Hawai’i pushed Arizona out of the way for a win to start their season. Nevada pulled off a surprise win over Purdue. Boise State pulled off the upset in Florida against Florida State. And Wyoming beat Missouri in their opening game of the season, shocking a good number of people. The Mountain West conference is not messing around this season, folks, and that is something to get excited about. I tip my hat to all these teams that started their season on the right foot toppling P5 teams and stunning people across the country. As a Wyoming alumna and fan, I will now direct your attention specifically to my first and last love, the Wyoming Cowboys.
That Saturday began like any other Saturday, college football games were played. Then, in the final wave of games, Missouri at Wyoming kicked off. Missouri got an early lead, but the Pokes countered and won. I absentmindedly checked the score at halftime when Wyoming was leading 27-17 and thought that I had read that Missouri was leading 27-17. After a double take, I realized the Cowboys were actually leading at halftime. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Wyoming fan, so I was happy to see that I was wrong, but years of being a Wyoming fan have made me somewhat cynical. The team has had a few good years, but it’s had more bad years in my memory.
The Dave Christensen era comes to mind when I think of disappointing seasons. Under his leadership, the program was okay, but it started slipping rapidly. Christensen left the program after the Pokes went 4-8 and 5-7 in consecutive seasons. Unfortunately, the departure of Christensen resulted in growing pains starting with the 2014 season, the year Craig Bohl rolled in Laramie.
Craig Bohl started his head coaching tenure at Wyoming with a 4-8 season followed by a 2-10 season (hard times were had in Laradise, folks). Since those seasons, the Pokes have fared better, but still haven’t necessarily dominated the Mountain West like some other teams. Boise State remains the top dog in the Mountain West (despite the big win that wonderful night in Laramie in 2016), and though Wyoming brings some fight when playing Boise State, they still don’t get favored to win that matchup. The growth from the beginning of the Bohl era to now is significant and will likely keep Bohl employed by Wyoming (until the University of Nebraska comes a-knockin’), especially now that years of grinding through being the bottom to middle of the pack in the Mountain West might be paying off with a huge upset over Missouri.
Although Missouri is weak in the SEC, the SEC is still considered the best of the best in college football. In the hierarchy of college football the SEC is at the top of the Power Five schools which sits atop then entire institution that is college football. Sure, Missouri is trash in the SEC, but they’re still probably better than many other P5 teams (theoretically) and all other FBS teams (theoretically). Thus, making this upset still extremely valid despite Missouri being a weak SEC team.
While it was just one game, the Cowboys played strong though most of it, which means they might have found that consistency they’ve needed for years. Of course, this could shift throughout the season, because that’s just how college football works (which is what makes it fun, but very stressful). But I like to think that Wyoming has improved as a program holistically, which means they’ve also improved their consistency through games and the season. If you’re skeptical about Wyoming’s improvement from last season, let us not forget the fact that Missouri aired out our beloved Cowboys last season, handing them a 13-40 L. They’ve come a long way from that loss, and are likely only on their way up because Craig Bohl is going to build a dynasty at Wyoming.
People will speculate about whether or not this game was a fluke, but that doesn’t make any of the doubters right. Wyoming showed up and Missouri didn’t, it’s simple as that. Wyoming has been building for years to get to where they are, and they’re only going up from here. The win positioned the Cowboys nicely going into the next few weeks where they’ll likely pick up a few more Ws. Missouri might have been one of their tougher opponents for the season, but honestly, I’m more concerned about Boise State and Utah State.
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