Head Coach: Craig Bohl – 6th year (former North Dakota State HC)
Overall Record: 132-67 (68-45)
School Record: 28-35 (19-21)
Offensive Coordinator: Brent Vigen - 6th year (former North Dakota State OC)
Defensive Coordinator: Jake Dickert – 1st year (former Wyoming Safeties coach)
Last Game Against Mizzou: 2018 at Faurot Field, lost 40-13
This Year: at War Memorial Stadium – Laramie, WY – August 31st, 6:30p
Projected Overall S&P+ Rank: 92nd
Projected Offensive S&P+ Rank: 107th
Projected Defensive S&P+ Rank: 68th
Returning Production: 49% – 52% Offense, 46% Defense (120th in the nation)
Offensive Players to Watch
-Sean Chambers – QB – R-FR: 15-25 (60%)/266 yards/3 TDs/0 INTs/0 sacks/10.64 YPA
-59 rushes/329 yards/2 TDs/5.58 ypc/52.45 OPP Rate/3 fumbles
-Xazavian Valladay – RB – SO: 71 rushes/396 yards/3 TDs/5.58 ypc/45.1% OPP Rate/1 fumble
-Austin Conway – WR – SR: 54 targets/32 catches (59.3%)/250 yards/1 TD/7.8 ypc/4.6 ypt/20.3% TR
Defensive Players to Watch
-Garrett Crall – DE – JR: 28.5 tackles/19 solo/6.5 TFLs/4.5 sacks/0 INTs/1 PBU/1 FF/29.8% hpt
-Logan Wilson – MLB – SR: 80 tackles/57 solo/11 TFLs/2 sacks/2 INTs/2 PBUs/0 FFs/18.8% hpt
-Alijah Halliburton – SS – SR: 44 tackles/34 solo/0.5 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/2 PBUs/1 FF/8% hpt
No one is pretending that Craig Bohl’s Wyoming Cowboys are his old North Dakota State squads from six years ago. They aren’t national title contenders (especially since they are a G5 team which, as we’ve learned, don’t qualify for the playoff) and, despite having 14 conference championships, most of those were won in the 1950s. The most recent conference title was won in 1993, lead by future Purdue coach (and spread innovator), Joe Tiller. But after being lost in the woods for 23 years (including a mediocre stint by former Mizzou OC Dave Christensen), Craig Bohl stripped the Cowboys’ house down to the studs and slowly rebuilt over his tenure. That included a combined 6-18 record from 2014-15, but won their division via tie breaker in 2016 and have won 14 games over the last two years. They might not be the fearsome FCS Bison, but you can see the Bohl-ness in Laramie: wind the tempo down, control the ball with power runs and play action passes, and punish you with a devastating pass defense with a strong d-line. They recruit tough, under-the-radar kids and are pesky as hell against every opponent they play. I love watching pesky teams play; I do not like watching pesky teams play Missouri.
Last year we watched Wyoming quarterback Tyler Vander Waal spin his wheels against the Missouri D while the Cowboy defense, likewise, held the Missouri attack in check. It was 3-0 at the end of one quarter and 10-0 halfway through the 2nd. By the time it was 13-0 at halftime, the Tiger faithful were wondering when our athleticism would break away. Once Drew Lock started keeping on the read options, it opened up Crockett and Rountree and finally the big plays started clicking. But those first 30 minutes are exactly what the Cowboys can do to teams. And now we have to go to their house to experience it as our first game of the year.
Sean Chambers was named the starting quarterback for the Cowboys in the spring game, and it looks like he’s held on to the job through camp so far. He’s more in the Tim Tebow/Collin Klein mold as a bigger, sturdier runner who prefers tucking and running than throwing. And the Cowboys will need that since their returning leading rusher has 71 rushes in his career and their o-line loses two starters. In addition, their leading receiver graduated and their best receiver from 2017, who missed 2018 with injury, decided to retire. That leaves Austin Conway, a high efficiency/low explosiveness receiver, the new leader at 250 yards last year. Bohl teams lean on the run, and Chambers will definitely add an additional option for that, but the pass game will probably be a mess that the running game will have to clean up.
On defense they return a lot of talent that was injured for most of the year. That includes end Garrett Crall who played the last 6 games with a broken foot (!!!) and STILL led the team in sacks. Their run defense was strong at 58th in S&P+ and the pass defense was even better, grading out 9th in S&P+. Crall is the only returning starter on the line, however, so the linebacking corps, which returns everyone, will probably have to carry the weight until the new guys get broken in. The Cowboy secondary does lose both starting safeties but returns rotation piece Alijah Halliburton, as well as both starting corners and their nickelback Tyler Hall.
Missouri started pulling away last year when the run game finally got going and it’s going to be the same this year. A new d-line will be challenged by the Tiger o-line and Kelly Bryant and the running backs should be able to take advantage long enough until our receivers start getting open. But don’t discount Craig Bohl and his staff. They’re outgunned almost every game and still find ways to keep it close. They are resilient and at home, and Odom isn’t necessarily known for his preparedness with additional planning time. And if the marketing department of the Wyoming athletic department does its job, Laramie will be ready to pounce on a visiting SEC team. The Tigers should win this one but get ready to be uncomfortable for a while.