Is this Wyoming’s best defense under Bohl? Well, kinda
LARAMIE -- When it comes to overall defense, this current squad is not yet in the same league as the one from 2017 that finished No. 9 in the nation.
But it's close. No. seriously.
The one black eye for the Cowboys' defense this season has been in the passing game. Wyoming is giving up 288 yards per game through the air. That's 124th in the country out of 130 FBS teams.
This club is also giving up way too many first downs (103rd at 180), third-down conversions (74th at .388%) and fourth-down conversions (104th at .674%).
If you put those numbers to the side, first-year defensive coordinator, Jake Dickert, has done wonders with a team that returned only a handful of starters and lost Andrew Wingard, Marcus Epps and Carl Granderson to the NFL. Wyoming is also without Kevin Prosser and Youhanna Ghaifan.
Last year's defense still finished No. 29 in the nation in total defense, allowing just 22 points and 326.2 yards per game under coordinator Scott Hazelton, who is now at Kansas State and fresh off an upset victory over Oklahoma.
This current version of the Pokes' defense, though ranked 59th overall nationally through eight games, has been better in a number of ways.
Despite having some of the most feared pass rushers in the Mountain West, the 2018 squad managed to get to opposing quarterbacks just 19 times. This fall, Wyoming entered the season with some serious unknowns on the defensive line. Now, we all know Cole Godbout, Mario Mora, Victor Jones and Co. Garrett Crall and Josiah Hall were the two elder statesmen the Pokes figured they could rely on, but it's also been named like Solomon Byrd (6 sacks), Davon Wells-Ross (2) and Javaree Jackson (1.5) getting the job done. Wyoming has 26 sacks this season, which currently outs them 14th in the country in that category. That great defense of 2017 had 33.
Mentioned above, Wyoming gave up just 22 points per game in 2018. If the Cowboys didn't give up 41-and-40 points in back-to-back losses to Washington State and Missouri, they might have been close to the 2019 version, which has allowed just 17.6 points per game, which is 13th best in the nation. Wyoming gave up 31 in a season-opening win over Mizzou. That's the most allowed this season. The 2017 defense allowed just 17.5 points per game. They were lit up just one time. That came at the hands of Justin Herbert and the Oregon Ducks in a 49-13 home loss.
So far, the 2019 Cowboy defense has been the best in Craig Bohl's tenure in Laramie, allowing just 98.4 yards per contest. That is also good enough for 13th best in FBS. You can give the credit here to names like Logan Wilson, Alijah Haliburton and Jackson. It's been a group effort, but these guys have been brick walls. Last season, the Cowboys surrendered 129 rushing yards per game. In 2017, 160 on the ground. Run-game coordinator, AJ Cooper, said all he cares about is the yards per attempt. Well, when you don't allow 100 yards on the ground per game, that number has to be pretty good. For the record, the Pokes are giving up 2.8 yards per carry through eight games.
Let's put this in perspective a bit.
Wyoming still has four games to play and its schedule is back loaded, to say the least. These numbers could all go in different directions after trips to Boise, Logan and Colorado Springs. Even in the Pokes last remaining home game, a date with Border War rival Colorado State on Nov. 22, the Rams come in with one of the best offenses in the country.
There is plenty for Dickert and crew to hang their hats on already this season though. Wyoming is ranked seventh in the nation in red-zone defense (.655%), tackles for loss (16th with 62) and defensive touchdowns (12th with two).
Want more perspective -- Wyoming is regularly playing six redshirt freshmen and a true freshman on defense in Jordan Murry. Nine other underclassmen are on that side of the ball, two.
The future could be a bright one in Laramie.