UW survives annual struggle with FCS opponent

LARAMIE — The most important thing for University of Wyoming coach Craig Bohl following Saturday's 31-17 win over Portland State was that his team is now 2-0.
The Cowboys started the season with a thrilling 35-33 double-overtime win over Texas Tech last weekend, but the encore performance against Portland State fizzled in the final quarter.
UW took a commanding 31-10 lead over the Vikings with two minutes left in the third quarter, but the Cowboys let off the gas in the final 15 minutes, allowing a late score and another long drive that would have brought the Vikings back to within a score.
Bohl, who has a plethora of experience coaching at the FCS level from his days at North Dakota State, warned his players of the dangers of keeping an FCS opponent in the game. While UW started strong, it never really put the final bow on the Vikings during the win.
“I did, but I don’t know if they listened,” Bohl said about preparing his team for an FCS team's effort. "...This is their opportunity to play on a different stage. They gave San Jose (State) everything they wanted last year, which was a concern of mine, and they certainly showed that today. There were things we did, though, that were self-inflicted.
“... We made it closer than what we wanted to. ... But I can tell you, me, as a head coach, typically, the glass is half empty, so that’s my perspective. I’m not one of these rose-colored glasses (coaches). No, we’ve got to play better, and I’ve got to coach better.”
UW's nonconference struggles against FCS teams are well documented, and sixth-year defensive tackle Cole Godbout has been present for more than a few. While he's glad to walk away with the win, he knows the Cowboys didn't play their best game Saturday afternoon.
“It’s really a mental game with us,” Godbout said. “Somehow we can play with the big dogs, and then we tend to play down to our opponent’s level, which is frustrating.
"We started out strong. For a while we thought, ‘It’s only going to go up.’ Then (we had) a few turnovers and (they had) a few big gains, and they were in the game. … I don’t know what it is, but we always just play down. This is my sixth year, and any team, doesn’t matter the players, we just don’t like to take them to the woodshed, as coach Bohl would say. We just like to keep it entertaining, I guess.”
Wide receiver Ayir Asante transferred to UW from Holy Cross this offseason. Having played at an FCS school himself, Asante knew this was a game Portland State was going to take seriously when they got to Laramie.
“We might have lacked a little bit of focus,” Asante said. “Sometimes, we did fall into that, 'FCS versus FBS opponent,' type of thing where we were expecting things to just happen and expecting the other team to just lay down. They’re never going to do that, especially not in a game like this.
"We let a couple plays get away from us, and I think the score didn’t really reflect how we wanted to dominate the game. That’s definitely a fact.”
Asante emerges
UW had several positives come out of Saturday's win, specifically on the offensive side. Asante caught his first and second touchdowns as a Cowboy against the Vikings, the first coming on an explosive 64-yard catch on third-and-seven in the first quarter.
Asante also hauled in a 14-yard touchdown from quarterback Andrew Peasley in the third quarter to give UW a 31-10 lead.
“It felt really good,” Asante said. “Just from getting here in June and getting up to speed really quickly and everything like that, I felt like we were able to make a lot of big plays in camp. The first game (against Texas Tech), I felt like I had a shot at a touchdown. I think (Peasley) said he left it a little short, but I should have went back and got it. It’s one of those things where, good teammates are going to want that play back for each other.
“That stuck with me all week. I told (Peasley), ‘I’m gonna get it back.’ He never wavered in any faith in me, so I kind of just knew that this week we were going to be able to get that back. It felt good to do what we said we were going to do.”
Asante's two touchdowns were his only receptions on the night, but his big-play ability stuck out to Bohl on Saturday afternoon.
“I think he can have a big impact,” Bohl said. “Now, the one (64-yard) touchdown, they had busted coverage on. But he’s really smooth, catches the ball well, and he has some really good speed.
"He’s one of our fastest players on the team, and that’s an injection, and you saw that today. We’re pleased to have him.”
Turnover struggles
The Cowboys have struggled in the turnover department through their first two games, finishing both games with two turnovers on the offensive side. Three of those turnovers are from lost fumbles by running backs, with D.Q. James, Jamari Ferrell and Sam Scott all losing fumbles through the first two weekends.
Peasley was also intercepted by Portland State during a two-minute drill at the end of the first half, and had an interception against Texas Tech overturned because of a defensive hands to the face penalty.
On top of the turnovers, UW's young offensive line struggled in the fourth quarter against Portland State. The Cowboys averaged 4.4 yards per carry against the Vikings, but Portland State ended the game with seven tackles for loss.
“We had too much penetration, too many negative plays,” Bohl said. “If you’re going to run the ball and you’re going to be a zone team, you can’t have negative plays, and we had way too many.”
As for UW's running back room, the Cowboys will likely get a boost from Northern Illinois transfer Harrison Waylee next weekend in Austin. Waylee has been recovering from offseason knee surgery, and Bohl expects him to be available against the Longhorns.
“He’s a different type of back,” Bohl said. “We’ll see how he functions (in practice), but I’m really encouraged that he’s coming back for this next game.”

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