of total offense. What could be better for UW? Sustaining drives. The Cowboys failed to convert a good number of third-and-short situations. More balance on offense. The run game was great, but not sure if it will be as effective against Washington State. More plays in the pass game should open up things in the run game. Create turnovers. UW didn’t force a turnover against New Mexico State. Winning the turnover battle — as it is in every game — will be key.
Happy post-Thanksgiving everyone. Hope you got your fill of food and family.
Wyoming wraps up its regular season Saturday at San Jose State at 3 p.m. MT. The game will be carried online on ESPN3.
Here is my No. 1 key for the Cowboys:
Nameless opponent: Wyoming will play another game — a bowl game — no matter the outcome of today’s contest. San Jose State has struggled mightily all season. This has all the makings of a letdown for the Cowboys, unless they come out and play well from the start. Nothing takes the air out of the sails of a struggling team than building an early lead and not letting up. The longer UW lets San Jose State think it can win this game, the more dangerous things get. The Cowboys need to ignore the record and numbers of their opponent and come out like this was a nameless opponent and execute well in all three phases.
It wasn’t always pretty, in fact, it was ugly more often than not, but Wyoming’s 28-21 overtime win over Hawaii Saturday night was big because I got the sense if UW had lost that game it would have been very tough to recover from, despite eight more regular-season games to play.
It doesn’t mean that UW will go on a long winning streak now, although anything is possible. But to me, the way the Cowboys persevered though the game to get a win showed a lot of grit and toughness.
Here are the late-game highlights, including the game-winning plays in overtime:
The Cowboys worked out in War Memorial Stadium Friday morning in shorts, helmets and “spider” pads — a step down from regular shoulder pads.
UW did some special teams work, and sophomore kicker Cooper Rothe attempted field goals at various spots on the field. Rothe did a solid job in the intermediate ranges. Fourth-year coach Craig Bohl said UW also did some two-minute work and he liked what he saw from the defense.
As far as individual players from Friday’s practice, Bohl said sophomore defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan, junior wide receiver James Price and true freshman center Logan Harris of Torrington caught his eye.
Bohl on Harris: “He’s really emerging, and for a freshman that’s a difficult task. He has a great demeanor and good strength. Nothing’s finalized, but we’re taking a hard, hard look at him as our center.”
For the second consecutive day, the Cowboys practiced in War Memorial Stadium Thursday with cool temperatures and light rain, although the sun came out as practiced progressed. The last few days in Laramie felt more like being in Seattle than at 7,220 feet with all the rain and cool weather.
UW worked out in full pads.
One of the early periods of practice was a pass-under-pressure session. Junior quarterback Josh Allen and the No. 1 offense performed well. Allen threw some nice passes to sophomore wide receivers Austin Conway and C.J. Johnson.
Here is fourth-year coach Craig Bohl after practice:
Wyoming football is in the homestretch of spring football with nine of its 15 practices in the books.
The Cowboys’ scrimmage in Casper this past Saturday provided some glimpses of what could be this season, although its difficult to get a great gauge of what to expect this season when a team goes against each other.
Still, it appears that junior quarterback Josh Allen is making good progress in building chemistry with the weapons around him. Allen was relatively sharp in Casper, going 11 of 19 for 133 yards with a pair of touchdown passes to junior wide receiver James Price. However, sophomore wide receivers C.J. Johnson and Austin Conway also looked good.
Here is Allen after the scrimmage:
Earlier this spring, fourth-year UW coach Craig Bohl was concerned about the way the tight ends were catching the ball. But in Casper, juniors Josh Harshman, Austin Fort and Tyree Mayfield all showed good skills catching the ball.
As far as the running backs go, I still contend that UW will have more of a three-back attack this fall. Redshirt sophomore Kellen Overstreet (11 carries 49 yards in the scrimmage) showed some nice speed and power, as did junior Nico Evans (10 carries, 30 yards). Don’t be surprised if sophomore Milo Hall becomes a third-down weapon out of the backfield, both carrying the ball and catching it.
It will be nice once the illness bug that has run through this team finally ends. UW was without its starting center in Casper — sophomore Gavin Rush — due to illness. Backup Boyd Draeger also was out with a concussion. Rush needs as many reps as possible the rest of spring. But I thought junior Cole Turner more than held his own at center in the scrimmage so perhaps some depth is being established there.
UW’s defense had its moments in the scrimmage. Sophomore defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan stood out to Bohl. Junior nose tackle Sidney Malauulu looked good — going mostly against backup — as well with a sack and a fumble recovery.
Casper’s Logan Wilson played only 21 snaps in 70-play scrimmage at middle linebacker, but that was by design to get other younger players some looks. Wilson and sophomore Cassh Malauia should be a solid duo, and it appears senior Jalen Ortiz is establishing himself well at the other outside linebacker spot.
The dismissal of three players, and suspensions of five others earlier this week for a violation of team rules was unfortunate, but it also creates opportunities for others. One player who may benefit the most is sophomore cornerback Tyler Hall. Hall is one of four UW corners who have been getting a lot of reps with the No. 1 defense all spring, but with junior Antonio Hull suspended, don’t be surprised if Hall is the starter coming out of spring along with senior Rico Gafford. Hall isn’t all that big at 5-10, 184 pounds, but he’s tough and has shown good effort most of the spring.
Here is Bohl after the scrimmage:
The Cowboys return to practice Tuesday for their 10th spring practice. They will also practice on Thursday and Saturday. The spring game is set for 2 p.m. April 22.
If you have any questions or comments about the Cowboys, I’d love to hear them. You can post comments on this blog, or shoot me a question via Twitter: @rpgagliardi.
Also, be sure to check out the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net for more UW spring football coverage.
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.
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.
Fall camp begins Monday for Wyoming football, which consists of 24 practices.
There are lots of questions and storylines going into camp, but one that always intrigues me is who among the newcomers will play.
Last season, 26 true freshmen or redshirt freshmen played for the Cowboys, which was the seventh-most in the country.
Third-year coach Craig Bohl said during Mountain West Football Media Days in late July that he doesn’t expect as many this season, nor does he expect 16 true freshman to see playing time like in 2015.
But there will be some true freshmen who play, and Bohl said that three things play factors in that: physical ability, emotional maturity and need at certain positions.
Here are some true freshman Bohl mentioned to me who UW likely will take a hard look at during camp:
— WR John Okwoli: The 6-2, 205-pounder from Phoenix was a three-star recruit by ESPN and 247sports.com. He was one of the more highly-touted recruits in UW’s 2016 class. UW looks to be set among its top two receivers in seniors Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt. Redshirt freshman C.J. Johnson had a good spring. UW needs more wide receivers other than Gentry and Maulhardt to step up, and Okwoli could get a chance.