LARAMIE — Pete Kaligis notched a couple of achievements Saturday. His defensive starting tackles combined for 21 tackles as Wyoming’s defense held the highest scoring offense in the conference to 14 points. He also put his right sock on by himself for the first time in five weeks.
Kaligis had hip replacement surgery nearly two weeks ago, something he had planned initially to put off until after the season.
“I was thinking after the season, but it got so bad so fast, I just couldn’t function,” said Kaligis, Wyoming football’s longest-tenured coach. “... I had a lot of people helping me before the surgery, just to even get dressed and do different things. So it just getting to the point where it just wasn’t functional for anybody or for myself. It was mentally fatiguing fighting it every day just to make it through.”
Kaligis was not able to stay at War Memorial Stadium for Wyoming’s Nov. 4 win over Colorado State because the pain was too much.
“I made the first three hours,” he said. “I made it to walk-through and the pregame, and I came in here and iced it and then it just swelled up way too fast that Saturday, and I had to get back home. That was a hard one for me, but I had to get home that game.
“... It’s really hard watching it from afar and hearing it. My son was watching it downstairs and I could hear him. To hear the cheers and stuff, it was hard. It was hard not to be there, it really was, for the men.”
Kaligis had been on crutches and is now using a walking cane. Kaligis, who competed in football and shot put at Washington, also had a knee replacement 17 years ago on the same side as his hip.
“So it was bound to go,” he said. “I mean, all my joints are just about gone, so I’ll be getting another one here hopefully in February, do my other hip and get that one done so it doesn’t go. I don’t want what happened to my left hip to happen to my right. I still want to be functional and get it done pretty quick.”
Kaligis is far from the only person in the Wyoming defensive tackles room to be battling an injury. Conner Cain is out for the season with a broken ankle. Sidney Malauulu has missed six straight games with a knee injury. Youhanna Ghaifan missed a game with turf toe. Ravontae Holt is out for the rest of the year with an ACL tear.
Ghaifan and Javaree Jackson, a true freshman, started Saturday in a 28-14 win over the Falcons.
“You know what, they were productive, but I don’t like the way we played up front,” Kaligis said. “We just didn’t really control the line of scrimmage I thought the way we should’ve controlled the line of scrimmage interiorly.
“And yeah, you give the numbers, you give the numbers, but that comes down to the other nine guys doing their job and making things happen. So that was a total defensive win, but interior, there’s just some stuff I wasn’t very pleased with.”
Defensive end Josiah Hall spent all of last week at tackle because of the lack of depth, and Kaligis said Hall will flip between tackle and end this week. Dalton Fields also moved back to defensive tackle from the offensive line after Cain was injured.
Air Force in particular was a tough challenge for the group because of its triple option offense. Ten of Jackson’s 23 tackles this season came in that game.
“There’s some things that we certainly can do better,” head coach Craig Bohl said of the interior line play. “Their effort was there. The style of game, I think indicates ... they made more tackles than what normally is the case for defensive tackles, because they’re going to feature the fullback, and then we were able to get some penetration and make some tackles for losses.”
Malauulu expects to return to the field Saturday, ahead of Bohl’s previous projection that he would be out until December, and the Cowboys’ tackles could certainly use the added depth.
Still, they know better than to expect too much sympathy from their position coach.
“That guy’s a fighter,” Malauulu said. “We play our heart out for him. We just love coach. He’s a football guy, so he’ll tough it out.”