LARAMIE – The Wyoming football team is five weeks into the
The narrative will go down in history something like this: The Cowboys stunned Missouri of the SEC in the season opener. They were three yards from perfection in non-conference play, falling at Tulsa. Redshirt freshman quarterback, Sean Chambers, didn’t throw the ball much, but, boy, can he run. In fact, Wyoming’s stable of running backs have got some wheels and tenacity, too. The defense played tough. They were ball hawks. The Cowboys didn’t turn the ball over on offense, either.
Craig Bohl’s bunch is currently 4-1 after dismantling UNLV 53-17 in the Mountain West Conference opener.
This past Saturday was the team’s first bye week of the
season. Perfect time for a midterm report, huh? Let’s look at where the Pokes
have thrived and struggled so far during this campaign.
This is where Wyoming ranks on the national stage.
Let’s check out the positives first:
CJ Coldon and Tyler Hall are responsible for the Cowboys’ two defensive touchdowns this season, which ranks Wyoming fourth in the country in that category. Coldon scooped and scored in the victory over Mizzou and Hall took an interception to the house to snag a win at Texas State the following week. Utah State is the only other MWC team with two defensive scores.
Wyoming has lost just one fumble through five games. Of course, that was a big one. Chambers was hit at 3-yard-line in Tulsa with the Pokes going in for the winning score. The Golden Hurricane recovered, giving UW its lone blemish so far this season. New Mexico is the only other conference team that has lost just one fumble so far.
The Cowboys have recovered four fumbles so far this season. Two came in the season-opening win over the Tigers, and UW stole one at Texas State and another in Tulsa. Fresno State is No. 1 in the MWC in this category. The Bulldogs have recovered six fumbles. Utah State, San Diego State, Nevada and Colorado State are all tied with Wyoming.
Hall is mainly responsible for this stat. The senior kick returner is averaging 27.2 yards per kick return through four games. He missed the UNLV game with a concussion. As a team, Wyoming has returned four kicks for 109 yards. Hall was one broken tackle away from scoring a touchdown on a return in San Marcos. Utah State leads the country, averaging 34.6 yards in seven returns. Boise State is ranked third in the nation.
Chambers has thrown just one interception this season. That came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half at Texas State. No harm, no foul. That’s one interception in 90 passes. Nine FBS teams have yet to throw an interception this season. Wyoming is the leader in this category in the MWC. SDSU and Air Force have thrown two picks.
The Cowboys don’t throw the ball much, but when they do it’s effective. Chambers is averaging 17.7 yards per reception. He has completed just 32 passes through five games. Air Force is ranked second in the nation, averaging nearly 21 yards per completion.
Austin Conway is averaging 13.3 yards per punt return this season. He’s snagged 14 punts for a total of 186 yards. San Jose State leads the nation in this category, averaging 25 yards per return. The Aggies come in at No. 15 with an average of 17.5 yards per return. USU also has a touchdown.
The Cowboys are ranked ninth in the nation in red zone defense. In 19 trips inside the UW 20-yard line, opponents have scored just 12 times. That equates to seven touchdowns and five field goals. Against Missouri, Ben Wisdorf caused a fumble at the goal line and Cassh Maluia picked off a Kelly Bryant pass in the end zone. Wyoming leads the conference.
Wyoming’s offense is efficient when it has the ball in the red zone, too. In 17 opportunities, Chambers and Co. have scored 10 touchdowns and booted five field goals. CSU is also ranked No. 43, but has scored 11 touchdowns to go along with four field goals.
Logan Wilson, Javaree Jackson and Alijah Halliburton have their fingerprints all over this category. So do a host of other UW defenders. Wyoming is ranked No. 13 in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 83.4 yards per game. That’s an average of 2.3 yards per rush. The Aztecs, Wyoming’s next opponent, ranks second in the country, allowing only 52.3 yards per game on the ground.
