Wyoming Football Becomes Bowl Eligible but Seeks More

After earning their sixth victory, Wyoming has exceeded expectations

The Pokes have won two out of three possible trophies this season, beating Utah State for Bridger’s Rifle and Hawaii for the Paniolo Trophy, pictured above. On Nov. 12, they have the opportunity to win the last one of the year, the Bronze Boot against Colorado State. (Courtesy photo from University of Wyoming Athletics)

By Kaycee Clark-Mellott

Special to the Wyoming Truth

LARAMIE, Wyo.—For the sixth time in seven years, the Wyoming Cowboys are bowl eligible with six wins and one of the top teams in the Mountain West (MW) Conference. Sitting at 6-3 on the season and 4-1 in conference play, the Pokes control their own destiny.

Winning the final three games—against Colorado State, Boise State and Fresno State—would give them a chance to play in the MW championship game. Few expected that from the Cowboys.

Before the season, the team faced many question marks. The media predicted Wyoming would finish second to last in the Mountain division and ninth in the conference. According to DraftKings Sportsbook’s preseason win totals, Wyoming’s over/under was set at five wins. Already surpassing that total has left many surprised, including head coach Craig Bohl.

“That would be a stretch, we had so many questions [about the team],” Bohl said about being told that Wyoming would enter November bowl eligible and 4-1 in the MW. “Even during fall camp, there was some deep concerns I had about our team. But this group has taken to the coaching and continued to get better.”

UW vs Montana State Cowboys win 19-16 War Memorial Stadium Laramie, WY Sept. 4, 2021

From the player’s perspective, the performance of the team has not been a surprise.

“A lot of people were saying all was lost at the beginning of the year, due to the transfer portal,” sophomore defensive back Cam Stone said. “We were able to find key pieces [to the team] and now, we’re rolling.”

One of the biggest differences from the spring and fall camps and the beginning of the season is the strengthened bond between the players.

“We had to build that connection and chemistry with each other,” redshirt freshman running back D.Q. James said. “We didn’t have that connection before… but we are a way better team than what we started with.” 

Their three losses have come against now 17th-ranked Illinois, BYU and San Jose State at home. 

Several players have been crucial contributors to the team’s success. Transfer quarterback Andrew Peasley came from Utah State and won the starting job. While statistically he doesn’t jump off the page with 1,280 passing yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions, he’s acted effectively as a game manager. Making safe and smart decisions, he typically makes the right play when it is needed, usually thanks to his legs and rushing attack. 

The running backs’ room is also filled with players who can change the game. Junior Titus Swen leads the team with 679 yards and seven touchdowns. While battling some injuries, others have stepped in, such as Dawaiian McNeely, D.Q. James and Joey Braasch. The team has rushed for 1,762 yards through nine games.

Defensively, the Cowboys have come through since a tough 38-6 loss at Illinois to begin the season. Leading the way have been DeVonne Harris (seven sacks), Oluwaseyi Omotosho (five sacks), Easton Gibbs (a fumble recovery for a touchdown and 75 tackles), Shae Suiaunoa (an interception and 52 tackles) and Stone, who leads the team with two interceptions. 

The Cowboys have also benefited from stellar kicking and punting. Kicker John Hoyland leads the nation in field goals with 19 and was named a second-team Midseason All-American by Pro Football Focus. Hoyland also is tied for sixth in the country for the most points scored this season. Punter Clayton Stewart is seventh in the nation in punting yards and averages 44.5 yards. 

The final three games are not a cake walk for the Cowboys. On Nov. 12, they play rival Colorado State, and despite their 2-7 record, it’s not a guaranteed win for the Pokes. Wyoming plays their last home game against Boise State, on Nov. 19, which leads the Mountain division of the MW at 6-3 and 5-0 in the conference. The Cowboys’ final game will be on the road against Fresno State, the West division leader, on Nov. 25.

If the Cowboys win all three games, plus the conference championship or bowl game, they will register a 10-win season. This would be their first since 1996.

For the team, coach Bohl has pushed the idea of “1-0 each week.” That mindset may be just what the Cowboys need to reach their goals of the MW championship game, a bowl win and a 10-win season.

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