Tuck’s Takes: Bulldogs blank ‘hungover’ Pokes
FRESNO, Calif., -- There was one critical question for Craig Bohl and his players during the team's weekly press conference in Laramie -- Can this group bounce back from such an emotional loss, one that dashed the Cowboys' championship hopes in such a cruel fashion?
Wyoming's ninth-year head coach said that was definitely a concern for him and his staff. He added his guys "responded well" in Sunday's practice.
Frank Crum was presented with that same query.
The junior said this team is close and relishes the opportunity to win games "because we can." The eight-win mark was still in play. So was an opportunity to beat one of the two programs that will meet in next week's Mountain West title game in Boise.
"If we come together, which I know we will, and if we get a win out in Fresno, it shows what kind of character is in Laramie, Wyoming," Crum said last Monday.
This blowout blanking Friday night at the hands of Jake Haener and the Bulldogs had little to do with the identity of this Cowboys' football team. That's not a fair assessment, especially when a double-digit number of starters were littering the sidelines in street clothes.
You might call that an excuse. I call it reality.
Injuries aside, there's no skirting the initial question. The answer became crystal clear in just one quarter of football -- Wyoming allowed one loss to turn into two.
Bohl said the leaders on this team were transparent throughout the week. He mentioned a conversation he had with Easton Gibbs. The sophomore linebacker didn't mince words -- getting over that emotional loss to the Broncos would take a lot longer than the traditional "24-hour rule" allotted.
That's human nature, isn't it? Hell, you probably aren't over that orange-and-blue gut punch.
"I think we had a hangover effect," Bohl said postgame. "I'd like to think I would be the Dalai Lama and could snap them out of it and I didn't. We didn't."
As much as this team tried to forget what happened inside a frigid War Memorial Stadium last Saturday night, it didn't happen.
"No doubt, I think it's something you try to avoid always, but, I mean, you guys all saw that game last week," said Gibbs, who finished with a team-high 12 tackles against Fresno State. "It was pretty detrimental. It was a fast swing of emotions, really quick, in a short period of time. So, it was definitely tough ... It definitely took a little bit more than 24 hours, I'd say. At least for me."
Oluwaseyi Omotosho didn't get into specifics -- he couldn't -- but he admitted the loss to the Broncos lingered.
"I feel like it creeped over," the redshirt freshman defensive end said. "We were so close to that win. I don't know exactly how it crept over but I feel like it definitely did."
Bohl admitted Friday the team didn't have a "bounce in its step" until later in the week. He said he tried to modify practice and physicality when asked what he can do as a coach when it's apparent the whole isn't over a loss.
Now that the regular season is in the rear-view mirror, Bohl said a major reality came to light in this one.
"I think we might have emptied the tank before we came into the night," he said. "I am proud. I am really proud of this team. I'm disappointed in tonight, but this team, I think, is probably, in my mind, with the potential that we have, maxed out on the potential probably more than almost any team that I've had the pleasure to coach as a head football coach."
FINAL: Fresno State 30, Wyoming 0
The laundry list of miscues in Fresno is a lengthy one. You can start with special teams, a unit that, for the most part this fall, has been a strength for this program.
Not in this one.
Two Clayton Stewart punts were blocked. Both turned into points. Mac Dalena got a shoulder on the first one. Eight snaps later the Bulldogs were in the end zone after Haener connected with Nikko Remigio from six yards out to give the 'Dogs a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Evan Williams swatted the next one, flying in on Stewart basically untouched. Luckily for the visitors, the ball rolled out of the back of the checkerboard for the safety.
The Cowboys gave up a 50-yard return on the ensuing free kick.
Joshua Cobbs gave up on a kickoff, expecting it to roll into the end zone. It didn't. The sophomore wide receiver retrieved the ball and was swarmed at the UW 9-yard line. Ryan Marquez also got flagged for kick-catch interference, giving Fresno State the ball at the 20 instead of inside the two.
These things just don't happen.
"It's been an experience of mine when you get a punt blocked you usually don't win," Bohl said. "So we've got to take a hard look at that."
The Cowboys' offense was once again underwhelming.
