It’s safe to say that 2015 was a terrible year for the University of Wyoming football team. A slew of key injuries, coupled with inexperience on the defensive end, saw the Cowboys finish with a horrific 2 win and 10 loss record. The good news is that Wyoming returns 18 starters from last year’s team and the hope is that they will be much improved.
Of course optimism is always high during the first week of training camp. During the annual media day middle linebacker Lucas Wacha stated that the Cowboys were much improved.
“As you can tell a lot of people are bigger, faster, I mean we look like a totally different team out there. You know how young we were last year is definitely a key. We had a good spring, a good summer, and I think that coming into fall camp we are on a positive note.”
As Wacha points out the Cowboys were awfully young last season, starting more freshman than all but six other teams in the nation. And that translated into some ugly losses. Wyoming lost by two touchdowns or more 8 times, the biggest loss was a 38 to 3 pounding at the hands of San Diego State. Wacha says teams took advantage of their youth and he’d like some payback.
“We owe a lot of people a lot of stuff this year.”
Andrew Wingard shares that mentality. The safety was recognized as one of the top freshmen in the country and led Wyoming in tackles. Wingard added that as difficult as last season was, it taught him a lot.
“It really was a life changer, it really changed my outlook in how I played the game. You just can’t, like in high school, go out and win every game just by stepping out on the field. You know you gotta prepare, you gotta do all the little things.”
Wingard admits there were times early in the season when the defense was lost, but now the defensive coaches will have confidence to take more risks and he thinks that will pay off. The Wyoming player who had a great 2015 was running back Brian Hill. He set the school record for rushing yards in a season and he is being touted as one of the top backs in the nation.
This season Hill is on pace to break the all-time Wyoming record for rushing yards. But all he is focused on is winning.
“I hate losing. I hate losing more than I love winning, so I’m always depressed after game we lose and stuff so hopefully we can get a few wins and get to a bowl game this year.
We got off to a very slow start last year and I think that just weighed on a few guys psyches.”
Head Coach Craig Bohl is in his third season. He’s glad the team is more optimistic but he said it’s time to play better.
“You know everybody asks me, what do you need to do to be more competitive. We need to look more competitive, we gotta be in games at halftime instead of going in and saying jeez, we are three possessions down.”
But Bohl has already seen improvement and a lot has to do with experience.
“Certainly our players understanding what they are doing has an impact, we are more athletic, we are not as experienced at a couple of positions, but at all other positions we are more experienced.”
They might even have a reliable quarterback. Wyoming has struggled at the position during Bohl’s first two years and Sophomore Josh Allen might help. Allen broke his collarbone in the second game of the season last year, but in the short time he was in there, he made plays. Allen is mobile and possesses a cannon for an arm. Receivers say he throws it harder than anyone they’ve come across and he has some swagger. But Bohl said it’s gonna take a bit more time for Allen to play the way they want him to.
“You’re right, he possesses what you’re looking for, he’s 6-foot-5, 220 pounds and he can throw it forever. But he needs to take coaching.”
Like a lot of quarterbacks with strong arms, he takes risks. Risks that his coach will try and knock out of him.
“You know sometimes I look and say, you know you throw the ball across the field…probably a good thing’s not gonna happen. Did that a couple of times and which rankled me a little bit, but we can coach that. And that’s what I’m talking about, he just needs to take some coaching and recognize here’s my reads, here are my principals to operate in this framework and then do that.”
Because Brian Hill is such as explosive running back, defensive teams try to bring more people to the line of scrimmage in an effort to stop him. Recent Wyoming Quarterbacks have not had the ability to throw and get opponents out of that defense. Allen says if defenses try that on him, he will throw it deep for big plays. He added that he loves the fact that Wyoming was picked to finish last by the media.
“You know we want people to sleep on us, we want to surprise a lot of teams and I know that’s what’s gonna happen.”
Wyoming opens its season September third against Northern Illinois. The nationally televised game begins at 8:30 p.m.