FRESNO, Ca. – Finally, Wyoming’s defense showed flashes of the brilliance of a year ago last week in Hawaii. The Cowboys, however, were again betrayed by an ongoing shortage of offensive output, other running back Nico Evans, who surpassed 100 yards rushing for the third time in his three full games this season.
And that offense that remains the growing concern for a Cowboys football team that in a big part can blame their stumble to start the season – a 2-4 record – on their stumbling offense.
Head coach Craig Bohl isn’t sugarcoating the concern.
“We’re off,” he said of the offense. “We’re not playing efficiently enough for us to win ball games.”
Against a Fresno State team that is showing signs of being deep enough and balanced enough to claim the Mountain West West Division title, the Cowboys are going to need to put a more complete game together if they have any chance to win.
The Bulldogs have won four of their first five games and are facing a first-year quarterback for the sixth time in as many games.
The Bulldogs have 11 interceptions, more than they have had in any of the last four seasons, and second in the nation this year. They have allowed the opposition to compete only 18 of 71 third downs, the best rate in the MW and fifth nationally. They are 10th in the nation – tops in the MW in scoring defense.
The Cowboys knew their defense was going to have to be the foundation of success in 2018. Heck, it was the defense that was the key to success a year ago, even with quarterback Josh Allen, who was the seventh player selected in the first-round of last spring’s NFL draft. And this year, they knew they were breaking in a freshman quarterback, Tyler Vander Waal – the sixth first-year quarterback Fresno State will be going up against in six games.
But it’s one thing to having grown pains. It’s another thing to be stunted.
How bad has it been in the first six games of the season?
Well, the Cowboys rank 126th out of the 129 FBS in scoring and yardage gained. They rank 115th in passing yards, and 128th in third-down conversions.
While Vander Wal has only thrown two interceptions, he has been sacked 18 times, more than a hand full because of his judgement, also has passed for only 889 yards and three touchdowns in six games. Last week’s 17-13 loss at Hawaii – where the Cowboys only touchdown was on an interception return by defensive end Carl Granderson – the Cowboys failed to pass for 100 yards for the second time.
“The bottom line is we have to produce more points to be successful,” said Bohl. “We’re going to be playing good defenses, but we have to increase our point total to have an opportunity to win games.”
Evans has done everything the Cowboys would have asked of him. In three full games and five plays more than a half in a fourth, Evans has rushed for 612 yards, which leads the MWC, even though he is one game shy of being eligible to official qualify to be ranked nationally. He had a season-high 192 yards at Hawaii, two more than his season-opening total at New Mexico State. The Cowboys, as a team, rushed for less than 1,000 yards in the entire 2017 season.
“We can’t be one dimensional,” said Bohl. “We have to open up the playbook some more this week. When you have a talented running back like Nico, we need to utilize him as a weapon.”
Emphasis on “a” weapon.
He can’t be the only weapon, and Bohl knows that.
“The other aspects, whether it’s staying on the field with third-down conversions or whatever, that’s way off,” said Bohl.