Better late than never
LARAMIE – Looking for someone to blame for the Cowboys slow
start on defense in San Marcos?
Still harping on that 14-spot Mizzou put up in the first 15
minutes of the opener?
“I’ll take that responsibility,” Jake Dickert said Monday afternoon in Laramie.
Wyoming’s first-year defensive coordinator said he didn’t
know what to expect from Texas State last Saturday night. So, he decided to
play it safe. He told his defensive linemen and linebackers to stay in their
lanes. He asked the secondary to keep everything in front of them.
The Cowboys followed their coach. Texas State didn’t.
The Bobcats lowly offense racked up 203 passing yards over
the first 30 minutes. They hit big plays over the top and their wide receivers
ran right through the Cowboys’ secondary to the end zone.
There was little pass rush. That’s being kind. And Texas
State even found some success on the ground in the early going.
Once again, the opponent’s quarterback had a career day. First, it was Missouri’s Kelly Bryant. He threw for 423 yards and two touchdowns. Last Saturday it was Gresch Jensen. He completed 33-of-54 passes for 394 yards and a score.
“We were too protective with defensive line, cancelling gaps and trying to spread guys out and take away RPI (Run-pass-option) windows,” Dickert said about the first half in San Marcos. “We finally said, ‘let them go.’ Having the lead and the game situation helps, but we definitely changed our mindset – let’s attack more, let’s stop moving as much and let them pass rush. We have to create more situations where we let these guys go … We can let them be more aggressive.”
In the second half, Wyoming pass rushers got to Jensen five times. He tossed a game-changing interception right into the hands of Tyler Hall, who went 72 yards the other way for a touchdown. He also fumbled while under duress from Mario Mora.
Texas State finished with 444 yards of total offense. They
were minus-2 in the turnover category.
It was the tale of two halves.
The scheme changed in the second half, unveiling what
Dickert says he loves so much about the defense he inherited from Scott
Hazelton, who is now at Kansas State.
“To me, it’s the grit,” he said. “I think, the last couple
of years, talent and flash were the headliners. It’s not all these star names
anymore, it is guys working hard for each other. They have dealt with adversity
these first couple of games. They can be better.
“They are playing for each other. They are trusting each other.”
Want to see grit? Watch No. 88 Garrett Crall whip two offensive linemen on his way to tossing Jensen on his wallet late in the fourth:
The Cowboys now have six takeaways through their first two
games. The defense has scored two touchdowns already.
That’s not a mistake.
Dickert gives all that credit to Wyoming's head coach, Craig Bohl.
“I’ve coached at nine places and I’ve never been to a place
that allows us to rip and strip at our own offense more than here,” he said. “It’s
about having explosive athletes and guys playing hard and fast. That’s how you
The game plan, he said, will always be to keep plays in
front of the defense.
Before you cringe, hear him out.
Playing soft, he said, doesn’t mean giving up big plays.
However, he does want his defense to evolve into one that takes more chances.
Case in point: Hall’s interception.
The senior corner back said he saw that same play earlier in
the game. He noticed the formation. He watched the quarterback’s eyes. He
jumped the route.
That is a veteran play, Dickert added.
He said his guys are earning more and more responsibilities.
“We’ve been a bend-but-don’t-break defense the last three
years,” he said. “We try to keep the ball in front and limit explosive plays.
Those have hindered us in the passing game. We will get more and more
aggressive as the season goes on.”
Another common denominator in the first two weeks of the
season – the Cowboys have come out on top.