Well, the season is over. The Wyoming Cowboys finished 6-6 and were 1 of 4 bowl eligible teams to not be invited to a bowl game this year. Here are a few thoughts to recap the 2018 season.
Middle of the Pack Team
As I noted above, Wyoming finished 6-6 on the season. In conference, Wyoming went 4-4. In non-conference, the Cowboys went 2-2.
How did Wyoming get to 6-6? They beat teams that were not very good, and lost to the better teams on their schedule.
For the losses:
Wyoming reportedly won’t be invited to a bowl despite their 6-6 record. Seems unfair as they played a very difficult schedule. Their losses:— WestCoastCFB (@WestcoastCfb) November 29, 2018
#13 WSU (10-2)
#22 Boise St (10-2)
#24 Missouri (8-4)
#25 Fresno St (10-2)
Utah St (10-2)
Cowboys went 6-0 vs everyone else
To summarize, Wyoming lost to 4 teams in the Top 25. Also, a 10 win team in Utah State that is ranked #24 in the Coaches Poll. The other loss was a close one to Hawaii on the islands where Hawaii scored late to come from behind for the victory.
The wins were not very impressive though. They included: New Mexico State (3-9), Wofford (FCS, 9-4), Colorado State (3-9), San Jose State (1-11), Air Force (5-7), and New Mexico (3-9). The best win was at home versus Air Force. However, that win required a come from behind victory.
When you consider the loss to Hawaii and win over Air Force, things seemed to even out. The Cowboys were just a middle of the pack team in 2018.
Some might feel like the Wyoming defense disappointed this season. The reality was that the defense struggled more than expected earlier in the season (versus the more difficult part of the schedule). However, the defense played better down the stretch (versus the easier part of the schedule) to finish the season about where the Cowboys were expected to be.
Total Defense Ranking for Wyoming:
2017 - 23rd
2018 - 19th
The big difference was turnovers.
Turnover Margin Ranking for Wyoming:
2017 - 1st, +24
2018 - 41st, +4
Wyoming took a big step backwards in turnovers.
The Running Game
Wyoming really improved in this area. In 2017, Wyoming ranked 117th in rushing offense. In 2018, Wyoming finished ranked 41st in rushing offense. A huge improvement that gave the Cowboys some life on offense.
Leading the charge this season, Nico Evans finished the season with 1,325 yards rushing and 8 TD’s. Mind you, Nico Evans came into this season with just 108 career rushing yards over his three previous seasons.
While Nico Evans carried most of the load on offense, he was not the only contributor. Wyoming saw freshmen at RB and QB also find success on the ground.
The Passing Game
While the running game improved, the passing game really regressed. In 2017, Wyoming ranked 103rd in passing offense (yes, with Josh Allen). In 2018, Wyoming finished ranked 124th in passing offense. Basically, Wyoming was ahead of only triple-option teams in terms of passing offense. That is pretty much awful since Wyoming does not run the triple-option.
Wyoming played a couple of freshman at QB. Tyler Vander Waal started the season and got the majority of snaps under center. Vander Waal really struggled, finishing the season with just 1,310 yds, 5 TDs, 4 INTs & with a 48.8% completion percentage. Sean Chambers provided the offense with a spark for a few game before he was lost for the season with a broken leg against Air Force. However, Chambers did not add much to the passing game. Rather, Chambers was another threat in the running game, finishing the season with more than twice as many rushes than pass attempts.
If you want to know where Wyoming fell short in 2018, it was in the passing game.
Wyoming had three players finish on the 1st Team All-MW. Nico Evans (mentioned above) finished his great senior season as one of those selected 1st team all-conference.
Another one of those selected, Cooper Rothe, was named Special Teams Player of the Year in the Mountain West. Rothe finished the season 16/17 on field goals and 28/28 on extra points.
Lastly, Andrew Wingard was the other Cowboy selected. Wingard had a great career at Wyoming. Not only did he finish 1st team All-MW, Wingard ended his career tied as the all-time tackles leader in Mountain West history. The accomplishment has probably not gotten the attention it deserves.