LARAMIE — Wyoming and Texas State are coming into this week’s matchup on opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Cowboys are fresh off one of their biggest wins of the Craig Bohl era, going from an 18-point underdog against Missouri to their first Power Five win since 2008. Wyoming finished plus-3 in the turnover margin, scored a defensive touchdown and ripped off 7.1 yards a carry en route to just its fourth win ever over an SEC team.
Meanwhile, Texas State was overwhelmed in its shot against what many believe is the premier conference in college football. The Bobcats went into Kyle Field and left with a 41-7 loss to No. 12 Texas A&M in Jake Spavital’s head coaching debut — one that saw Texas State’s quarterbacks combine for four turnovers and the Bobcats muster just 8 rushing yards as a 28-0 halftime deficit set the tone for a long night.
The struggle for Texas State (0-1) goes back to 2012 when the Bobcats moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision. Texas State has won less than 32 percent of its games and had just one winning season since, and the Bobcats enter the weekend having lost 14 of 17 games dating back to 2017.
But as the Cowboys (1-0) prepare to hit the road for the first time, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said there are too many factors in play for his team to take the Bobcats lightly.
“We’re expecting a big, big challenge from them,” Bohl said.
First, Bohl isn’t putting too much stock in the way Texas State played in what he said he believes is one of the nation’s most intimidating environments. Kyle Field holds 102,733 fans — the third-largest capacity in college football — and drew 98,016 for the season opener, which is still more than three times the number the Bobcats are used to playing in front of at Bobcat Stadium (30,008).
Forcing Texas State into some of the same mistakes may be more difficult in the comfort of its own home.
“We practice in our stadium for a reason, so our guys can be more comfortable with that stadium,” Bohl said. “They do the same thing, so I’m sure some of the things they wish they could’ve done better against A&M, I’m sure they’ll get corrected.”
Texas State also has one of the most experienced defenses Wyoming will see all season. The Bobcats have their top 10 tacklers back from last season, including all-Sun Belt linebackers Bryan London II and Nikolas Daniels. London and Daniels finished first and second in the league in tackles last season, respectively, while London had the Bobcats’ lone takeaway last week with an end-zone interception.
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Texas State finished in the top 55 nationally a season ago in pass defense and total defense, but the Bobcats allowed 6.8 yards per carry against Texas A&M along with two 100-yard rushers. Wyoming has had two 100-yard rushers in five of its last six games going back to last season.
The Cowboys finished with 297 rushing yards against Missouri. Bohl said his team will need to be effective on the ground again in order to keep London, Daniels and the rest of Texas State’s defense honest.
“We’re going to need to be able to run the football, and that means getting people up on to (London),” Bohl said. “And then we’re going to need to be able to pass the football. That’s one of the things you can do when you’re running the ball well, it puts linebackers in a run-pass conflict. That’s our challenge.”
As of Thursday night, Spavital had not named a starter at quarterback between sophomore Tyler Vitt and junior college transfer Gresch Jensen. Neither showed too well in the Bobcats’ opener as the pair combined for just 211 passing yards and four interceptions, but both have shown capable before.
Vitt started five games as a true freshman and completed 61 percent of his passes last season. Jensen, who’s on his third school in three years, threw for 2,330 yards and 16 scores for Fullerton College a season ago after passing for 2,531 yards and 20 touchdowns for Texas State offensive coordinator Bob Stitt at Montana in 2017. Wyoming beat the Bobcats 45-10 that season, but Wyoming’s coaches believe the quarterbacks are part of an upgrade in personnel from what the Bobcats brought to War Memorial Stadium two years ago.
“They had a tough matchup with A&M last week, but they did some good things,” said A.J. Cooper, Wyoming’s defensive run-game coordinator. “They’ve got some players. I think they’re significantly better and more talented than when we played them here in ‘17.”
Then there’s the heat. Temperatures are expected to reach triple digits in San Marcos, Texas, this weekend with plenty of humidity to accompany it. Bohl said he’s talked with Wyoming’s strength and conditioning and sports medicine staffs about making sure his players are adequately hydrated, something he felt his team failed to do ahead of last week’s game against Missouri.
It’s just another reason why Wyoming isn’t taking anything for granted with its next opponent.
“I know they have a bunch of good athletes, and they play really hard,” defensive end Garrett Crall said. “It’s going to be in the humidity, and it’s going to be in heat. They play well at home, so we just have to be ready for that and expect anything.”