Tuck’s Takes: Motivated Swen makes light work of Aggies … again
LARAMIE -- There was just something different about Titus Swen this week.
His head coach and teammates noticed it. So did I.
Monday afternoon in Laramie, the junior from Fort Worth, Texas said he spent Wyoming's bye week in his house, alone, shutting himself off from the outside world. No phone calls. No texts. No emails.
Quite simply, he was trying to get his mind right, he said. His body, which has taken a beating over the Cowboys' brutal seven-game stretch to open the season, thanked him, too. A rib injury sustained on opening day has ailed him. He won't deny that. But he refuses to use it as an excuse.
By all accounts, Swen was having a solid year, rushing for more than 500 yards and scoring four touchdowns.
To him, that just wasn't good enough.
On a night when the storyline was supposed to revolve around quarterback Andrew Peasley facing his former team and Levi Williams making his return to Laramie, Swen got selfish. His teammates were perfectly fine with that.
Swen gashed Utah State to the tune of 160 yards on 28 attempts. He added three touchdowns, including a 30-yard jaunt to the end zone to open the scoring in the first quarter in the Cowboys' 28-14 victory over the Aggies.
"Titus, obviously, he's just a dog," Peasley said. "He has something special and he's very explosive."
UW wide receiver Wyatt Wieland said he could tell Swen had a different look in his eye this week during practice.
"Seeing him in the huddle, screaming and getting up and flexing on dudes -- I wouldn't want to block for anyone else," Wieland said. "I mean, it makes blocking pretty easy when he goes running past you a second later, so hopefully we're going to see it again this next week."
DQ James, a redshirt freshman running back from Texas, had a career day, rushing for 120 yards on just 10 attempts. He admitted Swen softened up the Aggies' defense, helping facilitate his breakout performance.
"Titus gave me that juice today," James said with a smile. "I don't know what it was, but Titus was motivated. I could tell he was locked in all week.
"... I'm proud of him."
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Swen's running style has always been referred to as violent, but tonight, he played the part of schoolyard bully. He stiff-armed defenders. He lowered his shoulders and trucked safeties. It took six Aggies to bring him down on what appeared to be a short gain. He got out of that pile six yards down the field.
"You get me turnt up, you get me turnt up to the max," Swen said, flashing his trademark smile.
Swen divulged he suffered two recent losses in his family. On the team walk from the hotel to the stadium, he strolled along 22nd Street with Craig Bohl. The two talked about life. They chatted about where Swen was mentally, physically. Both came to the same conclusion.
"He said, 'I feel like you're going to do your thing tonight,'" Swen said of his conversation with his head coach. "I was like, 'It's already done, coach.'"
"I was convinced he was going to have a breakout game and he certainly did," Bohl added.
Last November, against this same Utah State team, Swen had a career game, rushing for 169 yards and two touchdowns, including tying a school record with a 98-yard dash through the Aggie's defense. Before that one, Swen said he told former UW running back Xazavian Valladay that he was going to take a photo with Jim Bridger's rifle, the traveling trophy that goes to the winner of this game, while standing on Utah State's logo at midfield.
Valladay told him they needed to win the game first. Like tonight, he said it was already in the bag.
That photo happened, too.
After tonight's victory, Swen stood on the home bench, weapon in hand once again, singing the school's fight song in front of the student section. Again, he requested a photo op at midfield.
Wyoming fans have been waiting for this version of Titus Swen. Tonight, you got him.
"I saw a real focus," Bohl said of Swen. "Not that he hasn't been focused, but he was really determined ... I thought Titus Swen played his best ballgame."
Here are some other thoughts after the Cowboys moved to 3-1 in league play and 5-3 overall:
* The Wyoming student section had some fun with Williams in his return to the high plains. The chants were ... harsh. He heard them, too. After the game, the former UW quarterback laughed it off and said, "they said the same things when I played here." It's truly too bad a high ankle sprain sidelined Williams in this one. Think what you want about the man and his decision to leave, but he was always a great interview and spoke from the heart. Sometimes that got him in hot water, but he's true to himself. It was good chatting with him.
