The starts need some work, but the finishes have been stellar.
That’s the University of Wyoming’s defense in a nutshell through its first two games – both victories. The latest was a 23-14 victory at Texas State last Saturday where the defense scored a touchdown in its second consecutive game, and clamped down after a shaky start. UW outscored Texas State 20-0 from the end of the second quarter through the end of the game after it fell behind 14-3.
In the Cowboys’ season-opening 37-31 home victory over Missouri Aug. 31, the defense allowed two touchdowns on the Tigers’ first two offensive possessions.
UW has been outscored 21-0 in the first quarter in its first two games.
“We want to make sure we don’t get in a habit of starting that way, because pretty soon you’re going to dig yourself a hole you can’t get out of,” first-year defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said Monday. “We have to take it upon ourselves that we’re not first-year starters anymore. The emphasis this week and moving forward is starting fast.”
UW began preparations Monday for its next game, which is at 3 p.m. Saturday against Idaho (1-1) at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.
Dickert said the players and defensive coaches have done a good job of adjusting to the schemes Missouri and Texas State threw at them, but there is more to work on other than getting off to a better start.
UW has allowed 408.5 passing yards per game, and Dickert said the defense must eliminate big plays. Texas State scored on a 50-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter on a simple slant, and Missouri’s final touchdown came on a 53-yard scoring pass.
One encouraging thing from the Texas State game was UW recorded five quarterback sacks, compared to two against Missouri. Sixth-year coach Craig Bohl said some adjustments were made at halftime that helped with getting pressure with its front four. Four-and-a-half of the five sacks came from defensive linemen. Redshirt freshmen nose tackles Mario Mora and Cole Godbout recorded their first-career sacks.
UW had 19 sacks in 12 games last season.
“To see guys do things together and attack the quarterback was a positive sign,” Dickert said.
Dickert said Idaho will pose a unique challenge this week.
“They are a little bit of everything offensively,” he said. “I haven’t gone into a game since Boise State (last year) with this many personnel groupings and this many plays. There is a lot of offense we will be defending. We have to be efficient and simple, and make sure our guys are playing fast.”
Redshirt freshman starting quarterback Sean Chambers has completed 41.2% of his passes over the first two games. Against Texas State, he was 8 of 18 for 103 yards with one interception – the first of his career. That interception came on the last play of the first half, when he threw a ball deep in the end zone.
“It starts with me. I have to throw the ball better, and put it where guys can catch it,” Chambers said. “Sometimes my footwork and mechanics are not up to speed, and that’s what I will be working on this week in practice.”
Speaking of practice, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brent Vigen said that’s where it starts for Chambers, along with his pass-catchers.
“Without a real wealth of experience in games (less than five full games), we have to have a really good week of practice,” Vigen said. “Practice in both of these first two weeks has been a little bit inconsistent, and, unfortunately, that has carried into the games a little bit. He’s had some really sharp days, but not every day.”
Bohl said redshirt freshman free safety Rome Weber is in concussion protocol, but he is hopeful Weber will compete against Idaho. Weber was injured early in the first quarter at Texas State.
Weber is listed as the starter, and so are two other players who were injured at Texas State: sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay (ankle) and sophomore left guard Eric Abojei (leg).
Still no Hull
Senior cornerback Antonio Hull remains away from the team and home in California due to a personal matter. Hull didn’t played in UW’s first two games.
“We hope to have him back this season, but it is a week-by-week deal,” Bohl said.
Senior cornerback Tyler Hall was named to the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll Monday for his efforts at Texas State.
Hall had a 72-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter that gave UW a 20-14 lead. Hall also had two tackles and one pass breakup, and returned the opening kickoff 52 yards.
The Hornung Award goes annually to the most versatile player in college football.
Idaho defensive coordinator Mike Breske held the same role at UW for coach Joe Glenn from 2003-08.
Breske also was the defensive coordinator for Bohl at North Dakota in 2009.
Idaho plays two quarterbacks, and it is hard to miss one of them in 6-4, 270-pound junior Colton Richardson. However, Bohl said Richardson is closer to 285.
Through two games, Richardson is 7 of 14 for 59 yards and one interception.
Senior Mason Petrino, son of Vandals coach Paul Petrino, was 23 of 30 for 209 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday’s home victory over Division II Central Washington. In two games, Petrino is 34 of 47 for 300 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
UW received three votes in Amway Coaches Poll, which puts it 42nd in the country. The Cowboys earned one vote last week.
UW didn’t receive any votes in The Associated Press Poll.
A scout from the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers was in the UW football offices Monday.