Can Pokes rebound from last Saturday’s ‘gut punch?’
LARAMIE -- Frank Crum was direct and straight to the point -- Friday is the biggest game of the season for this young Wyoming football team.
Though the dangling carrot, in the form of a Mountain West title game appearance, is off the table, the junior said this one is about the guys in that locker room.
"You know, at first, it was a gut punch," Crum said, referring to the Cowboys' 20-17 heartbreaking loss to Boise State last Saturday night that knocked them out of the championship race. "But, today, you know, it's like, let's go win a game because we can. Let's be an eight-win team because we can. We love being around each other and winning football games. We don't want to go out there and lose no matter what that dictates for us, win or lose, doesn't matter. We can all go out there together and win a football game."
Wyoming's 6-foot-7, 315-pound right tackle said a win in the regular-season finale at Fresno State will show the makeup of this roster, which is the third-youngest in the FBS.
"If we come together, which I know we will, and if we get a win out in Fresno, it shows what kind of character is in Laramie, Wyoming," he added.
This program hasn't won eight games in the regular season since 2016. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 2011. Crum said he wants to be part of something special. This was the latest he has ever been in the title chase in his five-plus years on campus.
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The locker room was understandably a somber one last Saturday night, he said, but he can't help but think of the future and what ending on a high note can mean for this team going forward. The fact that just four players -- Eric Abojei, Marco Machado, Zach Watts and Miles Williams -- were honored on senior night, brings a smile to Crum's face.
It also helped him make up his mind about his own future.
"We've got a lot coming back, and for me, personally, I made the decision last week -- I'm going to stay for my sixth year," he said. "I'm not transferring. I'm not going to declare yet. I have more left here at Wyoming."
Last December was a busy one on the high plains in those regards.
After a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory over Kent State, Crum's teammates started to hit the NCAA Transfer Portal in droves. Both quarterbacks -- Sean Chambers and Levi Williams -- were gone. Isaiah Neyor, the Cowboys' leading receiver, left, too. So did Xazavian Valladay, who wrapped up his UW career as the program's second all-time leading rusher in history. Wyoming also saw two starting corners and four defensive linemen exit stage left.
There were more, 15 in total.
Does Crum think that will be an issue again this winter?
"I truly don't know anything from a lot of guys -- guys don't speak on it," he said. "You know, I feel like there could be a couple just because every college team is going to have a couple. But mass exodus, I don't see it at all. I think guys who are here now enjoy being here and want to be here.
"This is the real deal. I don't see a mass exodus again. I really don't."
For now, Crum said his focus is on wrapping up two more wins this season. The first one could come Saturday night inside Bulldog Stadium. Fresno State is also in search of its eighth victory of the season, however, it will represent the West Division in the Mountain West Championship game Dec. 3 in Boise.
Will the starters play? If so, how long?
Crum couldn't care less.
"You know, we have the 24-hour rule," he said. "Guys were really bummed out and they probably should have been, but we had 24 hours to get over it. I haven't seen a guy sulking around or anything. I think we're ready to get back on the horse and go beat Fresno, because we can."
Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. Mountain Time and the game will be televised on FS1.