Football can be oddly poetic for a sport so deeply rooted in violence. Such was the case for Wyoming in its 30-28 defeat of Boise State.
— Wyoming Cowboy FB (@wyo_football) October 30, 2016
Poetic is indeed the word to describe a Craig Bohl-coached team winning the program’s most important game in nearly 30 years on a defensive play. Deeming Saturday as Wyoming’s most significant outing since 1988 is equally fitting, too.
Not since beating UTEP in a showdown of Western Athletic Conference frontrunners on Nov. 5, 1988, had Wyoming won a game of such magnitude. That win guaranteed the Cowboys the WAC championship, the exclamation point on head coach Paul Roach’s legendary season.
Saturday doesn’t guarantee Wyoming the Mountain West championship, or even the MW Mountain Division’s berth in the league title game. The Cowboys still have work to do, with Utah State and San Diego State making the trek up to 7,220 feet at War Memorial Stadium; and potential traps at UNLV and New Mexico still looming.
And work Wyoming will.
In another bit of poetry, Wyoming’s remarkable season comes under the mantra “Cowboy Tough.” That’s more than a hashtag, but rather the identity by which the entire state identifies.
The same logo that adorns Wyoming’s helmets — a cowboy riding a bucking bronco — appears on the state license plate.
Cowboys invoke imagery of barbed wire; of wrangling beasts that weigh about six times the average man; of long nights spent in bitter cold on the sweeping, wide-open land of America’s least populace state.
The “Cowboy Tough” mantra is evident in Wyoming’s style of play, which emphasizes physicality and tenacity on both lines.
Cowboy blockers paved holes for the ball-carriers to rush for 215 yards on a Boise State defense giving up just 150 before Saturday. Defensively, Wyoming brought consistent pressure to the tune of three sacks — including the game-winner — and forced a couple of takeaways.
Ball control appeared to be the key heading in. The Cowboys’ toughness gave Wyoming a decided ball-control victory.
As for the relentless wrangler who patrols wide swaths of land, there could not be a more fitting avatar than Bohl.
Wyoming isn’t a program with much historic success, hence the allusion to Roach’s 1988 team. That’s the high benchmark no one has really been able to approach. Winning at UW requires certain qualities that Bohl demonstrated in his national championship runs at North Dakota State.
The three-time title winner excelled in attracting prospects who embodied the hard-working mindset with NFL-caliber talent to Fargo from all corners of the Upper Midwest.
In the summer of 2015, I asked how he found and recruited Kyle Emanuel and Carson Wentz. His answer was simple enough in theory, but painstaking in action.
“Knock on every door.”
Picture the lonely cowboy, riding his horse over the Rocky Mountains to places like Illinois, where Bohl recruited Brian Hill.
Once a two-star prospect, Hill is now one of the most prolific running backs in all of college football. He alone almost reached Boise State’s season-long opponent yield average with 146 yards rushing.
Count him as perhaps the next in Bohl’s growing class of overlooked alumni who grew into NFL talents throughout their college careers.
Josh Allen also delivered with a dual-threat performance reminiscent of Wentz’s many standout efforts at North Dakota State. Bohl rode his recruiting horse West to find him, knocking on a junior college door in Reedley, California, to bring Allen to Laramie.
Chase Appleby, who made the game-winning play Saturday, came from Frisco, Texas with zero recruiting stars.
It’s the kind of motley crew that would make for a great Western ensemble. As it stands, they’re the perfectly poetic representatives of what Wyoming football — and Wyoming — are all about.