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First in a 12-part series on the opponents the Iowa Hawkeyes will face during the 2017 season.
Maybe one thing Wyoming coach Craig Bohl and his Cowboys showed last season was that they’re willing to try to play any sort of game.
Wyoming gave up 52 points to Nebraska and couldn’t find any footing, losing 52-17 in week 2 of 2016. The Cowboys were 2-2 after four games and then reeled off five straight victories in which they scored 38, 35, 42, 30 and 52. The winning streak ended with a 69-66 defeat to UNLV. Wyoming lost four of its final five games and allowed 69, 56, 27 before losing to BYU, 24-21, in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Wyoming finished 8-6, winning the Mountain Division in the Mountain West and beating most preseason picks that had the Cowboys picked to finish last.
“About halfway through the year we began to prove the pundits wrong,” Bohl said. “We were picked last in our division, unanimously last, but I felt like we were going to have an opportunity to be a pretty good football team.”
They were and along the way quarterback Josh Allen bloomed. The 6-5, 233-pounder threw for 3,203 yards with 28 TDs and 15 interceptions (five of which came against Nebraska). Allen is a popular choice for the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
As the scores above suggest, the Cowboys were challenged on defense last season. They faced 537 carries and allowed 5.3 yards per. Iowa faced 492 and allowed 3.96. So, the over/under for Iowa rush attempts in this game is probably something like 45.
The stakes for the Hawkeyes: There’s a little synergy here with ... North Dakota State. Before taking the Wyoming job, Bohl was the head coach at NDSU for 11 seasons (2003-13). His teams won three consecutive FCS national championships (2011-13).
Yes, that North Dakota State, the Bison who marched into Kinnick Stadium last fall and powered to a 23-21 upset over Iowa.
If 2017 begins with Kirk Ferentz in a postgame trying to make sense of a loss to a Mountain West team, you’ll just have to mark that down as a bad omen.
A loss here for Iowa would be as unpalatable as road kill souffle.
Have to talk about Allen: Allen has great size and a great arm and put up monster numbers last season, which was his first as a starter. He’s mobile, too, playing outside of the pocket and rushing for 523 yards and seven TDs last season.
Bohl has already said during fall camp the one sentence every coach says when he has a QB who’s checked all of the boxes.
“When you’re a quarterback and you have played and you step in the huddle and you’ve gone through (it), it’s his football team,” Bohl said.
By the way, Allen started his career at Reedley (Calif.) Community College and ended up with two scholarship offers — Eastern Michigan and Wyoming.
“Probably the most impressive thing is the way he scrambles — keeps plays alive and then makes just unbelievable throws off the run from scramble situations,” New Mexico head coach Bob Davie told the Fresno Bee. “It really is impressive to watch.”
Ten of Allen’s 15 interceptions happened on the road last year. That Nebraska game left a mark.
What else, Wyoming?: The Cowboys lost RB Brian Hill to the NFL. He rushed for 1,860 yards and 22 TDs last year. Milo Hall (5-8, 190) started camp No. 1 on the depth chart. The sophomore has yet to log a carry in his career. Nico Evans and Kellen Overstreet are listed as the backups. They have 41 career carries between them. This might turn into a running back by committee.
The Cowboys’ offense also loses its top three receivers from 2016. Led by Tanner Gentry, the trio combined for 143 of Wyoming’s 210 receptions in 2016.
Sept. 2 vs. Wyoming:
TV:Big Ten Network
Week before: (First game of the season)
Week after: at Iowa State, Sept. 9
On the horizon: vs. North Texas, Sept. 16
Coach: Craig Bohl (14-24, fourth season at Wyoming)
2016 record: 8-6, T-first Mountain West Mountain Division
Scoring offense: 35.9 points per game (2nd in MW, 25th nationally)
Total offense: 434.5 yards per game (5th MW, 48th nationally)
Scoring offense: 34.1 points allowed per game (9th MW, 101st nationally)
Total defense: 453.1 yards allowed per game (10th MW, 104th nationally)
Series: Hawkeyes lead 2-0
Last meeting: The Hawkeyes got a TD off a blocked punt and a pick 6 to overcome a 12-0 deficit and defeat the Cowboys 20-19 in the 1987 Holiday Bowl. Cornerback Merton Hanks blocked two kicks, including a second-quarter punt that Jay Hess recovered in the end zone for a TD. Defensive back Anthony Wright, the game MVP, picked off a pass and returned it 33 yards for a TD. Fullback David Hudson scored from the 1 to give Iowa the lead. Hanks blocked a 52-yard field goal attempt with 46 seconds left to preserve the victory.
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