LARAMIE — Tennessee has its trash can. Miami has its gold chain. Boise State has its wrestling-style belt, as do other teams.
Wyoming doesn’t have any of that. There’s no sideline gimmick awarded to a Cowboy who forces a turnover. Wyoming does have 24 takeaways. No Football Bowl Subdivision team has more.
“I think maybe it would be cool if we did something like that,” sophomore defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan said. “But that’s not us.”
Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
“That’s not going to happen,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said of the turnover trophies. “But what is going to happen — it’s not by chance we are leading the country in takeaways, which we focus on, and we’re also leading the country in turnover margin.
“And that’s, I’ve always felt like, the most important statistic. If you look at the games we’ve won, we’ve usually fared well (in the turnover margin), and I don’t think we need a trophy to get our guys going after the football. Other schools may, that’s fine.”
It shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise, considering Bohl’s no-flash aesthetic. His teams have done without nameplates on the back their jerseys or alternate uniforms.
“I think just us celebrating and having fun as a defense together, that’s kind of our tradition,” sophomore defensive lineman Josiah Hall said. “We don’t need all the extra stuff on the side. We’re fine.”
That doesn’t mean there’s no motivation for Wyoming defenders to succeed. The Cowboys have a corresponding candy reward for numerous defensive achievements. A sack results in a Snickers, a tackle for loss equals a Crunch bar, and a pass breakup earns a player a Butterfinger, according to Ghaifan. He should know; the sophomore’s nine tackles for loss and three sacks are both second on the team.
Maybe it was Wyoming’s sweet tooth that produced a program-record seven turnovers on Halloween weekend, as the Cowboys blew out New Mexico 42-3.
“You kind of wake up on Sunday, you’re kind of thinking about your game and going, ‘Oh, man. I get a candy bar this week,’” Hall said. “It’s cool.”
If a player turns a turnover into a touchdown, he gets a whole bag of candy. Carl Granderson nearly had such a treat Saturday, when he returned his second career interception 37 yards, three shy of the end zone.
“Man, I was trying to house it,” Granderson said, “but I can’t never take it to the house.”
Despite going without a takeaway at Boise State — their first game without one since October 2015 — the Cowboys have already matched last year’s total of 24 forced turnovers in six fewer games.
Prior to Wyoming’s 28-23 win at Utah State, the Cowboys hadn’t forced five turnovers in a game since 2011. They’ve now done it twice in three weeks. Wyoming also leads the country in turnover margin, with an average of plus-2 per game.
“The more ability you have out there, the more confident and the more aggressive guys play, the more times you get the ball,” Bohl said. “I mean, there’s more hats around the football. Guys are flying around. They’re more disruptive. We’ve got a group of defensive players that are out there playing Mach 1, and there’s a frenzy that they’re playing with, and it’s showing.”
Wyoming’s seven takeaways Saturday consisted of five interceptions — one by Granderson, one by Marcus Epps, two by Andrew Wingard and one by Tyler Hall — and two recovered fumbles on New Mexico punt returns, one recovered by Braden Smith and another by Tyree Mayfield. All but one on Wyoming’s six touchdowns came off turnovers. The Lobos now have 21 turnovers this season, tied for fourth-worst in the country.
“There were a couple that seemed (like), ‘OK, they just gave us something,’” Bohl said. “But ... I thought Carl’s interception on the screen pass, he made a play. They were trying to throw a high screen over the top of him. He’s 6-foot-6 with really long arms and can jump really well, and that was a great play by him.
“And I thought Dewey’s interception was outstanding. Tyler Hall’s interception was great, so we’re going to keep forcing that. No belts.”