LARAMIE -- People like to say that the game of football is
not played on paper.

They are right. But it’s still fun to look.

Today, we will breakdown the defenses of the Idaho Vandals
and Wyoming Cowboys. The two squads will meet Saturday at 3 p.m. at War
Memorial Stadium.

So, who has the edge on defense?

Let’s break it down real quick.

DEFENSIVE LINES:
As good as Idaho’s offense was in a 41-31 win over Central Washington last Saturday in Moscow, its defense didn’t exactly follow the same blueprint. The Vandals gave up 359 yards of total offense, including 114 on the ground in just 26 Wildcat attempts. That’s an average of 4.4 yards per rush. Not terrible, but not good, considering Central Washington is a young, rebuilding squad. Idaho finished with just a single sack in the game. The biggest stat of the day was time of possession. Idaho’s defense was on the field for only 19:56 compared to 40:04 for the Wildcats. Where the Vandals really made hay was on third down, allowing 3-of-14 conversions. Nate Degraw was the Vandals’ leading tackler on the defensive line with four.

Wyoming’s front four was less than impressive through the first 30 minutes of last week’s 23-14 road win over Texas State. They feature practically no pass rush, giving Bobcat quarterback Gresch Jensen all the time he needed to eclipse 200 yards passing in the first half. The second half, well, that was an entirely different story. The Cowboys were “unchained” by first-year defensive coordinator, Jake Dickert. The responded with five sacks, a fumble recovery and a game-changing pick-six by senior cornerback, Tyler Hall. Mario Mora, Cole Godbout, Javaree Jackson, Victor Jones, Josiah Hall, Garrett Crall, Leevi Lafaele and Solomon Byrd were the MVP’s of the second half.

ADVANTAGE: Wyoming

LINEBACKERS:
Idaho’s linebackers were busy guys last Saturday. Tre Walker led the team with nine tackles, and Sully Shannon chipped in with six. The Vandal’s linebackers held Central Washington’s tight ends to just two catches on the night. However, when it came to creating pressure on the quarterback, these guys were non-existent. This group appears to be the strength of the Idaho defense. They can tackle, but don’t expect Sean Chambers to be too uncomfortable in the pocket.

Logan Wilson cracked the school’s Top-10 career-tackle list with an 11-stop effort in San Marcos. Wilson, a three-time team captain, also landed a tackle for loss. Chad Muma made two tackles and Cassh Maluia and Ben Wisdorf combined for just one stop each. Maluia was credited with half-a-sack. Wyoming’s linebackers pitched a shutout when it comes to tight ends making plays for the Bobcats, and Texas State rushed for just 50 yards on 22 carries.

ADVANTAGE: Wyoming



DEFENSIVE BACKS:
Davonte Ginwright and Tyrese Dedmon both racked up five tackles out of the Vandals’ secondary Saturday, but too often they were watching Tony Archie run away from them. Central Washington’s junior receiver caught eight passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats passing attack amassed 245 yards on just 15 completions. Idaho also was susceptible to the big play, allowing a 60-yard completion, and a 39-and-32-yard grab. CWU quarterback, Canon Racanelli, who stands just 5-foot, 11-inches tall and weighs in at 185 pounds, completed 13-of-31 passes for 146 yards and two scores. He is a redshirt freshman.

Wyoming’s first game without the services of senior cornerback, Antonio Hull, was not exactly pretty. Jensen completed passes to eight different receivers last Saturday in San Marcos. He hit on 33-of-54 attempts for 394 yards. That included a 50-yard touchdown pass. The Cowboys have allowed the third-most passing yards in Division-I football. That isn’t ideal. If there is a silver lining, it was the play of the Pokes’ other senior corner, Hall, who picked off a Jensen pass in the third quarter and returned it 72 yards to the house. Craig Bohl said that changed the entire game. It did. CJ Coldon, who was filling in for Hull, was second on the team in tackles with eight. Alijah Haliburton and Braden Smith both tallied five tackles. Smith picked off a pass in the first half after replacing Rome Weber, who left the game with a concussion just a few plays in. Wyoming will likely be without Hull again this week, but don’t expect the defensive backs to sit back and let Idaho go nuts like Mizzou and Texas State did.

ADVANTAGE: Wyoming

SPECIAL TEAMS:
Cade Coffey, a junior punter for the Vandals, who was named to the FCS preseason All-American team, has gotten off to a rough -- but busy – start in 2019. He had booted 16 punts, but only boasts and average of 33 yards per kick. Idaho’s placekicker is 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts with a long of 38. That guys is also Coffey. Guess who handles kick-off duty? The Vandals’ kick-return team has seen some early success, but the chances of them getting a chance in Laramie is slim to none. Cutrell Haywood has returned two punts for 23 yards.

Cooper Rothe is human. The senior All-American candidate and Lou Groza Award finalist missed his first kick of the game in San Marcos. It was from 43 yards out. It sailed just left of the upright. He got back on track, nailing his last two attempts, including one from 47. Hall nearly returned the opening kickoff of the game for a touchdown. He said one additional move by him, and he would’ve been in the clear. Instead, it went for 52 yards. Ryan Galovich continues to impress in the punting role. The walk-on senior booted six times at Texas State for an average of 40.5 yards per. With Rothe on the roster, there is no picking against the Cowboys here.

ADVANTAGE: Wyoming