The Wyoming Cowboys finished the 2021 season on a high note by defeating the MAC runner-up Kent State Golden Flashes in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, 52-38, at the end of last season. The final result, a bowl victory, was quite the welcomed one for Coach Bohl and his boys from Laramie after the rollercoaster ride that was their 2021 campaign. The Pokes kicked it off last year with higher expectations than they’d had in years past, and unfortunately they couldn’t quite live up to that early season hype. Stumbling a bit out of the gate to a fortunate 4-0 record in non-conference play, thanks to a somewhat favorable early season schedule that helped forgive them of their inconsistencies on both sides of the ball (but mostly offense), Wyoming finished undefeated in their non-conference slate. Their undefeated record, however, did not boost the team morale enough to lead them to a successful in-conference record, despite the abundance of experience the team had at almost every position. The Cowboys’ quarterback woes with Chambers and Williams were at the forefront of their failures and the overall lack of production on offense saw the team finish Mountain West play with a 2-6 record, the two wins miraculously coming against Cowboy rivals Colorado State and eventual conference champion Utah State.
*So at least there’s that.
There were, however, flashes of hope on display all year long for the Cowboys. Breakout Freshman wide receiver Isaiah Neyor and running back Xazavian Valladay were constant bright spots on offense, the linebacker tandem of Chad Muma and Easton Gibbs was another consistent duo that got the job done week in and week out, and Levi Williams’s surprising speed kept defenses on their toes in the latter part of the year. Unfortunately, Easton Gibbs is set to be the only returning player out of that group in 2022, which means a lot will be on the new guys’ shoulders to step up to the plate in order to successfully climb Mt. West.
(see what I did there)
So, yes - the Cowboys will waltz into their 2022 campaign with a bit of an overhaul on both sides of the ball this season. New faces will grace the gridiron at War Memorial come early September in hopes of capturing that coveted Mountain West crown. There are, however, plenty of questions that remain for ninth-year Head Coach Craig Bohl and the Cowboys leading up to their debut in week 0 on August 27th in Champaign, Illinois against the Illini. A tumultuous offseason saw plenty of last year’s contributors graduate and transfer away, leaving a lot of responsibility up to a slew of fresh faces to get the job done this season, and as fall camp continues, players will continue to step up and jobs will eventually be won. But for right now, let’s dive a little deeper into what we know now about the 2022 Wyoming Cowboys, starting with the offense:
Reasons for optimism: A Fresh Start - Look, the bottom line is that last year didn’t pan out the way a lot of us Poke fans had hoped it would. The Cowboys became their own worst enemy in a lot of key moments last season, but with that being said, the good news is that this is not going to look like last year’s team. The ‘new look’ Pokes will have a reshuffled group of eager-to-learn players on offense and an offensive coordinator with a full year under his belt in Tim Polasek. The group will include a new leader at the QB position with relevant college experience, as well as a few familiar faces that will be thrust into important roles. Titus Swen returns, this time as the lead back after posting 785 yards and 7 TDs last season behind Xazavian Valladay, and Joshua Cobbs and Gunner Gentry will headline the Cowboy receiving core, presumably assuming primary roles as leading examples for the young pass-catchers. In addition, the offensive line will retain some returners and have a few familiar faces shuffling into the mix hoping to solidify their spots as primary pass-protectors and run-blockers as well. Now, this team will have to build on their chemistry given the lack of experience playing together in-game at the college level, but in my eyes there’s no reason to believe they can’t do that with the excellent coaching staff at their disposal.
Cause for concern: New Faces, Same Woes - It’s no secret that the Pokes lost a decent amount of players this offseason to the portal, graduation, and other professional endeavors (as previously mentioned in this article), and it’s likely to make an impact on at least the team’s early season success. In between this season and last, the Poke offense lost its starting QB(s) (Chambers & Williams), leading receiver (Neyor), and leading rusher (Valladay) from 2021. It will be a tall task for Craig Bohl and his staff to develop these young players, build on the team’s chemistry and make sure that they’re well prepared come the start of the 2022 season, but he and his staff do have a track record for good player development, so we can’t leave out all hope there, even with a slightly more difficult out-of-conference schedule this season.
Key stat: 25.38 points per game - That’s how many points Wyoming was able to muster up per game last season on average. Now, you might think that stat isn’t so bad, but when you take out non-conference matchups, that average dips down to 17.5 ppg - which is a lot less appealing. The Pokes will need to produce a lot better than that this season if they hope to compete in the Mountain West, a conference that contains potential offensive juggernaut teams such as Fresno State, Colorado State (maybe), and Boise State, among others.
Wildcard: Andrew Peasley & The QB Crew - We have a true wildcard situation on our hands in the Wyoming QB battle. It seems to me that is the perfect way to describe it. I mean, what are we getting? It’s the question on most Wyoming Cowboys fan minds. The lack of experience at the Division 1 level brings on an onslaught of questions regarding each quarterback’s overall ability, poise, and ability to execute in-game. Will it be Andrew Peasley who is chosen to lead the Pokes into battle after four years as a backup at Utah State? Or will it be returner Hank Gibbs or Junior College Transfer Evan Svoboda that takes the reins and is given the opportunity to sling it for the Pokes? Most signs point to Peasley, but we know about the football IQ of Gibbs and have heard tales of the arm talent of Svoboda. Whoever may win the job this August, they’ll be tasked with going out and delivering week in and week out in a brand new, critical role. Here’s to hoping one of these players can provide the Pokes with another true, worthy gunslinger under center for the first time since that one kid from Fresno.
