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.
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 biggest news coming from Tuesday’s practice was that junior wide receiver James Price will miss the next six weeks with a broken left clavicle suffered in last Saturday’s scrimmage.
Price’s left arm was in a sling as he watched practice in War Memorial Stadium. UW worked out in full pads. Price was listed as a starter, and was emerging as a leader among the Cowboys’ wide receivers.
According to the depth chart UW released late Monday afternoon, sophomore John Okowli is Price’s backup. Fourth-year coach Craig Bohl said true freshman Jared Scott, at 6-6, 230 pounds, also is expected to see more playing time.
The Cowboys began their final week of fall camp with a Monday morning practice on the practice fields just south of War Memorial Stadium.
UW held a 100-plus play scrimmage last Saturday, which fourth-year coach Craig Bohl described as “good.” Bohl said junior quarterback Josh Allen made some “good decisions.” The scrimmage was not open to the media, and no stats were kept.
Here is Bohl after Monday’s practice with more on the scrimmage and other UW football news:
The second half of fall camp for the Cowboys started Monday morning as they practiced in full pads in War Memorial Stadium.
Injury-wise, fourth-year coach Craig Bohl said junior tight end Austin Fort of Gillette will have an MRI on his knee Monday. Fort hurt his right knee in a non-contact drill Friday. He watched Monday’s practice wearing a large brace on the knee.
“We think he is okay, and the initial response was positive with some improvement over the weekend,” Bohl said. “We’ll get more information, but Austin has had a great fall camp. We are at the point now where we have experienced tight ends and more depth.”
Fort and junior Josh Harshman of Casper entered fall camp as tied atop the depth chart, with junior Tyree Mayfield not far behind. Fort played only three offensive snaps last season — his first in making the transition from quarterback to tight end.
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.”
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.
Wyoming junior running back Brian Hill needs 74 yards to pass Devin Moore (2005-08) and become the Cowboys’ career rushing leader. Hill enters Saturday night’s Border War at Colorado State with 2,890 yards in 28 games.
To put that in some perspective, Moore needed 44 games and broke the mark in UW’s last game of the 2008 season against … you guessed it, Colorado State. The Cowboys hope Hill breaks the record Saturday, and then some. They also hope for a better outcome than Moore experienced. UW lost that 2008 game at Colorado State 31-20.
Hill first must pass Ryan Christopherson (1991-94) for second place, but needs only 17 yards to do that. The last time a UW running back broke the school’s career rushing record on the road was Gerald Abraham (1984-87) in the Cowboys’ regular-season finale at Hawaii. Abraham broke the mark with 2,278 yards. That’s now sixth in school history.