Wyoming Survives a Trip to UConn
Wyoming traveled to Connecticut for the first time in program history on Saturday, and headed back to Laramie 4-0, after defeating the UConn Huskies 24-22.
This game lived up to the moniker of a “trap” game for the Cowboys. UConn, who had struggled all year, came out of the gate hot, taking a 13-0 lead, capitalizing on both a missed field goal and turnover by the Cowboys. The Cowboys struggled to move the ball on almost every drive in the first half, and were only able to move the ball more than 20 yards on two of those drives. The typical playmakers for the Cowboys were held in check early; during the first half, Sean Chambers was held to 9 of 16 for 74 yards passing and an interception in the first half, while the Wyoming rushing attack was held to 79 total yards.
The second half was better for the Cowboys, specifically in the running game, as the Cowboys were able to add 125 yards on the ground, while adding three touchdowns. The Huskies scored a late touchdown to get within striking distance, but the Wyoming defense was able to stop a two-point conversion that would have tied the game, giving the Cowboys a 24-22 victory. Good teams find a way to win even on their off days.
With the win, the Cowboys head into their bye week after finishing non-conference play 4-0, a start they haven’t matched since the 1996 season. The Cowboys’ next game comes against Air Force on October 9th, in Colorado Springs.
As we go into the Cowboys bye week it is time to look at some things that have stood out so far this year for the Cowboys, as well as some things to look for going forward.
What has stood out:
During the off-season, Offensive Coordinator Tim Polasek promised a revamped offense when compared to the Cowboys offense the past several years. One specific way that was expected for the Cowboy offense to improve was in the passing game. The Cowboys have always been a run-first team under Craig Bohl, and they will continue that trend overall, however, the play calling split has gone from 70/30 to 60/40.
The increase in called passing plays, while creating virtually no difference in total yards per game, has increased the Cowboys’ scoring output. In 2020 the Pokes averaged 26.5 points per game, while, to this point in the 2021 season, the Pokes are averaging 34.5 points per game.
— Wyoming Cowboy Football (@wyo_football) September 25, 2021
Xazavian Valladay is still the focal point of the Cowboy offense, averaging 117 yards per game from scrimmage, but other offensive pieces are emerging in Titus Swen and Isaiah Neyor. Neyor, especially, has added a much-needed wrinkle in the Cowboy’s passing game.
Solid but not Dominant Defense
The Cowboy Defense has not been as dominant as was expected so far this year. Coming off a season where the Cowboys ranked in the top 20 in several defensive categories and returning 10/11 starters, there have been a lot of high expectations, and while the Defense has not quite lived up to the lofty expectations, they have been an overall solid unit.
The thing that has been the most encouraging has been the knack that this defense has shown to create turnovers. Through four games, Wyoming has created eight turnovers, including six interceptions, with three of those interceptions being returned for touchdowns. Chad Muma has certainly made himself known as the anchor and leader of this defense, putting together a season that should earn him consideration as Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Resiliency as a Team
If there is one thing we have learned so far this season, it is that these Cowboys do not give up. In three out of four games the Cowboys have come from behind in the fourth quarter to win the game. Over four games, the Cowboys have scored 52 points in the fourth quarter.
By all means, none of these games should have been close, but it does say a lot about the mental toughness of this team to win from behind so many times already. Now, it must be said that the Cowboys need to start putting games away earlier or there will be situations in conference play that Wyoming may find that they cannot recover. As for right now, the Cowboys seem calm and confident when coming from behind.
— Wyoming Cowboy Football (@wyo_football) September 28, 2021
Games to mark on the Calendar
Fresno State, October 16th
This early conference game could potentially be a preview of the Conference Championship game, and could feature a (5-0) Wyoming and a (5-1) Fresno State. This game is in Laramie, and if the Cowboys can beat Fresno State, the hype and optimism for the Cowboys won’t be just a local thing anymore. The conference and the country will be put on notice.
Boise State, November 12th
The Cowboys will have plenty of difficult games between Fresno and Boise, but whoever comes out of this game with the victory will most likely be the Mountain Division Champion, and play for the Mountain West Championship. The game is in Boise where the Cowboys have never beaten the Broncos, and even if Wyoming comes into the game (9-0), the Cowboys will likely be considered the underdog.
Wyoming has started the season 4-0 for the first time since 1996, a season where the Cowboys started the season 9-0, and peaked at number 16 in the AP poll. The Cowboys played in the Conference Title Game that year and lost a heartbreaker to #6 BYU. While the Wyoming fanbase focuses on another Championship game at the end of this season, the goal of this Wyoming team is to go 1-0 each week; if the Cowboys can continue to do this, we are in for a wild ride.