Andrew Peasley, who returned under center for the first time since the Border War win in Fort Collins on Nov. 12, completed just 12-of-29 throws for 104 yards. He also tossed two interceptions. He now has five of those in his last three outings after throwing just three picks through his first eight games.
To make matters even worse, Wyoming's trademark running game was all but nonexistent. Titus Swen, a week after rushing for a career-high 212 yards, was held to just 75 on 24 attempts Friday night. Without Dawaiian McNeely and DQ James in the lineup, only Peasley and wideout Wyatt Wieland finished with a carry.
"It was tough tonight, just nothing went to plan for us on offense," Peasley said. "Titus, he's a grinder, we're all grinders, we all work hard and we want the best for each other. I thought we just came out kind of flat."
Wyoming hasn't scored a single point in the last two meetings with the Bulldogs.
Were there any positives? You have to look real hard.
DeVonne Harris registered another sack. He now owns a team-leading 8.5 of those. Gavin Meyer and Omotosho also got to Haener.
John Michael Gyllenborg hauled in his first-career catch in the loss. He added two more. Nick Miles, another tight end, also caught his first pass in an UW uniform. Colin O'Brien added consecutive grabs late. Jackson Marcotte also finished with a catch. Those guys were filling in for Treyton Welch and Parker Christensen, who couldn't go in this one.
This Haener guy is for real
The super senior has now thrown a touchdown pass in 27 consecutive games. You may have guessed, that's a Mountain West record.
Haener threw just one touchdown pass in this one, but he did connect on 21-of-32 throws for 183 yards. That's a completion percentage of 66. This was a pedestrian outing for the Washington transfer, but the way he orchestrates this offensive attack is beyond impressive.
I'm sure not one person reading this column is stoked to watch Haener and Taylen Green square off next Saturday afternoon inside Albertsons Stadium, but that has the potential to be a barnburner. There's no doubt the best two quarterbacks in this conference will be showcased.
"I think he was a good matchup, like, he had a really good arm," Omotosho said of Haener. "I feel like moving around and stuff, he wasn't as good as other quarterbacks we've played, but he definitely had a really good arm."
Scrambling isn't exactly Haener's M.O. Green, on the other hand, put the nail in Utah State's coffin Friday morning with a 91-yard jaunt to the end zone.
This title game could be a classic.
* Just how extensive was Wyoming's injury list Friday night? The offense was without (WR) Alex Brown, (WR) Will Pelissier, (RB) James, (RB) McNeely, (TE) Welch and (TE/FB) Christensen. Cobbs also suffered a concussion late in the fourth quarter, per Bohl. The Cowboys' defense didn't have the services of (DT) Cole Godbout, (DT) Jordan Bertagnole, (N) Keonte Glinton and (CB) Jakorey Hawkins. "Well, the first thing we're going to need to do is lick our wounds right now," Bohl said. "When I say lick our wounds, I'm talking about just physically. We have some guys that have been out there playing and they've been gutting it out."
* We openly wondered if Fresno State would rest some of its starters with its ticket to the title game already punched. Nope. Haener played all but one drive. One potential key loss the Bulldogs' suffered in this one was to defensive end David Perales. The senior has 10.5 sacks, which leads the conference.
* November hasn't been Bohl's best month. Since his arrival in 2014, the Cowboys have posted a 13-17 record. In 2018, UW went 3-0 to finish the season 6-6. It didn't get a bowl invite. In 2014 and '19, the Pokes went 1-3.
* Wyoming's passing attack has been abysmal at the most critical juncture of the season. Over the last four games, Jayden Clemons and Peasley have combined to complete 31-of-75 passes for 304 yards, a touchdown and eight -- yes, eight -- interceptions. The Cowboys were lucky to finish that stretch 2-2 with numbers like that coming from the most important position. This has to be fixed. It's a topic of discussion every fall on the high plains, but something has to change.
* You probably saw on the telecast the graphic that showed just how young this Wyoming team really is. Underclassmen makeup 86% of this roster. That's 96-of-114 players, the youngest program in the FBS. Remember, UW has also been without (DE) Sabastian Harsh, (DE) Keelan Cox, (RB) Jeremy Hollingsworth and (S) TJ Urban. Nickelback Buck Coors missed three quarters of the season and Godbout and Glinton haven't played since Oct. 1.
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