One week ago, the Wyoming football team was talking about a lack of respect.
It had attained a No. 19 ranking, but that's pretty low for the only 9-0 team in the nation. The reason for the poor showing in the polls was a string of narrow, unimpressive victories over such non-powerhouses as Arkansas State (34-27), New Mexico (25-22), Weber State (21-12) and UTEP (17-10).Heading into their matchup with Colorado State last Saturday, the Cowboys' opponents this season had compiled a combined record of 28-41-1. Along the way, the Pokes had gained a reputation for doing just enough to win, regardless of the opponent.
Then they met arch-rival Colorado State, and what was good enough to beat Utah and San Diego State suddenly wasn't enough. Wyoming Coach Paul Roach thinks the loss to the Rams may benefit his team as it prepares for Saturday's game against BYU (2 p.m. MST), especially the offense, which has averaged fewer than 18 points in the last four games.
"Maybe we can get something out of this that will help us," he said. "Maybe we've been doing too much waiting for the big play, or for the defense to turn it around for us.
"Now they realize they have to get tougher and create their own opportunities."
The Wyoming offense looked formidable early in the season, averaging 35 points in its first three games and peaking with a 52-point outing against San Diego State. At that point the Pokes were averaging 247 passing yards and 187 rushing yards per game. Since then, their rushing average has dropped to 145 yards, and it hasn't been a case of one or two running backs falling off. The rushing averages of all four of their top backs have declined, even against teams that aren't that highly regarded defensively.
The passing game, meanwhile, is gaining approximately the same number of yards as before but has developed another problem: interceptions. After getting picked off just six times in the first six games, QB Tom Corontzos has been intercepted eight times in the last four games.
The mainstay of the team all year has been the defense, rated No. 3 in the WAC against the run, No. 2 against the pass and No. 2 in yards per game and scoring. Wyoming has allowed only 10 TD passes in 10 games, and opponents have completed fewer than 49.4 percent of their passing attempts. Four times this season, the Cowboys have held teams scoreless in the second halves of games.
The star of the defense, of course, is last year's WAC Defensive Player of the Year, lineman Mitch Donahue. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Donahue leads the WAC in sacks with 16 and in tackles for loss with 10. And playing next to Donahue on the Cowboy line is tackle Thomas Williams, who has registered 10 sacks this season.