* Peasley downplayed this reunion all week long. I mean, what did we expect him to say, "screw these guys, they didn't believe in me, I want to beat them down?" That would've made for a nice headline, but the junior really means it when he said he has no ill will toward Blake Anderson or the program who believed in him out of high school. In fact, Peasley became emotional behind the podium when speaking about this special night. "I had to control my emotions and because every dude out there on the field was once my brother," he said. "I respect that and I respect them. You know, at the end, when there was a line of dudes waiting to give me a hug and say congrats and that they're proud of me, that's when the emotions kind of hit. But the best thing tonight was getting the win. I'm thankful that I'm here."
* Swen was the hammer in this one, but what James brought to the table made this a scary proposition for the Mountain West and the remaining teams on the Cowboys' schedule. Both were lightning fast. Both were physical. Both had their way. This relentless rushing attack, along with some great blocking up front, adds a new element to this offensive attack. Wyoming capped the night with 330 rushing yards. That's an average of 6.6 yards per tote.
* Let's face it, this was going to be an uphill climb for the defending Mountain West champs. They were on their fourth quarterback of the season, true freshman Bishop Davenport. He made his first-career start in Laramie. Overall, he was pretty solid, too. Defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel turned up the heat on the rookie, though, and it paid off. Wyoming tallied six sacks in the win, three of which came courtesy of defensive end DeVonne Harris. Edge rushing wasn't supposed to be a strong suit of this young group after Sabastian Harsh went down with a knee injury in fall camp. All this group has done is get after the quarterback. Wyoming now has 25 sacks through eight games, the most in the conference, seven ahead of second-place Fresno State.
* Boise State didn't help out the Pokes tonight, winning in Colorado Springs, 19-14. The Broncos are now 4-0 in MW play and sit atop the Mountain Division. Still, Wyoming can control its own destiny and make that showdown with Boise State on Nov. 19 a rather large one. I know, I know -- "1-0."
* With just 19 seconds remaining in the half, surely Bohl was going to send Peasley out to take a knee, right? We've seen that same scenario -- with way more time on the clock and a full complement of timeouts at his disposal -- time and time again. Not tonight. Joshua Cobbs caught an 11-yard out and got out of bounds, stopping the clock. Peasley then fired a 39-yard strike on the money to Wieland down the seam. With just seven seconds remaining, Peasley took a shot to the end zone and missed Alex Brown. John Hoyland drilled a 43-yard field goal to give the Cowboys' a 17-14 lead at the break. "We knew we had two timeouts," Bohl said. "While there wasn't a lot of time left, we felt good about maybe if we could get a couple things going." Who are you and what did you do with Mr. Conservative? That was quite a surprise.
* If there's one knock on tonight's coaching performance, it has to be the 55-yard field-goal attempt from Hoyland that sailed wide right early in the third quarter. UW was facing a 4th-and-3 at the Aggies' 38-yard line. You have to go for that, right? Swen was averaging nearly six yards per carry. The tight ends and lineman were moving the line of scrimmage. Yes, I know Bohl believes in Hoyland -- and he should. But right there was a chance to put this one away early. Instead, the visitors marched 62 yards on seven plays, capped by a 31-yard touchdown run by Calvin Tyler.
* Where was Dawaiian McNeely tonight? Bohl said the staff is still concerned with a right hand injury that has left the sophomore in a cast for weeks. McNeely said he suffered nerve damage and had hoped to have it off soon.
* Wyoming has now won two straight against Utah State. The overall series sits at 40-28-4.
* The Pokes will rack up some frequent flyer miles next week when they travel to Hawaii to take on the Rainbow Warriors. This is always a tough trip and, historically, Wyoming has not played great on the islands. This is a chance to earn bowl eligibility and stay in the hunt. Bohl hates the term "must win," but this is one. Period.
* Wyoming players will arrive in Hawaii on Thursday in hopes of getting acclimated. With the team's second bye week looming, they will stay an extra night and leave on Sunday.
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