Cody Tucker who covers the University of Wyoming for 7220sports.com was kind enough to collaborate with me on a set of 10 questions about Utah State’s eighth opponent of the 2022 season. The Aggies face the Wyoming Cowboys on the road at Laramie. It’s the fourth Mountain West Conference game of the year for Utah State and the Aggies third Mountain Division matchup, where the Aggies are hoping to win their third straight game. Huge shout out to Cody for joining me this week!!
Following the Cowboys 52-38 2021 Idaho Potato Bowl win over Kent State, multiple key players began to enter the transfer portal immediately. Why do you suspect there was such a mass exodus and what have the Cowboys done to fill so many roster openings?
There’s definitely not a blanket answer to this question. Some were grad transfers and wanted to explore their options after already spending three to five years in Laramie. In talking to most of the 15 who did decide to leave, some didn’t see eye to eye with head coach Craig Bohl and others simply wanted to take the risk and see what else was out there for them. I can’t lie, it was stunning to see so many guys hit the portal, especially when you’re talking about the second-leading rusher in school history, both quarterbacks, two starting corners, arguably the best receiver in the Mountain West and a ton of talent on the defensive front. Bohl and Co. were forced to hop into the portal themselves — something that was almost taboo to this program — and quickly saw the door swings both ways. Wyoming snagged a host of Power-5 players like cornerbacks Jakorey Hawkins (Ole Miss) and Deron Harrell (Wisconsin), as well as linebacker Cole DeMarzo (Michigan State), wideout Chase Locke (USC), and defensive end Keelan Cox (Alabama). The biggest addition, of course, has been former Aggie signal caller, Andrew Peasley. This is a developmental program. Bohl will tell you that until he’s blue in the face. But he and his staff did a nice job filling some holes. Still, according to ESPN, Wyoming had the third-youngest roster in the FBS entering 2022.
Former Utah State junior quarterback Andrew Peasley has transferred into the Wyoming program and earned the starting spot as the Cowboys signal caller last spring. He has currently completed 92 of 171 passes for 1,005 yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions, while also running for 234 yards on 43 carries. How does Andy fit the Cowboys offensive scheme and how well has he fit into the Wyoming locker room?
Andrew has truly made a seamless transition into Wyoming’s locker room and culture. He is beloved by his teammates and coaches. There’s really no way else to put it. I spent 10 minutes with him Monday and literally every player that walked by tapped him on the shoulder and said hello to him. Bohl, who is not one to single out players — good or bad — but speaks often about how much he has enjoyed getting to know Andrew. It really tells you all you need to know that his teammates voted him as one of the four team captains before he even took a meaningful snap. As far as on-the-field production goes, he has had a couple of rough moments, like going 5-for-20 passing for 30 yards and a pick in the opener at Illinois, but the following week he was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week after tossing a couple of touchdowns in a double-overtime victory over Tulsa. Wyoming, as you know, does not run the spread like Andrew was used to in Logan. This is a true, QB-under-center pro-style offensive scheme. He’s learning on the fly. This is also his first real shot as the true starting QB in his college career. His calming presence and demeanor have made a world of difference for this young team, in my opinion.
Wyoming lost Xazavian Valladay their leading rusher in 2021 as a transfer to Arizona State. Junior Titus Swen has jumped into the starting role nicely. His 115 carries are more than double those of anyone else on the team and he has a team-high 505 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Talk about what type of threat Swen is once the ball is in his hands.
Well, Utah State fans should be very familiar with how dangerous Titus is. Last November in Logan, the then-sophomore tied a school record on that 98-yard touchdown jaunt. When the dust settled that night inside Maverik Stadium, he rushed for 169 yards and two scores on just 15 carries. This guy is dynamic. He always seems to fall forward and his running style can only be described as violent. He’s elusive and has the speed to outrace the secondary. Also spoke with Titus Monday and he is of the same belief that he really hasn’t even gotten going yet in 2022. Said he utilized the bye week to really focus on his game — both physically and mentally. Titus suffered a rib injury in week zero against Illinois and went down twice two weeks ago in Albuquerque. He assures me he is 100% healthy and said he feels as good as he did in high school, heading into Saturday night.
Following the 2021 transfer of leading receiver Isaiah Neyor to the University of Texas, sophomore wide receiver Josh Cobbs has been the go-to guy this season with 24 catches for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Beyond Cobbs, who are the guys that the Aggies secondary has to keep an eye on in the Wyoming passing game?
Like Titus, Josh had his coming-out party in Logan last season, snagging six balls for 76 yards and his first-career touchdown. He most certainly has been the top pass catcher for this team, but he has had some help filling the void left behind when Neyor went to Austin. Wyatt Weiland caught a few balls to cap the 2021 season that really gave him confidence heading into this campaign. He has been the Cowboys’ top third-down threat and has even taken a few jet sweep handoffs. Will Pelissier, who suffered a shoulder injury against BYU and hasn’t played since could be back for this one. He has shown he can be a deep threat and is starting to build confidence, as well. Those two guys are both former walk-ons and have really stepped up through the first half of this schedule. Offensive coordinator Tim Polasek has really been utilizing his tight end of late. That unit has caught at least one touchdown in four straight games, led by Treyton Welch, who has a team-best four of those. Parker Christensen has also hauled in one. Last year, Neyor was getting the ball. I knew it, you knew it, the opposition knew it. This year, Peasley is spreading the love.
