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The Wyoming Cowboys Look to Build Against Heavily Favored Boise State

Can Wyoming continue to improve and stay in the saddle against MWC power Boise State?

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The Wyoming Cowboys finally got their first win in 7 tries last week, defeating the Nevada Wolf  Pack 28-21. Pokes QB Cameron Coffman was selected as the Mountain West Conference offensive player of the week and continues to put up nice numbers as the the trigger man for a team that was expected to feature a ground and pound running attack, but that has been surprisingly effective when throwing the football. What can we expect when the Pokes visit the Boise State Broncos in week 8?

Boise State Broncos

Date: Oct. 24

Coach: Bryan Harsin

Last season: 12-2

Offense: Pro-style

Defense: 4-2-5

Players to watch:

Brett Rypien, QB; Darian Thompson, S; Jeremy McNichols, RB; Kamalei Correas, LB

Must continue to improve inside the Red Zone

Wyoming has proven that it can move the ball both on the ground and through the air but has proven to be very ineffective when inside the 20. After 7 games they rank 126 out 128 teams in RZ scoring percentage at 56.52%. But things might be changing as an offensive line that starts 2 true freshman starts to gel..

"It was great for us to see us score on a power running ply from the 5 yard line with true freshman (running back) Kellen Overstreet." says Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl, "While a lot of people on the outside may not think that was a big deal... that was a big deal, I think NV had mature defensive linemen, we just knocked them back 5 yards, that's a tough thing to do.The mantra of the saying cowboy tough... you cant do that unless you're going to be that way with the offensive line, it was without question their best game."

Protect the Quarter Back, Play Balanced on Offense

A main challenge for the Cowboys has been in protecting QB Cameron Coffman. Thus far the Pokes have given up almost 3 sacks per game. Against Nevada last week they gave up none and the numbers reflected this protection: Coffman was 18 for 20 for 213 with 3 TDs and 0 Interceptions en route to a 229.0 passer rating and MWC offensive player of the week honors. When Coffman has time he makes the right choices. When he makes the right choices, the offense stays on schedule, allowing Wyoming to utilize the talents of running back Brian Hill who put up another 100 yard game against Nevada last week.

The only problem with this theory is that Boise State ranks 3rd nationally in opponents yards per game at 265.5 per game. The Broncos are laden with veteran talent that includes safety Darian Thompson and potential All-American linebacker Kamalei Correas. The Broncos are fast, deep and get to the ball carrier with bad intentions, allowing an average of only 84.2 rushing yards per contest in 2015.

Keep an Eye on the Wyoming Secondary

For most of this season the Cowboy secondary has appeared to be less than average, but emerging players like converted running back D.J. May at safety and true freshman safety Andrew Wingardt have been turning heads both in and out of the defensive box.

The Boise State offense has averaged 461 yards per game and leads the Mountain West. Freshman QB Brett Rypien leads the #1 passing offense in the the conference with 290.1 yards per game. Last week Rypien threw 3 picks, was sacked 4 times and coughed up the ball twice.

Though it would be foolish to expect a repeat of this disastrous performance, it does indicate that there are, in fact, opportunities for a Wyoming defense that appears to be playing with more confidence and that seems to be able to fly to the ball with more ferocity, creating opportunities for big plays.

The Pokes Are 35 Point Dogs but...

It's hard to say what the Cowboys really are. Wyoming is focused on establishing it's brand of football versus kowtowing to any specific opponent,where as Boise State (who returned 17 of 22 starters) is a team looking to stay nationally prominent. Make no mistake: to Boise State style points matter. Look for a fired up Broncos squad after an embarrassing, error filled loss to Utah State.

On the other hand, Bohl admits that his team is more interested in self improvement, and explains that "Our football program is so young that our main focus --our main concern-- is about the Cowboys and trying to improve the Cowboys... We've got to take care of our challenges that we have."

While I wouldn't suggest picking Wyoming as an outright, it's easy to envision Wyoming keeping it under 35, especially if they continue to generate first downs on the ground. This might well be a game where the clock continues to move as both teams try to take advantage of the running game. If Wyoming can score early, expect them to cover the number. Whether or not they are ultimately competitive is not  Bohl's primary concern at 1-6. Whether the Pokes are willing to COMPETE is another matter.

Pokes cover, put an early scare into the Broncos.