University of Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl entered the press conference after the Pokes’ 41-19 loss to Washington State Saturday a little on edge. His attitude was appropriately rooted. Even though three scores separated UW and WSU, he felt, like many of his players did, that they let one get away.
Saturday was a missed opportunity, plain and simple.
The Cougars traveled to Laramie without much preseason love, only receiving a few votes in the coaches poll and none in the Associated Press preseason poll. Wazzu had to break in a new quarterback, who had new targets to throw to on the outside. The offensive and defensive lines both lost an All-American. Expectations in Pullman, Washington, weren’t all that high, at least in comparison to years past, and they certainly were not as high as they were in Laramie.
Wyoming came into its home opener Saturday with a 1-0 record — one of the few teams to play during week zero — fresh off a 29-7 suffocation of New Mexico State. UW’s defense looked as good as advertised when the first teamers pitched a shut out. The front seven proved so stout that All-American Andrew Wingard, for the first time in his career, stood bored at his strong safety post.
Wyoming received national attention ahead of kickoff Saturday. The College Gameday crew tasked with making a selection on every prominent game that week, elected to give their prediction on the Wyoming/Washington State game and half of them selected the Pokes to spring the mild upset — the Cougars went in as 2.5-point favorites.
UW had Wazzu right where it wanted with just a quarter-and-a-half to play. The Pokes owned a 19-13 lead, having outscored the Cougars 19-3, and forced three consecutive three-and-outs in the second quarter.
However, masked in the euphoric high within War Memorial Stadium was the fact that Wyoming’s defense had played a lot of snaps and simply began to wear down. By the midway point of the third quarter, UW’s offense had gone three-and-out six times, leaving that stout defense little time to catch its breath.
It didn’t rear its ugly head until the fourth quarter when the Cougars eviscerated the Cowboys, scoring back-to-back touchdowns to take a 34-19 lead with just over five minutes to play in the game.
Yes, this was a PAC-12 opponent and yes, Wyoming’s starting running back Nico Evans — who became more and more effective as the game wore on — got injured in the third quarter and couldn’t return, but make no mistake, this was a missed opportunity.
While in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t change much. The Mountain West Conference is still for the taking with Boise State and Utah State both having to come to Laramie.
But when will we expect more out of Wyoming? When will the Pokes end their drought against Power Five teams? When can UW fans start dreaming dreams similar to, say, Boise State?
Bohl built the greatest college football dynasty ever at North Dakota State. He’s transformed the Cowboys into contenders in the Mountain Division.
But when will Wyoming transform from contenders into champions? When will Wyoming reach national prominence, like a North Dakota State or like a Boise State?
Saturday was another opportunity to take the next step and the Pokes couldn’t find their footing.