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Group of 5 notes: Bohl-ed over in Wyoming, Navy sails on with defense

A marquee showdown in the Mountain West Conference Saturday has No.13 Boise State at … Wyoming.

Wait, what?

Wyoming? How did that happen?

The Cowboys are 5-2 overall, and their 3-0 record in the MWC Mountain Division matches that of the Broncos, who bring a 7-0 record to Laramie. An upset would reverberate through the Group of Five schools and perhaps end the MWC’s hopes of matching an undefeated Boise State against a one-loss San Diego State in the league championship game.

It would also further validate the fact that coach Craig Bohl was the right man for the Cowboys. After being an assistant at Nebraska and building North Dakota State’s dominant FCS program, he knows about winning.

“For us to be 3-0 in conference, we’re certainly pleased,” Bohl said this week. “To say, has that surprised me? Maybe a little bit at the beginning of the year. Maybe a little bit ahead of where I thought I’d be. But we saw a really good team coming in.”

After his first two seasons, there were questions if Bohl’s success in the FCS would translate to the FBS. Year One produced a 4-8 record and last year was a 2-10 disaster. However, there were reasons for the stumbling start.

Bohl replaced Dave Christensen, who preferred a spread offense and a 3-4 defense. Bohl uses a pro-style offense that emphasizes the run game and a 4-3 defense. Christensen’s final team had a roster laden with seniors who were not ready for a schematic shift.

“I think it was somewhat of a perfect storm,” Bohl said. “There was quite a bit of reengineering, a complete change of not only the culture but the systems offensively and defensively.”

October 22, 2016: Wyoming Cowboys head coach Craig Bohl during the game between the Wyoming Cowboys and the Nevada Wolf Pack played at Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire)

October 22, 2016: Wyoming Cowboys head coach Craig Bohl during the game between the Wyoming Cowboys and the Nevada Wolf Pack played at Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire)

Three key players on this season’s team illustrate why the Cowboys are competing for a division title. Junior running back Brian Hill was one of Bohl’s first recruits. Quarterback Josh Allen is a junior-college transfer, and linebacker Lucas Wacha is a holdover from the Christensen era.

Wyoming has been a stepping-stone job for coaches like Bob Devaney, Fred Akers, Pat Dye, Dennis Erickson and Joe Tiller. Bohl, 57, appears content to make Laramie his last stand.

“They have a formula. They have a process. They’ve trusted it, they’ve continued to stick with it,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “There’s a reason why they hired Coach Bohl … He doesn’t surprise me one bit.”

On course and still sailing

No. 22 Navy has allowed 68 points in its last two American Athletic Conference games, but the Midshipmen have defeated Houston and Memphis thanks to their option offense, which has posted 88 points in those contests. The defensive challenge continues Friday night when the Midshipmen (5-1, 4-0), the only AAC team without a loss, travel to take on South Florida.

The Bulls lead the AAC in scoring at 42 points per game and Navy defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson concedes it’s another test.

“There are no breaks in this league,” he said.

“Everybody we play has an explosive offense, that’s the way of the world now. The days of teams running isolation and power (running plays) are over. Plus, there are so many good football players out there. Kids start running this type of stuff in little league. So by the time they get to college, they are pretty proficient at it.”

The Midshipmen’s defense could get help from Navy’s offense, which could dominate time of possession. South Florida gave up 319 yards in its last game, a 46-30 loss at Temple, and allows an average of 206 yards rushing per game.

Not policing the media

Rumors and stories continue to surface about where Houston coach Tom Herman will coach next season. With Texas at 3-4 under Charlie Strong, another report surfaced this week that Herman will be the Longhorns’ coach next season.

It appears that Herman is done with it.

Blitz package

  • The Sun Belt Conference game featuring Appalachian State at Georgia Southern Thursday (7:30 p.m. EST, ESPNU) shapes up as a key game in the league race. The Mountaineers are 3-0 in the standings while the Eagles are 3-1, their only loss coming to defending champion Arkansas State. This rivalry goes back to when both schools were FCS rivals in the Southern Conference who frequently contended for national championships. Both moved to the FBS and the Sun Belt in 2014.
  • BYU (4-4) has lost four games by eight points with one win by two points and another in overtime by seven. The Cougars are either 12 points from being undefeated or 11 points from being 1-7. Two one-point losses came in games where BYU forced 5 or more turnovers on the road.
  • San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey, the leading rusher in the FBS, has earned and deserves attention, but the Aztecs’ defense has been equally impressive. SDSU opponents have gone three games, 169 consecutive snaps and 188:02 of playing time without scoring an offensive touchdown. San Diego State, which plays at Utah State Friday night, was won 14 consecutive games against Mountain West opponents and has a 469-148 scoring edge during that streak.
  • USA Today published a story that listed most of the coaches’ salaries in the FBS. UTSA and coach Frank Wilson disputed the information that listed him as Conference USA’s second-highest paid coach. The story listed a base salary of $835,000. The school and the coach both said his salary is $650,000 and his contract calls for an additional $185,000 based on incentives.
  • Dude, he killed my car. Memphis has indefinitely suspended sophomore wide receiver Jae’Lon Oglesby and redshirt freshman cornerback Kam Prewitt. The two had a physical altercation on campus Tuesday. Later that night several gunshots were fired and hit Oglesby’s car. Police are investigating the incident.
  • South Alabama has non-conference victories over Mississippi State and San Diego State, but that success has not translated to the Sun Belt Conference where the Jaguars are 0-4.
  • Three first-year coaches are proving that they were good hires. Hawaii’s Nick Rolovich took over a 3-10 team and the Rainbow Warriors are 4-4 after last Saturday’s double-overtime victory at Air Force. Central Florida coach Scott Frost and North Texas coach Seth Littrell were hired at schools that were a combined 1-23 in 2015. Both teams are 4-3.

End quote

Eastern Michigan, 5-3 overall, will have the chance to become bowl eligible when it hosts Miami Saturday. The Eagles haven’t been to a bowl since 1987. EMU coach Chris Creighton:

“We have an opportunity to win a sixth game and to be bowl-eligible, that was our goal from the very beginning. Our seniors made it crystal clear that our goal was to go to and to win a bowl game and we were going to do that by going 1-and-0 each day and each week.”

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