SAN MARCOS, Texas – 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 Missouri Tigers
and Wyoming Cowboys. The two squads will meet Saturday in the 2019 season
opener at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

So, who has the edge on defense?

Let’s break it down real quick.

DEFENSIVE LINE:
Texas State runs a three-man front. They are an experienced trio of big boys, too. Defensive ends, Ishmael Davis and Caeveon Patton, are both returning starters, and tackle, Nico Ezidore, saw action during his freshman campaign. All three are 6 foot, 2 inches. They all weight more than 260. They are athletic and fast. They definitely have the attention of Wyoming offensive line coach, Bart Miller. Their backups are all upperclassmen, too. The Bobcats registered zero sacks in College Station and only hurried Aggie quarterback, Kellen Mond, four times all night. This line doesn’t put up a ton of stats – they leave that to a foursome of dynamic linebackers – but they do just enough to bother offensive linemen looking to get to the second level.

Entering the season, it was no surprise that Wyoming was undersized and inexperienced in plenty of spots on the defensive line. However, senior captain, Josiah Hall, picked up a key sack in Saturday’s win, and Garrett Crall tipped a pass that almost led to an interception. Hall and defensive tackle, Javaree Jackson, also combined to bring down Missouri quarterback, Kelly Bryant. Cole Godbout and Mario Mora saw their first game action Saturday and they didn’t disappoint, finishing with four combined tackles. The Cowboys held Mizzou to just 114 yards on the ground, including just 2.7 yards per attempt. This squad made Bryant move his feet, but didn’t get to him enough, leading to underneath passes that netted big yards. These guys weren’t exactly dominating in the opener, but they got the job done. This week could be a different story.

ADVANTAGE: Wyoming

LINEBACKERS:
Texas State returns the two leading tacklers in the Sun Belt Conference from a season ago in linebackers, Nikolas Daniels and Bryan London. London had a beautiful one-handed interception in College Station in the opener. And only he has more tackles (346) on the active list nationally than Wyoming’s Logan Wilson (317). That means not much gets passed these guys, which is especially important when they run a three-man defensive front. It also means they are on the field way too much. That happens when the Bobcats’ offense is ranked 122nd out of 130 Division-I teams in scoring in 2018. The linebacker position is a real strength for the Bobcats. They return three of four starters from last season, including senior Frankie Griffin. In Texas State’s opening night loss to Texas A&M, this foursome was on the field for 35:46. They racked up 21 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Experience is also on Wyoming’s side. Seniors Wilson and Cassh Maluia were both big players in the Cowboys upset win over Missouri. Wilson, a three-time team captain, finished with 13 tackles and defended pass. He held All-American tight end, Albert Okwuegbunam, to just three catches on four attempts. Maluia had four tackles and picked off a Bryant pass in the end zone, thwarting a Tiger scoring drive. He also forced a Bryant fumble which led to a touchdown in the second quarter. Chad Muma and Ben Wisdorf also got in on the action. Wisdorf caused a crucial fumble on the goal line, which led to a Cooper Rothe field goal and a 10-point lead at the half. Muma was third on the team with 10 tackles in what was his first game on defense.        

ADVANTAGE: Wyoming

CORNERBACKS:
Jarron Morris and Kordell Rodgers both return in 2019 for the Bobcats. Let’s start with Morris. The 5-foot, 9-inch, 158-pound speedster may be small in stature, but he isn’t afraid to lay a lick. He finished last season with 44 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. He also picked off a pass and forced a fumble. He was named third-team All-Sun Belt during the preseason. Rodgers, who is 5-foot, 11-inches and 180 pounds, also isn’t afraid to stick his face mask in a chest or two. He tallied 37 tackles in 2018 and a tackle for loss. He led the Bobcats with two interceptions. Now, here’s the bad news. Both finished with five tackles each against Texas A&M. Too many Aggie running backs were getting to the last level of defense in a 246-yard rushing effort. A&M also passed for 232 yards last week. They let their foot off the gas early in a 41-7 victory.

Wyoming could be without senior starter Antonio Hull in this one. He is out with a “personal issue” and is back home in California. That hurts. Tyler Hall, who is coming off a three-tackle performance, could be the lone returning starter at corner in San Marcos. Mizzou racked up 423 yards passing in Laramie. It all came by way of the underneath stuff. The Cowboys didn’t get beat over the top once. If Hall can’t go, CJ Coldon will slide into the starter’s role. The sophomore had a big opener, returning a 30-yard fumble for a touchdown and laying out for a red-zone interception that was ultimately overturned. He also had five tackles, including one for loss. The drop-off won't be significant. Freshman Jordan Murray will move into the back-up spot behind Coldon. Azizi Hearn, the University of Arizona transfer, could also see more playing time in San Marcos.

ADVANTAGE: Toss up

SAFETIES:
Texas State returns two senior safeties in JaShon Waddy and Anthony J. Taylor. These guys were busy in the opener. Waddy had six tackles and knocked down a pass, and Taylor finished with a pair of stops. Khambrail Winters led the Bobcats in tackles with eight. Texas State gave up 23 completions against A&M for 232 yards and three touchdowns. That came in just three quarters. The Aggies ran out the clock on the ground throughout the fourth. Texas A&M has a veteran quarterback and a plethora of options on the outside. Five of their wide receivers finished with at least two catches. Wyoming’s Sean Chambers completed just six passes against Mizzou. This could be the Bobcats’ strength on Saturday night.

Wait, did Alijah Hilburton just receive another award? The Cowboys strong safety was named the National and Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week. He was also named the Jim Thorpe Player of the Week after a 17-tackle effort against Mizzou. He also had a tackle for loss. Esaias Gandy hammered Bryant, which led to a fumble. Rome Weber made some nice open-field tackles in his first significant game action and Braden Smith played big minutes. Nickelback Keyon Blankenbaker was a hammer in the defensive backfield, racking up seven tackles and knocking down a pass. These guys were aggressive and, when they got to the point of attack, they attacked. Pads were popping all night long and these guys made receivers pay when they made the decision to come across the middle. In the Pokes first game in four years without a guy named Andrew Wingard, these guys made a statement – “we were just waiting for our turn.”

ADVANTAGE: Wyoming