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Idaho's Tre Walker vs Penn State

Idaho linebacker Tre Walker, center, sets up for a play in the Vandals' game against Penn State on Aug. 31 in University Park, Pa.

LARAMIE — A win is a win is a win.

That’s what coaches and players like to harp on when they avoid the alternative, particularly when the way they went about it wasn’t particularly pretty. But Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said he hopes his team’s latest victory doubles as a wake-up call.

“I think sometimes when you’re a youngster and your parents tell you something, they’re telling you for a reason,” Bohl said. “And you say, ‘Yeah, I’ve got it, I’ve got, I’ve got it.’”

Coming off the emotional high of its season-opening win over SEC foe Missouri, Wyoming didn’t have it for two and a half quarters last week against Texas State, a team that’s won just 10 games over the last four seasons. But the Cowboys outscored Texas State 13-0 in the second half to pull out a 23-14 win in a game that Bohl admitted he worried about all week as it pertained to his team’s focus.

Wyoming’s opponent this week doesn’t exactly get the juices flowing either.

The Cowboys are taking their lone step down to the Football Championship Subdivision level this season when they return to War Memorial Stadium on Saturday to take on Idaho. The Vandals have had just one winning season this decade, and the move from the Football Bowl Subdivision to the FCS last season didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Idaho went 4-7 in its first season back at the FCS level with none of those wins coming over an FBS program.

But Wyoming knows as well as anybody not to dismiss the Vandals and their level of competition.

The Cowboys have already been part of an upset this season with their win over Missouri, and it was just last season that they were nearly on the other side of one against an FCS opponent on their home field. Wyoming trailed Wofford late in the fourth quarter last September before driving the length of the field to score with 17 seconds left to escape with a 17-13 win.

“We’re not overlooking anybody,” cornerback C.J. Coldon said. “It’s college football, so anything can happen.”

There’s also plenty for Wyoming to work on as it enters the latter part of its non-conference schedule.

The Cowboys have yet to show they can consistently pose a threat with their passing game. Quarterback Sean Chambers has completed just 42.1 percent of his passes through the first two games, and Wyoming is one of nine FBS teams that still has yet to throw a touchdown pass. And that’s with the help of a running game that’s churning out more than 243 yards a game.

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Defensively, the Cowboys have had all kinds of issues keeping other teams from moving the ball through the air. Wyoming is yielding 408.5 passing yards a game and figures to get another decent test from an Idaho offenses that’s thrown it 61 times through two games with two quarterbacks.

Senior Mason Petrino, who’s playing for his dad, Idaho coach Paul Petrino, is the primary — and more conventional — triggerman for the Vandals. Petrino has completed more than 72 percent of his passes (34 of 47) for 300 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception.

The change of pace comes from junior Colton Richardson. The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder has thrown 14 passes this season and completed just half of them for 59 yards. He hasn’t been a factor with his legs either with minus-26 rushing yards.

Facing a quarterback with that kind of size is a unique challenge for Wyoming, though it remains to be seen how much of Richardson the Cowboys actually end up seeing. But both signal callers have a go-to target in Jeff Cotton, who’s already caught 22 passes and a pair of touchdowns for the Vandals this season.

“They’re a style of offense where they’ll spread you out and cause some problems defensively,” Bohl said.

The Cowboys’ pass rush last week (five sacks) helped slow down Texas State’s passing attack as the game wore on, but pressure or not, Wyoming has some things to iron out before and after the ball is thrown.

“You look at the stats, it’s not where we want to be by any means,” defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said. “Tackling in space, I think that showed up more (last) week than even in the first game. Keeping our guys fresh and making sure we’re doing what we’re doing. There’s less coverage checks than we did last year with those safeties. There’s just less being multiple, which can hurt us at times. I think that’s the biggest thing that we really need to clean up.”

A fast start would help the Cowboys in their effort to take control quickly and have a stress-free Saturday, though that hasn’t happened yet regardless of the competition. Wyoming has had to expend a lot of energy chipping away at early deficits after being outscored a combined 21-0 in the first quarter of its first two games.

Idaho hasn’t been much better. The Vandals have scored just three points in the first quarter this season and took a 79-7 loss in their opener to Penn State, the only FBS team they’ve played so far.

“Our players’ mindset is whatever we can do to get to 1-0,” Bohl said. “We’re taking these games one at a time.”

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Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter @DavisEPotter

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College Sports Reporter

Davis Potter is the University of Wyoming athletics reporter. An Alabama native and 2011 Auburn University graduate, Potter joined the Star-Tribune in 2018 after five years covering Ole Miss and the Southeastern Conference. He lives in Laramie.

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