Thorburn: Last ride with the Cowboys will be special for super seniors

LARAMIE – They signed letters of intent to play at Wyoming when Josh Allen was still wearing the brown and gold.
They redshirted together after arriving on campus. They isolated themselves in the dorms for months in an effort to play during the pandemic. They watched dozens of their peers quit or leave via the portal over the years.
They cheered when classmate Chad Muma made it to the NFL. They cried after suffering significant injuries. They rejected overtures from other programs offering name, image and likeness money to transfer.
They stayed to be champions.
Wyoming’s six-year super seniors from the 2018 recruiting class – Frank Crum, Gunner Gentry, Cole Godbout, Ryan Marquez and Wyatt Wieland – are saddling up to make one final ride together.
The tight-knit leadership group Craig Bohl will lean on when adversity strikes this season also includes starting quarterback Andrew Peasley, entering his second year in the program after spending four years at Utah State, and fifth-year standouts Jordan Bertagnole, Easton Gibbs, DeVonne Harris and Treyton Welch.
“Those are the guys that elevate a football team, those are the guys that have raised the bar on their level of commitment,” Bohl said. “In all the chaotic stuff that has gone on in football, that has not changed, those guys have not changed. Those guys are one of the things that get me fired up about coaching this team.”
UW could actually win the Mountain West for the first time. Or finish 7-6 for the third consecutive season.
Predicting what’s going to happen in this beautiful, unstable sport is impossible. A year ago, nobody had TCU making it to the national championship game or Tulane beating USC in the Cotton Bowl or 2023 being the final season of the Pac-12.
I don’t know if the Cowboys will struggle against Texas Tech or if they will pull off a stunning upset of a Big 12 contender on Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium.
No matter what happens, one thing is certain: The aforementioned leaders will not let their teammates get too high or too low after the game.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be vocal,” Bertagnole said during the grind of fall camp when the whole team was sore. “I was actually talking to Cole about that and how every day is a challenge and if we encourage everybody it’s going to pick up the morale of the whole group. That has definitely been a huge thing that we’ve been pointing out. It’s super easy to get mad at something during fall camp. You’re already irritable, you’re going against the same guys every single day for a month, and it gets old.
“Always keeping the energy is the biggest thing. If you keep energy through the whole practice, you’re getting something done that day.”
The lofty expectations from the Pokes are coming from inside those closed practices.
Bohl has bragged about the defensive line’s dominance. Defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel said his unit is better and deeper at every position. Offensive coordinator Tim Polasek has been allowed to emphasize improving the passing game and says Peasley has consistently completed over 60% of his attempts in practice.
The coaches and players don’t give off the vibe of a team picked to finish sixth in the 12-team MW.
Nothing about the mindset of this team suggests the Cowboys are heading for a middle-of-the-pack finish.
“To do something that’s never been done somewhere has far greater value than some change, some cash to go somewhere else where you’re really just a first-year guy and there’s just nothing there for you,” Godbout said of remaining loyal in the portal and NIL era. “This is our home. We’ve all talked about just winning the Mountain West. One of our mottos is those who stay will be champions. I think we really take that heart.”
Godbout would probably be trying to make a 53-man NFL roster if his 2022 season wasn’t cut in half by a foot injury. Instead of worrying about losing a chance to start, Gavin Meyer and Caleb Williams welcomed him back with open arms.
Crum provided some tough love to redshirt freshmen offensive linemen Wes King and Luke Sandy to make sure they were ready to help fill the void left by Emmanuel Pregnon’s transfer to USC.
Gentry, Marquez and Wieland didn’t get jealous when the coaching staff added transfers Ayir Asante and Devin Boddie to upgrade the overall talent at receiver. The trio helped the newcomers learn the playbook.
“Ryan and Gunner were actually roommates our freshman year, and I didn’t know anyone coming up here,” Wieland said of the bond between the lightly recruited Colorado prospects. “We’d never really talked or anything, but we just all kind of gravitated towards each other and moved in the next year and we’ve been living together for over four years now.
“They’re both going to be groomsmen in my wedding next summer. That speaks to how close we are.”
I asked Wieland what he would have thought if I told him in the summer of 2018, when he and Marquez arrived as skinny walk-ons, that in 2023 they would still be in college and finally starting for the Pokes together.
“I would have thought something went seriously wrong,” Wieland said. “I mean, it’s the opposite of that to be honest. I’m so grateful we all had this opportunity to stick around, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Now the mission for these mature young adults – Peasley is married and has a newborn at home, Bertagnole was recently married, and Wieland is engaged – is to make toasts at their reunions to being part of the group that led UW to its first MW championship.
“It has been a blessing for sure to have the crew of guys we have,” Welch said. “To be able to go through the COVID year, a really tough year, and be able to get that year of eligibility back was big time. To be on the 2023 Cowboys with the guys is a blessing for sure. It has been incredible to see the amount of guys that have stepped up into leadership roles.”
Whether the Pokes make history this season or fall short of making their Hollywood ending a reality, this brotherhood will not be broken.
When these players return to campus for reunions in 10, 20 or even 50 years they will have so many memories to laugh and cry about.
Some of them will be in the athletic department’s hall of fame as individuals.
They could also lead the entire team into UW immortality by adding the MW championship trophy to the case.
“I’ve got to leave everything on the field just because I don’t have another opportunity and I know it’s a lot of my teammates’ last ride,” Godbout said. “It’s really special, sixth year, it’s going to be fun.”

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