Cryder is Pokes ‘War Daddy’
LARAMIE -- When Bart Miller was hired as Wyoming's new offensive line coach this offseason he brought a few things to the table.
The "War Daddy Trophy."
The first two traits have been on display nearly every Saturday, beginning with a dominant performance against Missouri in the season opener. The Cowboys front five bullied the Tigers to the tune of 297 yards rushing. They didn't allow a sack either.
The "Dirt Dogs" were born.
The trophy was something Miller introduced through a text message. He asked junior guard Logan Harris to bring him a couple of tree stumps from Rob Roy Reservoir.
"I thought maybe, he does a lot of work with wood," Harris laughed. "He has a little shop in his garage."
That wasn't it.
"I've done a trophy everywhere I've been," Miller said. "It's been a silver cup at some places, others places it's been something hand made. We try to make it something unique to the location. I had brought the idea to the guys this summer. It's has a woodsman mentality. We thought of it that way.
"Logan came through for me."
This trophy is given to the Wyoming lineman that finishes the season with the most knockdowns. The grading is strict, too. Each week, Miller and his guys watch game film and grade the hits. There are no gimmes.
If there's a disagreement, it goes to a vote. Those meetings can turn heated.
This block of Wyoming wood with a brown-and-gold ax struck into the top is a big deal.
One thing there is no disagreement about is the winner this season. That honor goes to sophomore center, Keegan Cryder.
And it's not close.
Cryder has 107 knockdowns through 11 games. The next closest teammate is Harris. He's 52 behind Cryder.
"I was out of the game for three weeks," Harris joked about Cryder taking such a large lead. "We take it pretty serious. Now, it's a fight for second place."
Miller said Harris, along with Frank Crum, Rudy Stofer and Alonzo Velazquez are still in the running for silver.
"(Harris) can play the what-if game all day long," Cryder laughed. "Maybe he will have a better chance next year. Unless I trip over the finish line, it's in the bag."
All kidding aside, what Cryder has accomplished this season is serious business. He is also flirting with history. The former freshman All-American has already topped Miller's best number from when he was a senior lineman at the University of New Mexico. Now, he's closing in on the top number Miller has ever seen, though he most likely won't reach that this season.
Travis Frederick was a starting center for Miller at Wisconsin. During his senior season for the Badgers, Frederick tallied 135. A few months later he was selected 31st overall in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
Keyword in all of that -- "senior."
Cryder still has two more full seasons in a Cowboys uniform.
"Keegan is so effective because he's got a very good understanding of our offense and where guys will be," Miller said. "He gets to that spot and he's good at finishing. He kicks in strength and power to finish guys as opposed to a guys like Eric (Abojei) and Logan, who have so much power off the line and get true knock backs then bury guys. Keegan sits and drives guys the old-fashioned style."
"It's something we take pride in," he said. "It's his dominance. His finish. He gets in really good positions on guys and gets them on their heels. He has the motor to finish every play. He doesn't quit."
That explains Cryder's massive lead with one regular season game to go. Another reason he has been so successful is health.
Cryder has started all 11 games this season, while a majority of the unit has spent time on the shelf with various injuries. Abojei is arguably the Cowboys best all-around lineman. He has been out since Week 6 at San Diego State. Velazquez was hurt during that game, too. Zach Watts returned to the Wyoming lineup two weeks ago in Logan, Utah. He was hurt during spring ball. Harris, of course, missed games against UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico with a concussion he suffered in Tulsa.
The past two weeks, Miller joked that Cryder has scored just 6.5 and three knockdowns in back-to-back games against Utah State and Colorado State.
"I think that's just the season," Cryder laughed. "It's exhausting."
Wyoming's offensive line has been one of the best in the nation this season. The Cowboys are averaging 217 yards per game on the ground. That is good enough for 21st in the country at 4.8 yards per carry. This unit has allowed just 18 sacks this season. Five of those were registered in Friday night's 17-7 win over Border War rival Colorado State.
What does this trophy mean to Cryder?
"I love the aspect of having that goal," he said. "He wants us to play more physical. Bart has changed the mindset around here. Plus, It's a cool trophy with bragging rights. Overall, it's a goal to play tougher. That has done that.
"It's amazing what a tree stump can do."
So, what will Cryder do once he is presented his new hardware?
"I don't know exactly. I think I get it for a night," Cryder said. "Guys previously had different styles of trophies and took them out on the town.
"My goal is to just get better every single year. Winning this trophy just reflects how I play."