(Josh Allen, that is.)
Reasons for optimism: Wyoming Defenses shine bright - This defense can be a major bright spot for the Cowboys this season if things go the way they should. Jay Sawvel will return to groom a defense that the transfer portal was a bit kinder to as the Pokes didn’t lose quite as many players and were able to land a handful of Power 5 transfers in CB Jakorey Hawkins (Ole Miss), MLB Cole Demarzo (Michigan State), and CB Deron Harrell (Wisconsin). They also return defensive standout MLB Easton Gibbs and NT Cole Godbout from last season to headline a defense that forced 15 turnovers and only let up more than 25 points on four occasions last season.
Cause for concern: Consistency & Leadership - Though the Cowboys are set to return some key players from their defense this season, they will be lacking a bona fide leader amongst them until he is proven worthy. Chad Muma was that guy for the Pokes the last few seasons, doing a phenomenal job as a leader and a player while getting a ton of recognition around the conference as well. Easton Gibbs will now be looked at to to take the reins and assume that role. Gibbs will need to prove that he’s up to the challenge and can lead the Cowboy defense on each and every gameday.
Meanwhile, production wise there were a few times last season where the Cowboys looked outright bad in every facet on defense. They submitted 43 points to Ball State, 38 points to Hawaii, and 38 points to Kent State in their bowl game. There will have to be plenty of improvement in the consistency of the defense if they hope to compete against what’s sure to be a very physical Mountain West this season. The Cowboys have a defensive standard, and it will need to be met in order to succeed.
Key stat: 24 sacks - Despite only allowing 23.7 points per game last season, good for the 4th best in the conference, the Cowboys only got to opposing quarterbacks 24 times, which was 11th best in the conference. With a bit of a tougher schedule on the horizon in 2022, the Pokes will have to do a lot better than that in order to wreak havoc and put some pressure on opposing QBs.
Wildcard: Oluwaseyi Omotosho - The 6’ 2” 246 lb. redshirt freshman DE will enter his third season in the Cowboys program and is flying under the radar as a potential high-impact player on the Poke defensive front. After spending the last couple of seasons backing up the likes of Solomon Byrd and Garrett Crall, Omotosho is a mostly unknown player that could provide some spark and surprise offensive lines with his quickness, power, and coordination this year. Look out for Omotosho to be one of the players that takes huge strides this season in an expanded role.
War Memorial Stadium
vs N. Colorado
War Memorial Stadium
vs Air Force*
War Memorial Stadium
LaVell Edwards Stadium
vs San Jose St.*
War Memorial Stadium
@ New Mexico*
vs Utah St.*
War Memorial Stadium
Clarence T.C. Ching Complex
@ Colorado St.*
vs Boise St.*
War Memorial Stadium
@ Fresno St.*
Thoughts: Wyoming’s schedule for the 2022 campaign is a bit tougher than last season. Wyoming opens the year against a Power 5 team in the Big 10’s Illinois Fighting Illini. Last year they had no Power 5 team on their schedule. They then move on to face Tulsa, an AAC team who finished in the middle of the pack in their conference last year. Things then lighten up a bit as they will be going up against the Big Sky’s Northern Colorado in week three. Week four will see them move on to face a scrappy Air Force team in an early in-conference matchup, and then in week five they will face BYU in what’s sure to be a tough game at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The rest of the slate will be conference games, starting off with a home game against San Jose State, followed up by a trip to New Mexico one week later to take on the Lobos. The Cowboys will then encounter a bye week as they rest up for a date with rival and defending Mountain West Champion Utah State on Oct. 22nd. They will then hit the road for a matchup with Hawaii followed by the Border War with the ‘new look’ Colorado State Rams on November 12th at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins. After that, they’ll round out their season with some tough in-conference matchups against Boise State at home, followed by a trip to Fresno to take on the Bulldogs to round out MWC play.
Best case scenario: The Pokes avenge a few of their losses from last season by defeating the likes of Air Force, Hawaii, and upsetting Boise State. Their team chemistry is the talk of the town and they pull off a Cinderella season similar to the Aggies’ season last year by winning the Mountain West. Craig Bohl finally delivers a Mountain West Championship and stars are born in Laramie as the Pokes finish the year 9-3 with a bid to the LA Bowl in Los Angeles.
Worst case scenario: The Pokes look reminiscent of last season’s team and struggle mightily to sustain any offensive capability with their new look arsenal. They win the games they should against New Mexico and Hawaii, but that’s about it. They finish the season 4-8 falling just short of making a bowl appearance.
What’s probably going to happen: I’m predicting something a bit more successful than last season for the 2022 Wyoming Cowboys. The Pokes are riding on the fact that they have no outside expectation of success, so they play loose and with a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality. They will be headed in the right direction, having constructed a sustainable group of what is sure to be a powerhouse in the Mountain West for the next few years. The team chemistry builds gradually over the course of the season and it turns into a bit of a swagger. QB Andrew Peasley will be given the job based on leadership and experience, and restore some confidence in an offense that has been relatively dormant the last few years. They will once again beat rival Utah State and finally pull off the upset vs. Boise State. They will become bowl-eligible and finish with a 7-5 record with one of the best defenses in the conference.
*Let me know what you think! I’m eager to hear your thoughts. Feel free to discuss and leave your own thoughts on the outlook of the 2022 Wyoming Cowboys in the comment section: