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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MW Championship Football Game – pregame primer

Are you ready for some championship football — in Laramie?

For the first time in school history, Wyoming hosts a conference championship game as it takes on San Diego State at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. The winner will be crowned 2016 Mountain West champs.

This is UW’s first home football game in the month of December since 1902.

First, here is my No. 1 key to the game for the Cowboys:

Adjusting on the fly: Both teams played each other two weeks ago so they have a good idea of what each other is about. However, both squads will tweak or change a few things, and the team that adjusts the best and fastest will have a significant edge.

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

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Wyoming at Nevada football primer

Some news and notes prior to Wyoming’s game at Nevada, which kicks off at 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday at Mackay Stadium in Reno.

Per normal, here is my No. 1 key to the game for the Cowboys:

James Butler

James Butler

The Butler didn’t do it: Wyoming’s defense must slow down Nevada junior running back James Butler, who is fourth in the Mountain West in rushing (117.4 yards per game) and third in all-purpose yards (149.3 ypg). UW did a good job against Butler last season as he had 10 carries for 51 yards, but that was due in large part to it leading 28-7 late in the third quarter. If Butler gets going, that opens other things up for Nevada’s offense.

Do you agree or disagree? For more keys to the game, and also a story on Butler, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

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Wyoming vs. Northern Illinois State football primer

Some news, notes and quotes for Wyoming’s season-opening game Saturday night at home against Northern Illinois. Kick off is at 8:30 p.m. at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.

First, my No. 1 key for the Cowboys:

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

A good start: Third-year UW coach Craig Bohl said earlier this week he wants his team to start strong and finish stronger throughout the season. The Cowboys must get off to a good start, which was a problem last season as they were outscored 125-28 in the first quarter. Finishing stronger won’t make a difference if UW finds itself in an early hole like it did most of the 2015.

Agree or disagree? For more keys and coverage of the game, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

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Hill takes pride in how opponents try to defend him

Last season, teams knew Wyoming was going to run the football with running back Brian Hill.

Brian Hill

Brian Hill

As a result, opponents stacked with box with eight or nine guys more often than not. Still, Hill ran for a single-season school record of 1,631 yards in 2015.

“I enjoy the attention, and I like the challenge when teams put eight or nine guys in the box,” Hill said. “I would enjoy to see just seven, but to see teams give me that repsct gives me some pride.

“This year, I’m praying for an eight-man box because we have a quarterback that can sling it, and Im excited to see wht he’s going to do.”

Hill is referring to redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen, the clear-cut starter when fall camp begin Monday, Aug. 8.

But until Allen and the rest of the offense proves otherwise, teams will continue to stack the box against the Cowboys.

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Wick doesn’t plan to change much about his game

Shaun Wick doesn’t plan on changing the way he runs the ball.

Shaun Wick

Shaun Wick

The Wyoming senior running back missed the last eight games last season due to concussions. He received a medical redshirt waiver from the NCAA to return in 2016 and he’s been impressive so far through three spring practices for the Cowboys.

But there is something Wick wants to avoid.

“I feel the same. I’m still a one-cut-and-go guy. Just staying phyical but avoiding those head-to-head hits,” Wick said.

That’s easier said than done for a running back, let alone anyone who plays football at any position.

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Favorite Easter candy among UW football players

Happy Easter everyone.

This day has a much deeper and significant meaning than candy, but to have some fun, I asked a few of the Wyoming football players what they’re favorite Easter candy is.

Senior linebacker Lucas Wacha: Reese’s peanut butter eggs

Senior defensive end Trevor Meader: Reese’s peanut butter bunny

Sophomore defensive end Kevin Prosser: Sour patches. I am not into chocolate much.

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UW vs. UNLV football preview: Notes, quotes and video

My top key for Wyoming Saturday in its season-finale football game against UNLV:

Balanced offense: Wyoming needs to run the ball, but it also needs to get the pass game going. A big reason why the Cowboys have scored 10 points over their last two games is that the production through the air hasn’t been there. The weather will be cold and more geared toward running the ball, but UW can’t be one dimensional and must make some plays throwing the ball.

Here are more keys in my preview video:

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Media Monday: UW looks to send seniors out on winning note

The final news conference and interview session with players and assistant coaches had a definite theme at Wyoming Monday — beating UNLV and sending the eight seniors out on a winning note.

Cameron Coffman

Cameron Coffman

“They’ve just been great friends and great leaders on this team,” said redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman about the other seven seniors. Coffman is in his second year at UW after transferring from Indiana in 2014. “I’m really proud of those guys. It’s easy to quit, easy to give in when you have a season like we are (1-10 overall, 1-6 Mountain West). But they continue to lead, work had and continue to be great role models for the young guys. That’s what I’m most proud of with those guys.”

UW defensive ends coach AJ Cooper has two of the Cowboys’ most well-known seniors in Eddie Yarbrough and Siaosi Hala’api’api. Both have played in more than 40 games in their careers, and both also are team captains.

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New roles for UW wide receivers amid Gentry injury

Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl said Monday he’s “hopeful” junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry will play Saturday at Boise State after suffering a sprained shoulder in UW’s 28-21 win over Nevada last Saturday.

Gentry’s status for the game won’t be known until later this week, but it’s probably a long-shot that he plays. Gentry leads UW with 37 catches for 678 yards, and is tied for the team lead with four receiving touchdowns. His receiving  yards is 15th in the country, and his 96.9 receiving yards per game is 19th.

So, who steps up for the Cowboys while Gentry is out, whether it is just the Boise State game or future games?

Jake Maulhardt

Jake Maulhardt

The first guy is junior Jake Maulhardt, who is second behind Gentry with 36 catches for 366 yards, and is tied with Gentry on the team with four touchdowns. Maulhardt plays the ‘X’ receiver spot, while Gentry plays the ‘Y.’ Maulhardt is a bigger target than Gentry at 6-foot-6, but doesn’t have the speed Gentry has.

“My number may be called more,” Maulhardt said. “I need to capitalize on it an make plays for the team. If it happens, Im ready for it.”

The two guys who likely will see more playing time if Gentry is out are a pair of true freshmen — James Price and Joe Parker. Combined, those two have caught 7 passes for 68 yards this season.

James Price

James Price

Maulhardt thinks Price is similar to Gentry in terms of his size (6-foot-2, 208 pounds) and abilities. Parker is smaller (5-10, 182) and seems like more of a slot receiver than an edge guy. Maulhardt said true freshman Justice Murphy played a lot more last week against Nevada, and is “one of the most athletic guys on the team.”

Gentry and Maulhardt have caught 57 percent of UW’s completed passes this season. Offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said human nature often takes over when guys are pressed into stepping up for a team due to an injury to a teammate as compared to trying to compete for playing time when everyone is healthy and front-line guys are being productive.

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