Xazavian Valladay, Titus Swen, Brett Brenton, Trey Smith and Chambers own this one. Wyoming’s crop of runners has racked up 1,241 rushing yards through five games. That’s a 5.6-yard average and roughly 250 yards on the ground per outing. They have added 12 rushing touchdowns, too. Only Air Force – shocker – is better in this category. The Falcons boast the No. 2 rushing attack in the nation, averaging 332 yards per game.
The Cowboys young, inexperienced offensive line has played like a group of seasoned vets so far in 2019. They have the sack numbers to prove it, too. Along with that No. 16 ranking in rushing nationally. UW has allowed just four sacks this season. Air Force, once again, leads the nation here, allowing just one sack so far. New Mexico has allowed only two and USU has given up three.
Wyoming is giving up just over 20 points per game this season, which is good enough for 34th overall. That’s 12 touchdowns and six field goals allowed. SDSU is No. 8 overall, giving up just under 12 points per outing, and Boise State is 21st.
Here is another feather in the cap for the Pokes offensive line. UW has allowed 13 tackles for loss through five games. The Falcons are No. 1 in the nation and the MWC in this category, giving up just nine tackles for loss. Hawaii is fourth in the country.
Solomon Byrd and Garrett Crall have been all over the quarterback so far in 2019. So has the rest of the Cowboys defense. In 2018, UW tallied just 19 sacks all season. So far in 2019, they have 20. That number leads the MWC.
The Pokes aren’t just racking up sack numbers when they are in the opponent’s backfield. They are also taking running backs down behind the line of scrimmage. They’ve done that 30 times already this season. That ranking also leads the conference.
Bohl’s teams, when they are successful, gain a reputation for taking the ball away from the other team. This year, UW is doing that – a lot. Wyoming’s defense has picked off six passes and recovered four fumbles. That’s a turnover margin of plus-8. That ranking also leads the MWC.
Now for the not so positive …
That’s where the Cowboys stand when it comes to third-down conversions. Not good. UW has faced 70 third downs this season. They have converted just 24 of those. Only New Mexico and UNLV are worse in that category.
Wyoming’s defense has improved in this statistic as of late, but it’s not ideal to give up a first down on nearly 37 percent of opponent’s third-down attempts. They have allowed 32 first downs on 88 tries. Nevada, SDSU, Fresno State, UNLV, Air Force and San Jose State have been worse than the Cowboys on third down.
This isn’t all on Chambers, obviously, but when you’re the QB, you take the blame nine times out of 10. The Cowboys are completing just 37 percent of their passes this season. Only one FBS team is worse. That’s Army. And if you know anything about that program, you know they don’t throw the ball. Like, ever. Army has attempted just 22 passes so far. Wyoming has 90 tries.
This has not been a staple of a Bohl-coached team, but Wyoming has 29 penalties in five games. That’s 272 yards worth of penalties. It’s not horrible but needs to be cleaned up with Boise State, Utah State, SDSU and Air Force on the horizon. New Mexico, CSU and Nevada have been penalized more than the Pokes.
Where else would you rather punt than in Laramie? Unfortunately for UW, Ryan Galovich hasn’t been more effective in using the altitude to his advantage, averaging just 38.2 yards per boot. His 31 punts so far this season are the third most by any FBS punter. That is an alarming stat all on its own. Air Force, Hawaii, Nevada, San Jose State, UNLV, Boise State and Utah State are the schools that are averaging fewer net yards per punt.
This shouldn’t be much of a shocker. When you are one of the worst completion teams in the nation, chances are your aerial attack isn’t very effective in general. That has absolutely been the case in Laramie this season. The Pokes are averaging just 116 yards passing per game. Only the service academies and Georgia Southern are worse in this category. They all feature an option attack.
The Cowboys don’t do a consistent job at throwing the football. The same can be said for defending the pass. Injuries, inconsistency and less-than-aggressive play have led to big passing days for Mizzou, Texas State, Idaho and Tulsa. Wyoming gives up 329 yards per game through the air. Only the Lobos feature a worse pass defense. They are 130th overall. Dead last.
This is where the Pokes land in total offense. Not surprising when the team is basically one dimensional. Wyoming averages 365 yards per game. Only San Diego State and Nevada average less.