Boise State travels to Laramie, Wyoming this week to take on the head coach-less Cowboys. There are some things that worry me about this game; most issues stem from what has transpired the last few weeks in regards to head coach Dave Christensen. Lets get to it.
This week's game against Wyoming has me worried about a few things. First off, Wyoming has not performed well this year. That is nothing new, however, the Cowboys had high hopes with the maturation of Brett Smith, who garnered Mountain West Freshman of the year honors after his play last year. Smith, has not led the team to success so far this year, in fact he has gotten beat up quite a bit. Depending on who you ask, Smith has sustained two concussions so far this year. Smith was also ejected from a game on the road against Nevada. A game his team rallied from being down 21-0 to take a 28-21 lead, only to have Smith ejected for two consecutive un-sporstman like penalties. My questions are: Where is your brain Brett Smith? You have a chance to rally your team on the road to take the lead and you want to argue a questionable late hit? You really think you would get that call on the road? And where were his team mates? They let him argue and argue...... Gotta be smarter. It is bone head moves such as those that have the Pokes staring at the butt end of 1-6 record, with their only victory coming in Moscow to the Vandals. Games that Wyoming should have won include a 3 point loss at home to Toledo, a 2 point loss to Cal Poly (they are 7-0 overall, representing the Big Sky Conf), a 7 point loss in overtime to Nevada, and a one point loss at home to Air Force. Wyoming could very well be 5-2, and make no mistake, they are a capable team.
Last bonehead issue lies with their head coach, Dave Christensen. Many of you have heard about the tirade after the one point loss to Air Force. Christensen starts the tirade with an expletive towards an Air Force player, then he proceeds to curse out Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun. Christensen was all bent out of shape about Calhoun supposedly having a player fake an injury to allow the coaches time to game plan their next move. Whether or not the injury was legit or not, my concern should be how the defense allowed Air Force to march the field. Christensen has been suspended for this weeks game because of the tirade.
That brings us to this weeks game. This Wyoming team must win out in order to get to a bowl game. That means they must beat Boise State. Wyoming has absolutely nothing to lose, their head Coach is out, they have a different type of attitude about class and college football in Laramie, and this may be the perfect recipe for an inspiring effort from the Pokes for their arrogant head coach.
What must Boise State do to win this game? Wyoming will be up for this game. I like the mentality of being on defense first, it gives our better half the opportunity to go out and inflict pain from the start. We must limit Wyoming's play makers, primarily Brett Smith. He is the cog of Wyoming's spread offense. Yes, another spread team, so we need to maintain assignments on defense. Devotees will recall my breakdown of how to stop the triple option, and this weeks keys are very similar. One thing with the spread offense is the ends have to stay home, whether they are play side ends or back side ends. The spread can be read with the play side end, or the back side end. If the play side end stays at home and it is a true option read, then the quarterback will give the ball, if the end crashed down, he pulls the ball and runs. There are plays when the backside end is read and the same concepts apply. If the end goes to help tackle the running back the quarterback pulls the ball, if the end simply sits at home the quarterback will give the ball. If we cannot execute this simply scheme, it will be a long day. Make Brett Smith give the ball. We want a running back trying to get through our defense.
We must put Wyoming in passing situations. Smith has thrown for substantial yardage at times this year. We must force them to beat us through the air. The more teams put it in the air against us, the more chances there are for Taylor, Gavins and the rest of the secondary to intercept Brett Smith. We must keep Brett Smith to 200 yards passing or less. Last year we reduced Wyoming's playbook to the bubble screen pass, and forced them to nickel and dime us. I expect this game to like that.
Since this game is on the road, we must have a clear win in the turnover margin. I expect us to force two more turnovers than Wyoming. I think early pressure will lead to an interception, Smith will settle down, and then in the 2nd half we will get another pick. We must also limit Wyoming to less than 14 first half points.
Offensively, we do some things right, and we are a little slow to fire shots. We leave a lot of points on the board and I worry that it will bite us at some point in the season. Playing on the road, in a very cold environment, will be tough, and we can't leave 17 points on the board like we did last week. Once again, the running game will be a source of strength for us this week. Wyoming is susceptible to the running game. In 3 of their 6 games, Wyoming has allowed a single rusher to go over 100 yards, and in 2 of the other 3 games, a rusher finished within 10 yards of 100. Look for us to put 220 yards on the ground against Wyoming.
Last week Soutwick looked very comfortable against UNLV. That is because they ran a 4-3 cover 2 defensive scheme. Wyoming uses the same defensive scheme and I expect us to go at that defense with bubble screens to Shane Wiilams-Rhodes, play action over the middle, and even a trick play. Last week we saw a new formation. Harper in the back field, with Dan Paul on one side of the formation, and Holden Huff on the other side, both in blocking duties. At first UNLV was giving plenty of room to our wide receivers, who in that formation were Dallas Burroughs and Shane Williams-Rhodes. We attacked that with the bubble screen, then they got smart and pressed the receivers and shut down that formation. Look for us to complete one bubble screen out of that, then go for a pump and go. Wyoming will be dead set on stopping it, and I think we can catch them in over pursuit.
Another thing I want to see is the screen pass. We are so close to breaking one, and I think Wyoming will want to send us a message that they belong. I would throw a screen on the first or second series and catch them in that aggressive play. Southwick must go for 175 yards or more this game. Manage the game, keep the chains moving and get us in the end zone, nothing fancy. This game should be close for the first half, then I think we get some breathing room and pull away. My prediction: 31-13 Blue.