3 keys to beating the Broncos
LARAMIE -- The tape shows something much different than what Craig Bohl is reading on the stat sheet.
On paper, Boise State features one of the worst rushing attacks in the country, averaging just 106.1 yards per game on the ground. That's ranks the Broncos 119th out of 130 FBS teams.
Wyoming's head coach said injuries have played a major role in that output. Boise State's first-year head coach Andy Avalos agrees.
In a 40-14 blowout victory over No. 23 Fresno State last Saturday night in California, George Holani ran through the Bulldogs to the tune of 117 yards on just 21 carries. The Broncos finished with 187 yards on the ground in the win.
"They do have the running game going back now," Bohl said.
Just in time for a Wyoming defense that holds its opponents to 173 rushing yards per outing. Last Saturday, the Cowboys held Colorado State to just 170 yards on 35 attempts. Aside from a single third-quarter drive that consisted of 65 rushing yards from the Rams, UW made it a long day for David Bailey and Co. in a 31-17 win.
Here are a few keys to the Cowboys picking up their first win inside Albertson's Stadium Friday night in Idaho:
1. HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
Wyoming's ground game has reappeared in a big way over the last two weeks.
Xazavian Valladay has accounted for 248 yards on the ground and the Cowboys have gashed CSU and San Jose State for a combined 656 rushing yards.
Now, that's Craig Bohl football.
And that needs to keep rolling if the Cowboys are in hopes of walking out of Boise with a win for the first time in eight tries.
Wyoming's veteran offensive front feels like it turned a corner in a 27-21 road loss at San Jose State. That afternoon in the Silicon Valley, the Cowboys cruised to a 271-yard rushing day behind a 172-yard performance from Valladay.
Latrell Bible, Zach Watts and Rudy Stofer sparked that unit in the victory over CSU, blowing the Rams' front four off the ball and opening a massive hole for Titus Swen who went 87 yards down the sideline. Valladay found the end zone two plays later to put the Cowboys up 14-7.
They would never relinquish the lead.
Bohl credited all the blockers for their effort in that Border War blowout. Fullbacks Parker Christensen and Caleb Driskill, along with tight ends Treyton Welch, Colin O'Brien and Jackson Marcotte are starting to impose their wills in the running game.
The explosive plays are proving that.
Back-up running back Trey Smith also deserves a ton of credit for sealing the edge on a 52-yard run by quarterback Levi Williams late in the second quarter.
This group is feeling confident. Valladay is fully healthy late in the season for the first time since 2018. Swen and even Dawaiian McNeely are picking up yards in chunks.
If Wyoming can control the clock and keep the chains moving on The Blue, the Cowboys should be in great shape.
Not only is Boise State struggling to run the ball, it hasn't done a great job of stopping it, either. The Broncos allow nearly 173 yards on the ground per outing. That equates to 4.2 yards per clip.
Good news for the visitors.
2. WIN THE TO BATTLE
Wyoming has broken some disturbing trends over the last two weeks.
First, there was the touchdown-less streak that reached 11 quarters during the Cowboys' four-game losing skid. A 54-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Isaiah Neyor in the second quarter in San Jose squashed that one.
Then there was the lack of turnovers.
After stealing seven balls from its first three opponents of the season, UW was the generous ones during that losing streak, throwing seven interceptions and fumbling the ball away four times.
Early against CSU, Valladay fumbled on a fourth-down attempt. It appeared the broken record was about to keep in spinning for this unit.
That all changed on the second play of the fourth quarter when Keonte Glinton stepped in front of a Todd Centeio pass and won the battle with Trey McBride for the football. On the Rams next drive Victor Jones batted a Centeio throw at the line of scrimmage and linebacker Chad Muma made a diving catch to secure the Cowboys second turnover of the day.
"Well, I can tell you this, as excited as was I was when we finally scored a touchdown last week," Bohl smiled, referring to that Glinton pick putting a halt to that extended drought. "It was great to see us come up with a couple. The crazy thing was, I think the first interception was on fourth down."
And Wyoming needs to do that again Friday night in Boise. More than once would be ideal.
Easier said than done.
Boise State is ranked seventh in the nation in turnover margin: plus-9.
The Broncos have forced eight fumbles and picked off 11 passes through nine games. That's the second-best mark in the Mountain West Conference. Cornerback Tyric LeBeauf leads the team with three picks. Safeties Seyi Oladipo and Tyreque Jones, along with cornerback Kaonohi Kaniho, all have two interceptions.
This would be a heck of a time for Azizi Hearn to snag his first-career interception, huh? CJ Coldon did pick off Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier last December in a Laramie snowstorm.
Winning this battle is a must.
3. GET IT TO 5 -- OFTEN
UW's first-year offensive coordinator Tim Polasek has called Neyor's number just seven times over the past two weeks.
The freshman wide out from Texas has responded by hauling in four touchdowns on six catches.
In last Saturday's win over CSU, the ebb and flow of the game didn't call for Williams to take it to the air. He threw the ball just 16 times. He completed nine of those for 92 yards and those two scoring strikes to his 6-foot-3 pass catcher.
Wyoming's running game was that good.
Everything points to the Cowboys once again having success on the ground in Boise, however, when you have a guy on the outside who is literally pulling down anything in his vicinity, why not get it to him more often?
Yes, Boise State has plenty of talent in the secondary, but Neyor is a special talent.
"He believes in me to get the catch," Neyor said of Williams, who has been the Cowboys' starting QB over the past two weeks. "So, it's a good thing that we got going on and hopefully we can get some more of those in the future."
Williams wholeheartedly agrees.
"He's just one of those guys he's going to get everything you throw to him," Williams said.
Avalos and Co. know what the Cowboys want to do Friday night. It's not a national secret that Polasek and Co. will attempt to pound the football on the ground and look for quick, high-percentage passes to Welch or Joshua Cobbs. The Broncos also know Neyor is the Pokes' legit deep threat.
But he's so much more than that.
Yes, he can take the lid off the defense. We've seen him do that eight times this season. But why not incorporate Neyor in all passing situations? That guy is physical enough to play with the big boys over the middle. He fast enough to beat people to the post. He can go up and get it.
Boise State might know it's coming, but good luck stopping it.
If you have that kind of weapon, use it.