The Cowboys have an interesting collection of experience and youth along the offensive line. Senior left tackle Eric Abojei (31 starts in 38 career games) and junior right tackle Frank Crum (29 starts in 36 career games) are the experienced bookends with junior left guard Zach Watts (6 starts in 28 career games), redshirt freshman right guard Emmanuel Pregnon (6 starts in 7 career games), and center Nofoafia Tulafono (6 starts in 18 career games) representing the youth movement. Who would you say is the leader of the position group and how have they been able to gel so quickly and help the Cowboy offense be so successful thus far?
Junior nose tackle Cole Godbout is expected to miss this week’s game. Sophomore defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole (16 starts in 25 career games), sophomore Devonne Harris (6 starts in 23 career games) and redshirt freshman Braden Siders (6 starts in 6 career games) have all started every game this season. How big of a loss is Godbout and who do you expect to fill his shoes against the Aggies?
Make no mistake, not having Cole out there is a huge deal for this team. I have zero issues telling you right now, he’s the best defensive tackle in the Mountain West. The only other player in that conversation, in my opinion, is Jordan. These two have been rock solid. Cole didn’t play at New Mexico and it appeared the Lobos found a weakness in the middle and exploited that to the tune of two straight long scoring drives to start the game. Just when it appeared that one could get out of hand for the visitors, Gavin Meyer answered the bell. He finished the night with six tackles and three sacks in the 27-14 win. The sophomore made life miserable for the Lobos throughout the final three-quarters of that one. It’s just another example of one of the Cowboys’ youngsters stepping up and making plays. This has been a theme for this program across the board.
Sophomore Easton Gibbs (19 starts in 26 career games) and sophomore Shae Suiaunoa (6 starts in 26 career games) make up the Cowboy linebacking crew. They are both young eligibility-wise BUT have seen plenty of action in their careers. Talk about how they have come together as a duo to form the middle of the Wyoming defensive scheme.
The Wyoming defensive backfield is a real physical group with sophomore strong safety (32 tackles), sophomore Isaac White (28 tackles), and sophomore cornerback Cam Stone (19 tackles) all in the top 10 this season. The Cowboys will also be without sophomore nickleback Keonte Glinton (26 tackles). First, how big a loss is Glinton? Second, how does the defensive scheme allow for the secondary to make so many plays?
Sophomore placekicker John Hoyland has currently hit 15 of 16 field goal attempts including a long of 55-yards. He has also connected on all 16 of his PAT tries. He is rapidly becoming one of the top kickers in the country. Talk about how valuable it is to have such a reliable weapon on offense.
Valuable isn’t a strong enough word. While Wyoming ranks No. 15 in the nation in red-zone offense, 10 of those 18 scores have come off John’s right foot. He also drilled a 55-yarder in a win over Tulsa. This is nothing new for Wyoming fans. John was named a Freshman All-American after being thrown into the fire during the COVID season. In his debut, he went 4-for-4 on the road in Reno. He’s never looked back. Wyoming has had to rely on him way too much this season, but he just quietly goes out and does his job. This kid will likely be a Lou Groza finalist sooner rather than later, not to mention he stepped in for outgoing senior Cooper Rothe, who was named a finalist for that award during his UW career and is the school’s all-time leading scorer.
The University of Wyoming is now halfway through the 2022 season and sits at 4 and 3. The last four games for the Cowboys have been a HUGE 17-14 divisional home win over the Air Force Academy, a 24-38 loss on the road to byu, a rough 16-33 home loss to West division leader San Jose State, and a solid 27-14 road win over the University of New Mexico. Has anything the Cowboys have done thus far surprised you at all and what has really stood out to you now that they are seven games in?
I tell you what, at the beginning of each season, I go on a ton of radio shows and always get asked the same question: What will the Cowboys record look like when it’s all said and done? Honestly, I had no idea how to answer that. All the loss in the portal — at key spots — along with the influx of youth was, uhh, scary — to say the least. Seeing road games at Illinois and BYU on the schedule wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered, either. I circled Tulsa. That game was so important, in my opinion. If the Pokes don’t win that one in Laramie, it’s a very real possibility that September features just one likely victory over FCS foe Northern Colorado. UW pulled out the double-OT win, beat the Bears, and took down Front Range rival Air Force. That was a key outing. If there has been one real surprise to me it has been the way this squad forgets and moves on. One would think the sky was falling when Peasley goes out and has a miserable debut in Champaign and the Pokes lose 38-6 in the opener. You bet it was. Fans were less than thrilled and Peasley even deleted his Twitter account. Bohl became emotional, something we never see around here, when talking about the flack his new QB got after that loss to an Illini team, which is now in the Top 25. Players claimed they moved on from that one. It’s apparent now that they did. This team is really tight and growing up together. The Mountain West has been so schizophrenic this season that this team has a real shot to make some noise down the stretch. Most believe these next three — all trophy games — are winnable, beginning with Utah State before a trip to Hawaii and driving down the road to Border War rival Colorado State. If the Cowboys can take care of business, Boise State pays a visit to the High Plains on Nov. 19 for what could be a gigantic showdown. Who thought we’d even be having this discussion right now? That’s the biggest surprise.