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September 17, 2013

A look back: Northern Colorado

You have to appreciate the fact that the folks with most difficult job in War Memorial Stadium on Saturday may have been Wyoming's medical staff.

When Brett Smith hurt his ankle during a scramble in the first quarter they had mere seconds to decide whether to attend to Smith's injured leg or try to re-start Dave Christensen's heart, which no doubt skipped several beats when he saw his star grab his foot.

Bum legs aside, today we take our weekly look at the stat sheet from last week's contest - a 35-7 win over Northern Colorado - and decide what worked, what didn't work and what we learned.

WHAT WORKED

2 - As in the second quarter. For the second week in a row, the Wyoming football team posted a 21-point second quarter. The Pokes posted touchdowns from Shaun Wick, Dominic Rufran and Jordan Stanton within a seven-minute game time frame to put themselves comfortably ahead.

The defense turns in another strong performance - Whether it is a matter of overmatched opponents, great coaching, more birthdays or a combination of all of those things, the Wyoming defense seems to be taking huge strides forward from their play from a year ago.

Last year the Pokes' defense allowed 470 yards per game and 5,643 total yards... Yes, Wyoming gave up over a mile of total offense last year. This year that number is down around 70 yards per game and shows improvement each week. This week they held Northern Colorado to around three yards per carry. While they did give up 275 yards through the air, it took the Bears 52 pass attempts to make that happen.

Here's to rubbing some dirt on it... When Smith went down with the ankle injury, he did return to the game on the Cowboys' next possession. With Smith the Pokes were 4-4 last year. Without him - not so much. I have all the faith in the world in back-up Jason Thompson, but the best thing for the program is not to see him this year and allow for the redshirt to give him two years at the helm of the Wyoming offense.

This Stanton guy may be a keeper - True, fake story... When Boise State agreed to remain a part of the Mountain West Conference, the Broncos were allowed to continue wearing their blue uniforms at home, they could own the rights to their home games and they could win the Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

How else do you explain Wyoming's Jordan Stanton collecting 12 tackles, one sack and an interception for a touchdown and NOT being named MWC Player of the Week. For the record, that honor went to DeMarcus Lawrence of Boise who had nine tackles, two for a loss. Not to dump on Lawrence's effort, but none of those tackles scored any points for the Broncs.

Secondary skills - Sure they allowed 275 passing yards, but the Wyoming secondary also featured a Cortland Fort touchdown return of an interception, three passes broken up by Marqueston Huff and another two from Blair Burns.


WHAT DIDN'T WORK

1 - As in the first quarter. For the second week in a row the Cowboys didn't score a point in the opening frame. Perhaps an earlier wake-up call from the front desk at the Hilton next time.

Second half sputtering - Save for a 5-play, 48-yard drive in the third quarter, the Pokes didn't produce a single offensive scoring drive. It did produce 37 plays, one touchdown, one fumble lost, one interception and two punts. The time of possession was dominated by the Bears in the second half as well - roughly 18 minutes to 11.

Where's Dom? - In what may have been the strangest stat of the day, Dominic Rufran caught nine passes for 87 yards and a score in the first half. In the second half he may as well have been on a milk carton, because statistically, he was not seen again.


WHAT WE LEARNED

There was a certain bad news-good news quality to this weekend's Wyoming win over Northern Colorado. The crowd, the players and the coaches all remarked about a general lack of satisfaction involved in this win.

That is the bad news - the good is the fact the Wyoming actually beat someone - anyone - 35-7 and no one is excited about it. That says something for the expectations being put on this group.

At the end of the day, who knows what we really have in this Wyoming team? The Pokes went up against a Nebraska team that is years past its Blackshirts tradition and put up a great fight. They beat up on an over-matched Idaho squad and this week yawned through a game with an FCS opponent, lucky that attitude didn't put them in a category with Michigan and Kansas State.

This week a dip of the toe into conference season as they travel to the Springs to play the zoomies. Let's call this what it is - a chance to give a noogie to a conference rival who has been a pain in your backside and is a little down this year.

Not only that, but the conventional wisdom has said that this is Boise's league to win. Wyoming made a statement with its first three games this year. All that momentum towards challenging for a conference title will take a serious hit with a loss at Air Force this weekend.



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