What: Wyoming Cowboys vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricanes
When: Saturday, September 2nd, 2022 1:30 pm MT
Where: War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, WY
Odds: Wyoming +6.5 | O/U 45 (via DraftKings)
Last week, the Wyoming Cowboys dropped their opening Week 0 matchup with the Illinois Fighting Illini 38-6. It was a display that showcased exactly what most Poke fans were worried would potentially be featured. A lackluster offense posing no threats in the passing game and a team that mainly looked overpowered in every other facet. In other words, very reminiscent of last season’s squad. However, there were still some positive takeaways from the game if you like to look at things optimistically. Titus Swen returned to his usual workhorse self, finishing with just under 100 yards on 17 carries. The Poke defense also had a few standouts including MLB Easton Gibbs (9 TOT), NT Cole Godbout (7 TOT), and S Wyett Ekeler (6 TOT, 1 PD), and was pretty strong in the first half despite rolling out an onslaught of new players in new roles.
As for the team as a whole, there’s still plenty to build on moving forward. The Pokes can take pride in the fact that they competed valiantly against what looked to be an improved Big 10 team. They can also be satisfied with their ability to operate cohesively in some areas after going through so many big personnel changes on both sides of the football. Other than that, there wasn’t too much that left us feeling great about a team that was flat-out dominated for the entire second half. They didn’t win, it wasn’t pretty, but they now have a game under their belt and are moving on to their home turf.
What to expect from Tulsa:
In their return to War Memorial, the Cowboys will welcome in the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. Tulsa finished last season in the middle of a competitive American Athletic Conference behind the likes of Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF, with a 5-3 conference record. However, like the Cowboys, Tulsa is a team that has undergone plenty of turnover on its roster dating back to last season. Phillip Montgomery’s Hurricanes lost most of their talent on both the defensive and offensive fronts, accounting for the return of only 3 out of their 10 starters from last season (two on defense, one on offense). They also lost their defensive coordinator Joseph Gillespie. New coordinator Luke Olson does, however, return a deep, skilled secondary that was good against opposing offenses last season. The mature and skilled secondary led by great, all-around corner Tyon Davis will surely be the strength of the defensive unit. They return two starting linebackers, but lack some versatility at that position should star LB Justin Wright or anyone else go down.
As for the offense, Tulsa wasn’t as harshly hammered by the portal. They return QB Davis Brin who threw for over 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. He does, however, have a bit of a tendency to turn the ball over, throwing 16 picks a season ago. He’ll be tasked with connecting with wideouts Isaiah Epps, Keylon Stokes, and JuanCarlos Santana. All three are returning, however, Epps was sidelined last season due to injury. RBs Steven Anderson and Deneric Prince also headline a powerful running back room for the Golden Hurricanes.
The strength of this team is almost undoubtedly their secondary, however, their next best attribute seems to be up for debate heading into the season.
Wyoming keys to victory:
The 38-6 beatdown Wyoming endured at the hands of Illinois last week undoubtedly raised a lot of important questions for a team that is really looking to assure themselves and find some sort of identity. They were weak in almost every area from the passing game to the defense to special teams. If the Pokes want to turn that fortune around and not have it become long-term, they still have a lot of work to do, and Coach Bohl knows that’s the case.
“First-game jitters or whatever, am I concerned about the long-term trajectory? No, we’re on the right path, but we’ve got a short week to get it corrected. I’m disappointed, I would say that.”
We know the main struggle for the Cowboys has been their inability to sustain any type of offense. The Cowboys were 1-12 on 3rd downs against the Illini which is something that must change if they hope to win this week and it’s clear that the ground-and-pound, pro-style offense that the Cowboys showcase has suffered tremendously without any substantial QB play to balance it out. QB Andrew Peasley was a horrendous 5-20 passing for 30 total yards in the contest and WR Joshua Cobbs led all receivers with 6 catches for a grand total of 14 total yards. The good news is that Titus Swen does plan to play after injuring his ribs late in the contest against the Illini, but the Cowboys need to make sure they can find offense elsewhere if they want to keep their star RB1 on the field. We expect improvement from this unit, but let’s not get our hopes up too high just yet.
The defense wasn’t horrifically bad in their first matchup of the season, but it did show its vulnerability late. Illinois RB Chase Brown had a field day against the Pokes, running for 151 total yards and 2 TDs while adding a touchdown in the passing game as well. QB Tommy Devito was also efficient, going 27/37 with 2 TDs and just under 200 yards passing. The Cowboys will need to improve their consistency against the Golden Hurricanes this week and will need to get more pressure in the backfield in order to cause turnovers against a QB who is known to catch that bug once or twice a game. Expect Easton Gibbs to feel a bit more comfortable as the leader of this unit and for them to take some steps forward with one game now under their belt.
I’ll be honest, I’m with most of the fans here. Last week just wasn’t enough to put me in my usual optimistic mentality with this team. At the end of the day, we just need to see more. The Pokes are currently a 6 ½ point underdog, which is a number that just seems to keep growing as time goes on. But, I will say this - Tulsa isn’t going to compete in the AAC this year and they are coming into their first game of the season in hostile territory over at windy War Memorial. So, it can’t be easy. Right? With the first game jitters out of the way, if the Cowboys can channel some of the energy that’s sure to be in the building come Saturday afternoon, they can potentially cover that spread. It won’t be a pretty game, but I expect this team to feel a little bit better and more comfortable playing together in a familiar environment.