LARAMIE – One loss to Boise State was devastating enough. But, as Wyoming safety Alijah Halliburton eloquently said, letting that loss escalate further would be even worse.
UW lost a 20-17 overtime heartbreaker in Boise last Saturday in a game that very well could have decided the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. The Cowboys (6-3 overall, 3-2 Mountain West) would need Boise State (8-1, 5-0) to lose its last three games of the season to win the division.
Dwelling on what could have been or what should have been is only natural, particularly for a senior like Halliburton. But it isn’t going to help in the slightest.
“You can’t let one opponent beat you two times,” Halliburton said. “So I think that it’s important to just move on to Utah State.”
The Cowboys arrived back in Laramie at around 3:30 a.m. Sunday. While the plane ride home was admittedly difficult, redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Vander Waal said that the team’s “24 Hour Rule” of getting over games didn’t even take that long.
“I think a lot of guys were already over it (when we landed), looking toward the next week,” Vander Waal said. “It sucks losing that way, but knowing that we have three or four games left is the positive takeaway on that.”
There’s no rest for the weary, as next up on the slate is Utah State (5-4, 4-1), which won a dramatic 37-35 game at Fresno State over the weekend. The Aggies are led by head coach Gary Andersen, who is in his first year back at the school he helped lead from relative obscurity to national prominence.
Andersen coached at Utah State from 2009-12 and took the Aggies to a pair of bowl games, including a 2012 season where the team went 11-2. He was then hired by Wisconsin and compiled a 19-7 record with the Badgers over two seasons before taking the lead job at Oregon State for two-and-a-half years. He returned to Logan, Utah, this offseason after Matt Wells, who led Utah State to a 10-2 record in 2018, was named head coach at Texas Tech.
The Aggies aren’t as explosive offensively as they were a season ago, averaging nearly 20 fewer points per game (47.5 compared to 28.2), but are still led by redshirt junior quarterback Jordan Love. Love, who is expected to be a high selection in the 2020 NFL Draft should he choose to enter, has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 11:12 this year after putting up 32:4 last season.
Despite the optics of a “down year,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl knows his team will have a battle on its hands.
“There’s times when (Love) looks right in phase to where he was last year, and there’s other times it looks like maybe there’s something missing here or there. But he’s a very talented player,” Bohl said at his Monday news conference. “He’s very capable of putting up big numbers, and we’re going to anticipate that. You don’t want to make too much of saying, ‘OK, he’s off.’ Maybe his numbers aren’t quite where they were. Some of that may be with some of their opponents. I know he’s very talented.”
The Cowboys are coming off of arguably their best defensive performance of the season, holding a talented Boise State team to a season-low 285 total yards. While the outcome against the Broncos wasn’t what he had hoped for, Halliburton believes the effort the defense put forward Saturday is a positive the team can build off of.
“In a defensive perspective, it’s like, ‘Look at what we did. Look what we’re accomplishing. Let’s keep that going,’” Halliburton said. “It’s just a good reminder that we can do so (well) and we can still keep on doing even better.”
Vigen talks play-calling
Fans on Twitter were critical of offensive coordinator Brent Vigen’s play-calling at times Saturday night, particularly on a failed fourth-and-1 play late in regulation and a flea flicker in overtime that was nearly intercepted.
Vigen said the best thing he can do is not listen to the noise and trust what he’s seen on film.
“We put together a game plan, game plan situations, the game unfolds. You make calls, you trust your guys. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t,” Vigen said Monday. “You have to live with your decisions. It’s easy to second guess anything in life … you trust what you do, you trust your body of work.”
When asked whether coordinators get too much blame and not enough credit from outsiders, Bohl defended Vigen during Monday’s news conference.
“Every guy out there knows how to do two things: coach Little League baseball and call offensive plays. It’s always amazing to me. They have it all figured out,” Bohl said. “Brent’s been doing this a long time … I trust him.”
Valladay to keep heavy workload
Bohl said running backs Titus Swen and Trey Smith would both be unavailable against Utah State, and that Swen is closer to returning than Smith is. That means sophomore Xazavian Valladay will keep an increased workload. Valladay carried the ball a career-high 37 times at Boise State and has 96 carries over his last three games.
“We’ll keep on running him. That’s our plan,” Bohl said. “We’re in this thing to win it, and he’s our best runner. So we’re going to keep on running him.”
Wisdorf expectedto miss season
During Monday’s news conference, Bohl said that senior linebacker Ben Wisdorf likely sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) against Boise State, though the team is still awaiting confirmation. Wisdorf made five tackles this season.