Pokes’ Unproven Offensive Line Impresses in Austin
LARAMIE -- Craig Bohl had one task for his offensive line during the fourth quarter of a Week 2 matchup with Portland State: Get us to the finish line.
That didn't happen.
Wyoming's offense, led by quarterback Evan Svoboda, who we now know was replacing an injured Andrew Peasley, ran 12 plays - all runs. It racked up just four yards of total offense and that's if you don't count the 19 penalty yards.
That's against a young defense that gave up 348 yards on the ground a week prior in an 81-7 blowout at Oregon.
The Vikings, meanwhile, nearly turned a 21-point laugher into a seven-point deficit with 1:06 left on the clock. An illegal-man downfield penalty erased a late touchdown toss and a pair of incompletions sealed the deal.
"We had too much penetration and too many negative plays," Wyoming's head coach said postgame. "If you're going to run the ball, and you're going to be a zone team, you can't have negative plays and we had way too many.
"You got a couple of younger guys in there -- they have to pick up the pace a little bit."
Bohl met with the media two days later for his weekly press conference. The film confirmed his frustration.
"I think we need to run the ball better than what we did, it was not as effective," he said, pointing to the Cowboys' 4.4 yards per rush average, which equated to 170 yards on 39 carries. "We need to be able to finish off a game, knowing the other team knows that we're going to run the football."
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A challenge was issued.
Wyoming and its unproven line had a date with the No. 4 team in the land, in their house.
Texas entered last Saturday night allowing just 67 rushing yards per game. Led by linebacker Jaylan Ford, the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, the unbeaten Longhorns had already registered seven sacks to go along with 14 tackles for loss.
"They've improved," Bohl said. "They're explosive, they're disruptive and we need to make sure that we can establish some semblance of a running game and protect the quarterback."
T'Vondre Sweat, all 6-foot-4, 362 pounds of him, is a big reason for that success, Bohl added. The senior defensive tackle was a menace in the trenches in victories over Rice and Alabama.
"He moves well now," Bohl said. "Last year, he didn't move so well."
On paper, Wyoming was in trouble.
Games aren't played on paper.
On the fifth play from scrimmage, the right side of the Cowboys' line -- tackle Caden Barnett and guard Jack Walsh -- put UT defenders on skates, moving them right out of the frame. Center Nofoafia Tulafono sealed his man to the left.
Harrison Waylee reaped the benefits.
Wyoming's junior running back coasted through that massive hole, hit another gear and outraced the secondary 62 yards into the end zone untouched.
That was the highlight.
The visitors rolled up 155 yards on the ground on 38 attempts. Svoboda, who was making his first start under center, was sacked just one time. That was a missed assignment by a pair of tight ends on a third-and-goal.
Texas was credited with a pair of quarterback hits and tallied five tackles for loss, two of which came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
Only one of those stops behind the line belonged to Sweat. He finished the night with just three tackles.
What was Bohl's final grade on that front five after their performance in Austin?
"Very impressed," he said. "I mean, what I see different about Texas, as opposed to past Texas teams I've seen, they're playing defense. That's probably a disparaging comment on some of the other teams that I've seen, but they're really well-coached. They have big, strong guys and I was concerned. Their nose guard, I mean, I think he's heavier than 362 -- and he runs. When we went for fourth-and-short, we moved him."
Bohl credited guards Luke Sandy and Wes King, two redshirt freshmen who are seeing the field for the first time in their young careers this fall. He also pointed to his stalwart at left tackle, Frank Crum, with taking care of business on the edge. Barnett, too.
"I mean, that was a big, big moment against really good, big men," Bohl added. "They showed up."
The Cowboys (2-1) will host an Appalachian State team this Saturday night that has allowed nearly 180 yards per game on the ground. That ranks 113th out of 133 FBS teams. The Mountaineers' (2-1) defense has six sacks through three games to go along with 15 tackles for loss.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. Mountain Time and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
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