3 keys to beating the Wolf Pack
WENDOVER, Nev., -- More than 900 miles of Interstate-80 separate Laramie and Reno, Nevada.
Saturday, the Cowboys and Wolf Pack will hopefully put an emotional, bizarre offseason in the rear-view mirror and kickoff the 2020 campaign inside and empty Mackay Stadium.
Nothing will be normal about this season. But here's what we think will be three keys to knocking off Nevada in its own backyard:
Limit big passing plays
Nevada has two of the conference's best receivers on the outside in Romeo Doubs and Elijah Cooks. Wyoming, on the other hand, has two starting cornerbacks with experience in CJ Coldon and Azizi Hearn. Beyond that -- freshmen.
Cooks snagged 76 passes for 926 yards and eight touchdowns a season ago. Doubs added four scores to go along with 44 grabs for 649 yards. Melquan Stovall had a nice game in Laramie, snagging seven passes for 57 yards in the slot.
This is a tough assignment for the Pokes anyway, but throw in the fact that Wyoming will be without starting defensive ends Garrett Crall (injury) and Solomon Byrd (opt out) and Nevada returns four of five on the offensive line. That could lead to a comfortable day in the pocket for sophomore Carson Strong.
It will be up to guys like Victor Jones, Jaylen Pate, Cole Godbout and Ravontae Holt, among others, to fix that.
You do you
Yes, Craig Bohl has said the Cowboys will be more balanced on offense this fall. But, if there's one way to fix ills, it's running the ball -- and the clock. The Cowboys are wizards at both.
Expect to see sophomore quarterback Sean Chambers attempt more passes this season. Levi Williams, who will see time under center, is not afraid to sling it either. But an old saying comes to mind here: "Dance with who brung ya."
Wyoming's best dancer is Xazavian Valladay.
The junior led the Mountain West in rushing a season ago with 1,265 yards. And the big guys, or "Dirt Dogs," as they're known around here, are returning a plethora of starting experience. The Cowboys' offensive line might just have the best interior in the nation. Former Freshman All-American Keegan Cryder anchors the line. Eric Abojei is to his left, Logan Harris to the right.
The Wyoming media often asks Bohl about passing efficiency, lack of consistency and balance, but the old ball coach won't shy away from the team's bread and butter -- running. A lot.
And he shouldn't.
Just score, baby
Bohl said he would be disappointed if the Cowboys don't score more points this season. He should be. So should you. Wyoming's offense remains nearly intact from a season ago. They still have veteran receivers in Ayden Eberhadt, Gunner Gentry and Dontae Crow. They have some new guys, too.
Some big, fast, long new guys.
Get the ball to them.
Isaiah Neyor has stood out in fall camp. Alex Brown is another tall receiver. Devin Jennings is the fastest player on the roster. That youth, mixed with experience, should lead to some good things.
Hey, there's tight ends this year, too. Ones that coaches hope will make a big difference in the passing game. Treyton Welch tops the depth chart, but Jackson Marcotte and Nate Weinman are more than just 6-foot, 7-inch blockers.
Wyoming has the capability of keeping the ball on the ground and draining clock as we mentioned above. This year, that should be a fall back. That should be how this team closes out games, not starts them.
Coaches and players have raved about the transformation of Chambers this fall. He is confident in his throwing ability. So are they.
Let's see it on display.
Admit it, you've said this before: "Can you imagine if Wyoming had any semblance of a passing game to go with this running attack?"
Now is the time. The Cowboys should and could run to set up the pass all day long. If Nevada packs the box, make it pay. If they don't -- make them pay.