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Wyoming vs Washington State Game Preview: Can the Cowboys run the ball over the Cougars?

Wyoming must man the anti-aircraft batteries and tackle well when they face Mike Leach's Air Raid offense.

The Pokes Must Make Tackles in the Open Field Against WSU
The Pokes Must Make Tackles in the Open Field Against WSU
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

If there's one thing you know you're going to have to stop when you face a Mike Leach team it's the pass. For Wyoming, a football squad that has dropped it's first two games to University of North Dakota and Eastern Michigan, it's not been a matter of picking the poison, it's been more of a matter of which poison the opponent has chosen to deliver to a Cowboy defense that has been run through.

North Dakota converted WR John Santiago ran for 178 yards, two touchdowns, and picked apart for 330 passing yards by EMU's backup quarterback. Much of this can be attributed to a defensive front that has not touched the opposing quarterback in 10 quarters.

Game Time: 6:30 p.m., Sept. 19

Head Coach: Mike Leach

2014 Wins-Losses: 3-9

2015 Wins-Losses: 1-1

Offense: Air raid

Defense: 4-2-5

Key Players:

Luke Falk, QQ; Darius Lemora, NB; Peyton Pelluer; LB

Maybe there is an inherent advantage to facing the perennial pass happy Mike Leach offense: unlike a box of chocolates, you generally KNOW what you're gonna get. WSU is averaging 66 pass attempts per game in 2015. That's the most in FBS by 8 attempts per game. Conversely, WSU is averaging a scant 16 rushing attempts per game and, yes, that is, in fact, the least in FBS. This is in stark contrast to Wyoming's 58 rushing attempts per.

Says Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl: "Let's be real clear we think Wassou is a really good football program. Offensively they pose challenges..." Bohl further explains: "They're a Pac-12 school, they've got a lot of resources and they're a quote unquote power 5 school, and they recruit that way."

It appears, that the proof is in the pudding. WSU QB Luke Falk is coming off of a scintillating 478 yard, four TD game, earning him Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors.

One of the things that the Cougars and Cowboys have in common, would be considered an embarrassment by most FBS pundits is that each had opening day losses to FCS opponents. WSU to Portland State and Wyoming to North Dakota.

The glass half full for Wyoming is that WSU is clearly not an unbeatable offensive juggernaut. The glass half empty is that Wyoming lost to a very young Eastern Michigan team that, as previously mentioned,  appeared to be an unstoppable offensive juggernaut when they lined up against Wyoming last week... and, oh yes, University of North Dakota's running backs might STILL be running for first downs if the final gun hadn't sounded.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they are the youngest and most inexperienced in the secondary- where they can least afford to be against a club like Washington State. Wyoming has thus far given up 330 passing yards per game (112 in the FBS). More alarmingly, the Pokes opponent average completion percentage per game is a unsightly 72% (117 in the FBS).

WSU's offensive potency is gamely acknowledged by Craig Bohl: "They have good players, but the schemes are really unique and because of those schemes they stretch you... their offensive linemen are stretched... they have big splits. A lot of the receivers run precision routes... the quarterback throws the ball very accurately."

If there's a bright spot for the Cowboys, it's that the WSU defense has given up almost 200 rushing yards per game. Advantage Cowboys. Despite a lack of overall early season success, Wyoming has shown the ability to possess the ball.  And possess it they must if they are to limit WSU's offensive gains.

As Bohl has continually stressed after a disappointing 0-2 start, "We've gotta focus on us. We're taking steps to put one foot in front of the other... it's about us getting better."

Indeed Mr Bohl, one step at a time. For Wyoming's sake against Washington State, each step better average at least 4 yards a carry, if not the Cowboys probably won't take the first step to victory in the 2015 campaign.