Return of Treyton Welch a welcome one for Wyoming
LARAMIE -- The excuses were lobbed a Craig Bohl like a beach ball.
How on earth did his team -- a 30-plus point favorite -- mange to escape with a narrow 24-22 win at lowly UConn?
Was it the travel?
Wyoming rarely plays on the east coast. In fact, the Cowboys don't often wander into the eastern time zone, let alone fly 1,885 miles to New England, which also included a pitstop for fuel in Minneapolis.
Maybe it was the spread?
The oddsmakers figured this one would be a blowout. After all, the Cowboys were 3-0 coming in. The Huskies didn't play at all in 2020 because of the virus. The program's last victory came against UMass back in October of 2019. If you're keeping track at home, that drought has now reached 710 winless days.
According to Wyoming's eighth-year head coach, a number of factors went into that anxiety filled evening in East Hartford.
Bohl gave plenty credit to the home team. He lauded the Huskies' effort and resolve. He also pointed out the obvious -- Wyoming committed 10 penalties for 99 yards. Most of those led to UConn points. Another took an Esaias Gandy interception off the books.
There was another reason though for the slow offensive start, according to Bohl.
The team missed Treyton Welch.
"I also think it took us a little while to get in the groove of what we wanted to do offensively," he said postgame. "We do count on Treyton a lot."
Welch, a sophomore tight end from Buffalo, Minn., was on the sideline that day inside Rentschler Field, but an ankle injury he sustained the previous week in Laramie against Ball State left him parked for precautionary reasons.
"I don't think he would have been functionable," Bohl added. "He dressed, he moved around, but actually we put Rudy (Stofer) in there as a tight end a lot of the times, so you could tell we were trying to do some things."
Stofer, by trade, is a left tackle.
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Wyoming eventually got back to its roots and started dominating the line of scrimmage and chewing up clock with a power running game. Safety Rome Weber batted down the Huskies' final two-point attempt to preserve the victory and the Cowboys unblemished record.
Still, missing a tight end caused all of that?
"It's good to know they missed me a bit," Welch joked. "To me, that means we have such a good chemistry and well-rounded team that we need all 11 on the field. It's really a blessing to hear coach says that."
The 6-foot-3, 233-pound Welch has snagged just five passes for 34 yards through three games. However, two of those have been touchdown grabs, including the game winner in the season opener against Montana State. He has also been a major player in the Cowboys rushing attack.
On the opening drive of the third quarter in a Week 3 win over Ball State, quarterback Sean Chambers threw a quick out to Welch. Just as he hauled in the catch and looked to turn up field, he was blasted low by a Cardinal defender.
It didn't look good.
"To be honest, I was a little confused," Welch said. "Pain shot up my leg a bit but I was thinking 'I'm fine.' I got up and couldn't walk on my ankle. My Achilles was hurting a little, too. I was hoping it wasn't that."
Welch was helped off the field by trainers and escorted to the medical tent on the home sideline.
He feared the worst.
Luckily for him, the official diagnosis wasn't that.
"I'm definitely blessed not to have a knee injury or a really bad ankle injury," he said. "It's just a sprain. I'm very thankful what could've been, wasn't."
Welch said he could've come back into the Ball State game. In fact, he wanted to. Same can be said for East Hartford. It was in his best interest, he said, to not even try it, especially with the bye week ahead.
Fast forward a week, and Welch said he is healthy and ready to go against Air Force this Saturday. The break came at the perfect time. Welch doesn't like missing any games, but this one -- it's a must.
"I would consider every team in the Mountain West a rival, but the mindset is we need to beat this team," he said, adding that Air Force is always chippy and tough to play against. "We need to beat every team."
The Cowboys and Falcons will kickoff at 5 p.m. Saturday in Colorado Springs.