What a way to end the season. Wyoming scored an easy win over Central Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to win its first bowl game since 2009 and sent star quarterback Josh Allen off the right way.
It’d be easy to talk about Allen for the next couple hundred words, but I’m going to focus on UW’s true MVP — the defense.
Wyoming’s defense, which has shined for 95 percent of the season, logged another laudable performance a week ago. The Pokes’ defensive unit couldn’t have capped 2017 in a more impressive way, creating a school-record eight turnovers in a rout of the Chippewas.
But this isn’t anything new for Wyoming’s defense. It started at Iowa, where the unit did all it could to keep the Pokes close, only to see the offense flame out each and every drive. It held Boise State — a team averaging 28.7 points per game at home — to 10 points through three quarters and put the Pokes in position to win, only to see the offense fall short. It was the defense that valiantly stood up against West Division champion Fresno State, holding them to 14 points, which gave the Pokes, guided by a backup quarterback, a chance to win with under a minute to play.
Josh Allen stole the headlines and he will until draft day, but Wyoming’s defense has arrived and isn’t going anywhere. Defensive studs Carl Granderson, Youhanna Ghaifan, Logan Wilson and Andrew Winged all return to a defense that ranked in the top 10 in yards-per-play allowed.
Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl and defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton have finally built a defense worth hanging their hats on. A defense as punishing as a cold winter day in Laramie.
Bohl constructed the greatest football dynasty ever. North Dakota State is the only team in any division of college football to win five straight national championships, and Bohl was head man for the first three.
Bohl’s NDSU teams took that next step from playoff contender to national championship favorites when Bohl’s defense firmly cemented itself. In Bohl’s final three seasons with the Bison, his defense got progressively better, surrendering just 12.7, 11.5 and 11.3 points per contest, respectively, during that stretch.
The loss of Allen will be felt in 2018 for Wyoming. He was one of the few redeeming qualities on an offense that struggled for most of the season. It would be tough for any program in the country to replace a top-five NFL draft choice, and the Pokes will not be immune.
But the defense gives Wyoming more than a punchers chance in a tough Mountain Division next season. Boise State — the MWC champions — looks like the favorite as the Broncos bring back plenty of offensive weapons, including their quarterback and nearly everyone on defense.
For Wyoming, the preseason hype that surrounded Josh Allen this past season will be replaced by speculation on what dance moves Ghaifan will debut after sacks. The poster fronts, instead of showing Allen, will show Wingard’s long blonde hair blowing in the Laramie wind as he’s stoning tailbacks behind the line of scrimmage. The feel-good story of Allen’s path to UW will have evaporated and in its place, Wyoming native Logan Wilson’s fast tracked path to stardom will come to the forefront.
Remember the ole cliche, defense wins championships.
Wyoming will easily have a championship caliber defense in 2018. It did in 2017, and if the offense can just be slightly more productive than it was in 2017, it could be a special year in Laramie.