Three takes: Bohl, Cowboys get ‘schooled’ by Hawaii
LARAMIE -- Sayonara to one of the most disappointing football seasons in the 125 years Wyoming has fielded a football team.
Goodbye to head-scratching inconsistencies, miscues and mismanagement.
Aloha, bowl hopes. (Though statistically the Cowboys could still receive an invite. We'll get to that later.)
We were told this squad was ready to kick the door down and compete for a Mountain West championship. A quick glance at the opening-day roster -- which returned more than 95% of its talent from a year ago -- it was easy to be fooled. More than 145 combined starts for this veteran offensive line and one of the top running backs in school history also made us easy believers.
Players talked title. So did coaches.
It was odd, something Craig Bohl teams don't do.
That just ratcheted up expectations.
We heard this offense, one of the worst in the conference since a guy named Allen was under center, was "re-engineered."
Though we all knew the Cowboys would still feature a run-first approach, we were told tight ends would be heavily involved. Isaiah Neyor, one of the top young wide outs in the country, was back. Surely he would play a major role in this new era of Vigen-less football on the high plains.
We were sold a bill of goods.
This team underperformed from the start, escaping late with an opening-day home victory over an FBS team -- coached by Brent Vigen, no less. Aside from a blowout win over Ball State in Week 3, the Cowboys struggled mightily in non-conference play.
They got the golden pass. They went 4-0.
Then the real season started.
Wyoming netted five yards of total offense in the first 25 minutes of play in a road loss at Air Force.
Then came the streak. Ten quarters, three points.
Wyoming was "under water" if you asked their eighth-year head coach. Turnovers were the main culprit. Unforgivable penalties and inconsistent quarterback play also played a role.
This is a prostyle offense. Your signal caller has to be your best player. Most nights, that wasn't the case. Most nights, it wasn't close.
The defense, led by NFL-bound Chad Muma, fulfilled its end of the bargain more times than not. The secondary made light work of Drew Plitt, Jake Haener and Logan Bonner, three of the better quarterbacks in the country.
Then there are days like this one where Chevan Cordeiro and the visiting Rainbow Warriors moved the ball at will -- on the ground and through the air. We saw this happen in Colorado Springs. We saw it in the second half at Northern Illinois.
This season has been trying. It's been downright maddening. It's easy to point fingers. There's plenty of blame to go 'round, too.
Though the "buck stops with him," Bohl isn't going anywhere -- unless it's his decision. He's under contract until 2024 at a cool $1.7 million per. Next fall will make Year 9 of the Bohl era in Laramie. That will be tied with Lloyd Eaton for the longest tenure in school history.
So what are the answers?
How can a team go on the road and knock off the Mountain Division champions 44-17 one week and seven days later get blasted at home by a five-win team from a tropical island? How can you lose to New Mexico? How can you go down to the wire with UConn?
The loss to Hawaii, Bohl said, featured contested catches down field, something the UW secondary hasn't allowed all season. He also pointed to third-down defense. The 'Bows converted 7-of-12 of those, including a pair of 15 yarders and one for 17.
That's not all.
There was the lack of "groove" on offense, a limited rushing attack -- 37 carries, 119 yards -- and the state of extreme surprise. That's the definition of "deer in the headlights," a phrase Bohl used to describe his team in this one.
"You know, that's what I think our guys had," he said. "(They) had a sense of confidence -- we're doing this, we're doing that -- and then all of a sudden, it was like, wow. So, you know, that's some things that I have to address as a head football coach."
Here's another thing to think about while you're at it coach: Why does this team often look so unprepared?
"I want to take a look at myself, saying 'why in the heck were we not prepared? Because we weren't," Bohl added. "So, if you want to come up with an answer, just say, 'Hey, coach Bohl didn't have them very well prepared, because bottom line, that's what it was. Coach (Todd) Graham had that group prepared and we got schooled up. There, you can put that in your quote."
Couldn't have said it better myself.
Hawaii 38, Wyoming 14
WHERE'S THE URGENCY?
Here we go again with the not-being-aggressive stuff before the half.
It bit Wyoming on the road at Boise, and it took a chunk of their collective rear end Saturday when Cordeiro connected with senior Jared Smart on a 50-yard heave into the end zone with no time remaining on the clock.
Smart, somehow, someway, hauled in the pass in traffic to pad Hawaii's halftime lead, 31-7.
It didn't have to come to that though.
Once again, like they did on the Blue in Boise, Wyoming marched down the field and finally got on the scoreboard. They found some much-needed momentum on that 11-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a four-yard touchdown run by Titus Swen.
Hawaii took over at its own 25 with 1:31 to play. After a quick first-down pickup on second down, Cordeiro missed a throw to the outside. Wyoming defensive tackle Victor Jones tallied a sack on the next snap. Hawaii, not Wyoming, eventually took a timeout with the Rainbow Warriors facing a 3rd-and-14 from their own 34.
A simple delayed handoff turned into a 14-yard gain for Dae Dae Hunter, giving the visitors the ball from midfield.
With four ticks remaining on the clock, Bohl finally decided to use one of his two remaining timeouts. He wanted to set up his prevent defense.
All that did was prevent the home team from having a chance in this one.
"Now, we were off-kilter on defense," Bohl said. "... At that time, I was thinking, 'they're backed up, let's just get out of here. Let's regroup. We've got to do some major adjustments at halftime.'"
This lack imagination at the end of halves shows me this staff has little faith its players can force a punt and do anything with it. Instead, they worry about giving up the big play.
You see how that's worked out.
THE SALES PITCH
Bohl emphatically thinks the Cowboys deserve a shot at a bowl game.
More like, how?
"I think the Mountain West right now is the sixth-rated conference in the country," he said. "We won all our non-conference games and we ran into a tough conference schedule. We've won six games -- that qualifies us -- in I think arguably the toughest league, maybe better than, you know, some of the other ones that are out there above us."
All of that may be true, but come on.
Yes, Wyoming has beaten six teams. Guess how many of them having a winning record? Three -- Montana State (FCS), Northern Illinois and Utah State. The other three -- Ball State, UConn and Colorado State -- have a combined record of 10-25.
Wyoming cornerback Azizi Hearn hasn't made a decision yet whether or not he will utilize he final year of eligibility in Laramie. He's not thinking that far ahead yet, he said. Plus, he's convinced the team still has one game left.
"I'm focused on finding out our opponent for the bowl game and preparing for them," the junior said. "And then, after that, I'll make a decision on what I'm doing. But right now, that's not the priority. We still have a game left, God willing.
"... I'd be surprised if we didn't get a bowl game," he continued. "I feel like we deserve one, as well. I'm confident that we'll get one."
Muma, who did play his final game inside War Memorial Stadium today after declaring for the NFL Draft, said he has a good feeling the Cowboys will be in the postseason. He wants to end his UW career on a high note.
"I think that's what everyone on the team wants right now," he said. "I think everyone's in hopes that we will receive a bowl game, and personally, I think that we will. I always have a feeling that we will."
If the media has a vote -- we don't -- Bohl wants us to believe in the Cowboys and send them packing for the holidays.
Sure, we'd all like to see Muma play in the brown and gold one more time. Same with Xazavian Valladay, Garrett Crall, Logan Harris and so many others. Fifteen additional practices for this team would be huge. Sending these seniors off with a potential win and a ring is always nice, too.
Hearn would be surprised if the call didn't come. I'd be surprised if it did.