‘You can’t run nice in this game’
LARAMIE -- A smile instantly creased Gordie Haug's face.
That's because the subject of the conversation was Titus Swen. What running backs coach wouldn't grin when their leading ball carrier averaged nearly six yards per carry a season ago?
"When he's in there, there's no slowing down," Haug said. "He's playing faster than ever.
"... He runs angry."
That's bad news for the Mountain West Conference.
The 5-foot-11, 206-pound junior has already given the league a sneak peek at what he is capable of out of the Cowboys' backfield. Border War rival Colorado State got a front-row seat to his violent running style in early November. Swen torched the Rams to the tune of 166 yards on just 21 carries. That's nearly eight yards per tote.
Serving in a back-up role behind the program's second all-time leading rusher, Xazavian Valladay, that was the first time all season Swen blew past the century mark on the ground.
The Fort Worth native was all smiles postgame, hoisting the coveted Bronze Boot high into the air as fans and teammates surrounded him on a sun-spanked Jonah field. Two days later, however, Swen said he was upset with himself.
Standing inside the north end zone of War Memorial Stadium, he took a handoff and burst through the CSU defense. Nearly 90 yards later, he was dragged down inside the 10. Valladay would cap the four-play series with a five-yard touchdown run.
"I can promise you this, I'm never going to get caught from behind again," Swen proclaimed.
He's a man of his word.
Two weeks later, this time standing near the end line, Swen patiently waited for a hole to develop on the left side of the line before bolting into the Utah State secondary. Ninety-eight yards later, he was in the Aggies' end zone.
"To be honest, I was just thinking, I can't let the people of Wyoming down," Swen said after the surprising 44-17 upset over the eventual Mountain West champions. "I already told them, if I ever broke out like that again, I was going to score. That's what I had to do."
Special. That's a word Haug put on repeat when talking about Swen's 169-yard performance in Logan.
"Not everybody can do that," he said. "The cerebral part of him, if you watch that play closely, he's looking up at the big screen and seeing that there's somebody closing in. He knew when he was going to dive, so he swerved.
"So, you know, not only is he a freak of an athlete, but he's got those instincts and understands what it takes to make a big play."
Swen also added a 43-yard touchdown run in that rout of the Aggies.
You might not have had much faith in that Cowboys that night inside Maverik Stadium. Swen, on the other hand, wasn't shocked one bit.
"Before the game I already knew we were going to win," he said. "I told (Valladay), I'm fixing to take a picture with the rifle after this game. He said, 'you have to win the game first.' I told him I already won it."
Sure enough, minutes after the final whistle, there was Swen, standing on the 50-yard line with Jim Bridger's rifle, the traveling trophy between the two conference rivals.
You might call that line of thinking arrogance. Swen disagrees. Confidence has never been an issue for the three-star recruit out of Eaton High School.
That brash personality didn't always sit well with head coach Craig Bohl. Swen said the two did plenty of "bumping heads" after he arrived on campus in 2019. Admittedly, the Texas product wasn't always a choir boy.
"It's always tough love because I came in here with a big head and causing noise," he said.
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This spring, things have begun to shift.
Bohl has been effusive about Swen throughout camp. His toughness, speed and elusiveness, among many other traits. Swen has become more present in the locker room, helping mold and lead a young talented stable of running backs in Laramie. It's not all about him anymore.
"This year, I've been kind of piecing it all together," Swen said. "It's just (Valladay) left and I kind of had to take on a bigger role because I know I have guys looking up to me. I have to set an example. I have to get my head straight and lock in. Bohl is doing a great job of helping me stay focused."
His head coach is ready to ride Swen in the fall.
“I think we’ve got a heck of a tailback,” Bohl said. “I just think Titus Swen had really good production last year. We were able to share the load, and I think you guys saw how many times he had yards after contact. Hell, there was one game that the whole damn jersey got ripped off, and it wasn’t the old tear-away jersey. He has got unbelievable explosion, so we’re going to leverage that.”
Swen laughed when asked what he would call his style of running. Angry? Sure. But you have to have more than that, he said, if you want to be an all-around back.
"You can't run nice in this game," he said. "That's the only way I know how to run. Running the football, it's the maximum reactionary sport. You can't just go out there and have one tool in your bag and expect to fix the whole house."
Swen capped his sophomore season with 785 rushing yards on just 132 carries. He scored a team-best seven touchdowns on the ground. He was able to check off at least one goal: rush for more than five yards per carry.
What does he have in store in 2022?
"Just little goals that make a big impact," he said with a confident smirk. "I just want to get first downs. That's the goal."
Just The Facts: Size Doesn't Matter For Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium
- Just The Facts: Size Doesn't Matter For Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium