LARAMIE – Emotions will be high and, as always, there is a lot on the line when the two teams meet. But when Wyoming hosts Colorado State this Friday night in the 111th edition of the Border War, UW head coach Craig Bohl needs his team to be focused on the task at hand: going 1-0.
Coming off a second straight loss, the latest a 26-21 defeat at Utah State, the Cowboys (6-4 overall, 3-3 Mountain West) have been eliminated from the Mountain Division race and cannot win the Mountain West Conference this season. UW had late chances in each game, but was unable to pull through.
Outside of the second quarter Saturday, Wyoming’s defense played Utah State’s explosive offense perfectly, giving up just six total points over the other three quarters. But the second frame killed the Pokes, as quarterback Jordan Love threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns – one an 80-yard catch and run and the other a 35-yard toss – as the Aggies scored 20 points in what seemed like an instant.
Those types of mistakes can’t happen against Colorado State (4-6, 3-3), which averages 30.6 points per game and features an All-American-caliber receiver in Warren Jackson (940 yards, 6 touchdowns). Prior to last weekend’s loss against Air Force, CSU had won three straight games.
“There were about three plays that I looked at, going through the tapes, where I said, ‘What in the world?’” Bohl said. “That’s like mistakes that were back in that 2-10 year (in 2015). … We want to get that corrected, and we’ll need to get that corrected.”
It was an uncharacteristic performance on a lot of levels in Logan. Wyoming, which entered the game with just five turnovers all season, turned the ball over four times. The Cowboys also committed a season-high nine penalties, nearly double their season average of just over five per game.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Vander Waal, making his second start of the season, fumbled once and threw three interceptions, including one deep in Utah State territory on the Cowboys’ final drive that sealed the game.
True freshman quarterback Levi Williams is listed as second on the depth chart behind Vander Waal, who is starting due to a season-ending injury to Sean Chambers. When asked if Williams would play at all over the last few games, Bohl was noncommittal.
Players can redshirt if they play in four games or less during a season; Williams has yet to take a snap.
“We’re looking at all our options,” Bohl said. “It’s a legitimate question, and I’m not giving you a straight answer.”
The Colorado State-Wyoming game always means a lot to players on both sides. The winner of the game receives the Bronze Boot, which UW has had in its possession the last three seasons. With another victory over the Rams, the 2019 senior class would be the first to have four wins over Colorado State since the 2012 class; prior to that, the last senior class to win four against the Rams was the 1973 class. CSU leads the all-time series 58-47-5.
“It’s a huge game for us. And I think it’s more important now because I’ve associated myself with this great state, great university for the last five years,” said senior wide receiver Austin Conway, who is from Colorado. “It means a lot to me because I am now in Wyoming.”
In a twist of fate, Friday night’s game against the Rams is also the last home game for the aforementioned seniors. Senior linebacker Logan Wilson is prepared for the forthcoming emotional roller coaster when he is introduced on the field in front of a packed War Memorial Stadium.
“It’s going to be a surreal feeling. It’s already slowly starting to hit me, but I think it’ll really hit me on Friday night. This will be my last time ever playing in front of that home crowd,” Wilson, a Wyoming native, said. “When you invest so much into a program over the last five years, it’s basically been a very big part of your life. For something like that to come to an end is going to be a little bit sad. … Then it will be time to play some ball.”
Bohl, who played football at Nebraska, believes that rivalries such as Wyoming vs. CSU are good for college football. One of his alma mater’s great rivalries against Oklahoma has been eliminated in recent years.
“This one is intact, and it means a lot,” Bohl said. “This game here, you better circle it. It means a lot to the people in our state … These are the games that you live for.”
Hall talks penalties
Senior cornerback Tyler Hall was flagged for a pair of crucial pass interference calls against Utah State last weekend. One of the calls appeared to occur on a pass that was thrown out of bounds and had little chance of being caught by the Aggies’ receiver. Hall admitted that it was a frustrating situation, particularly because it was a close game.
“Especially on the first one, I was quite confused … (but) once the ref throws the flag, there’s not too much picking it up,” Hall said. “When I see penalties like that, I continue to play my game, and I try to not let the refs stop me from the game I’m playing, I guess.
“It’s about me continuing to play my game … you have to keep going and keep fighting.”
Offensive linemen Zach Watts and Alonzo Velazquez are listed atop this week’s depth chart after seeing action against Utah State. Velazquez had not played since the San Diego State game, while Watts made his first appearance of the season following an injury suffered during spring practice.
It was not all good news, however, as Bohl said tight end Jackson Marcotte would be unavailable this week due to his knee being “really loose.” Marcotte was carted off the field in the first quarter against Utah State and did not return. Bohl said the team is still awaiting his final MRI results.
Bohl also said running back Titus Swen, who has been out since the SDSU game, is running in practice, but said he didn’t “think he’s there.” However, he later added that Swen “could be” able to play against Colorado State.