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Cowboys falter in a 24-13 loss to North Dakota

Wyoming falls to 0-1 on the season after disappointing opening loss to North Dakota 24-13.

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Wyoming kicked off their 2015 football season at home in Laramie in front of 23,669 fans.  The Cowboy faithful left Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium disappointed after a 24-13 loss to FCS (Missouri Valley Conference) North Dakota this past Saturday.

The story of the ballgame was penalties and third down conversions.

The Cowboys committed eight penalties for 96 yards. Most were the 15-yard variety and coming at the absolute worst possible time.

"Obviously that’s very disappointing," junior offensive guard Chase Roullier said. "It’s never good when you’re getting penalties and letting the team down. I don’t know how many were on (the offensive line), but any penalty – just one penalty – is not good for us. We’re supposed to be out there just pounding the ball down and being the strong part of the team."

This is what coach Craig Bohl had to say about seeing so much yellow laundry on the field going against the Cowboys.

"I was disappointed in our lack of discipline, and discipline comes under coaching," Bohl said. "We did not put our players in position during fall camp enough to warrant that kind of discipline.

"That’s not why we lost the game, but it contributed to it."

They weren't much better when it came to third down, offensively or defensively.

North Dakota was 9-for-17 on third downs, while the Cowboys only managed 3-for-13 in the same department.

One could tell that coach Craig Bohl didn't mince words following the home opening loss.

"We got beat by a better team," he said.

"They were good on third down. We had a hard time getting off the field on third down."

North Dakota beat Wyoming at its own game as it ran for 276 yards, for a hefty 5.1-yard per carry average  and three touchdowns. It also ran 19 more plays than the Cowboys and possessed the ball more than 14 minutes longer.

It was suppose to be Wyoming who were to be running the ball and controlling the clock with a smash mouth mentality.

"They basically just beat us at our own game," senior running back Shaun Wick said. "We’re supposed to be a tough physical team, but we didn’t show that. They did."

The Cowboys vaunted rushing attack led by sophomore Brian Hill and senior Shaun Wick, the second-most-productive tandem in the Mountain West Conference in 2014, combined for a mere 58 rushing yards. Hill ran 10 times for 31 yards, while Wick amassed 27 yards on six carries.  With the rushing game faltering, the Cowboys threw the football 39 times in the ballgame.  Definitely not the number of passes Wyoming wants to see if they plan to win many games.  The defense on the other hand allowed freshman running back John Santiago to rush for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in the first game of his college career.

Even though the offensive line as a whole did not perform that well, senior quarterback Cameron Coffman finished 19-of-37 passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns.  A few other bright spots for the Cowboys were wide receiver Tanner Gentry, defensive end Eddie Yarbough and strong safety Chavez Pownell Jr.

Gentry had nine catches for 176 yards and 1 touchdown.  His 92 yard touchdown reception was the second longest touchdown pass in Wyoming history with Brett Smith to Robert Herron (93 yards) in 2013 the longest.  Yarbrough had one sack, getting to North Dakota quarterback Keaton Studsrud in the first quarter on Saturday. He also had one pass breakup and now sits just 6.5 tackles for loss from the all-time Wyoming record.  Pownell Jr.'s 16 tackles today were the most by a Wyoming player since Marqueston Huff had 20 against Nebraska in 2013.

Wyoming had never played North Dakota before this Saturday's contest.  Though Bohl lost to North Dakota in 2003, his first year as North Dakota State’s head coach.

The 2003 loss came in overtime. This one wasn't even close to the same fate.

"The film is never as bad as you thought and you never feel as good after a big win," Bohl said, "but I can tell you this right now, it’s not feeling very good for anybody."

Wyoming's loss drops it to 10-2 all-time against FCS opponents, its other defeat coming in a 24-22 setback to Cal Poly in 2012 also at home.

The Cowboys have to regroup and get ready to host the Eagles of Eastern Michigan at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium next Saturday, September 12th.  The game will be on ROOT at 3:00 PM MDT.  The Cowboys open as a 12.5 point favorites even after the North Dakota loss.