The new front man for Wyoming football was dressed to kill at his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon.

Wearing a brown plaid sport coat with a spiffy tie and crisp white collar, Craig Bohl called his makeover of the Cowboys an “ongoing process.” That’s a nice way of saying Wyoming has looked shabby the last two years in posting a combined record of 9-15.

Bohl is unaccustomed to losing. He guided North Dakota State to FCS titles the past three seasons and left NDSU on a 24-game win streak. Over the past four years the Bison went 4-0 against FBS foes, including a 24-21 win at Kansas State in 2013.

Everything is new now for the Cowboys’ bald-headed skipper. But don’t think for a second he plans on losing in his debut Saturday against an FCS team – even one as highly-touted as fifth-ranked Montana.

“Make no mistake, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” said the coach, whose FBS program faces the upset-minded Griz at 2 p.m. in Laramie, Wyoming.

“...When you’re in a bordering state like this, throw all the numerals out. They’ve got a great football program and we’ve got a storied past. I think it’s going to be an excellent game and we’re excited about playing it.”

Coming off a 10-3 season, Montana has reason to be cautiously optimistic. The Griz have a third-year starter at quarterback in Jordan Johnson. The Cowboys have a perennial backup at the controls in fifth-year senior Colby Kirkegaard, whose only start produced a home loss to Cal Poly in 2012.

Still, the Cowboys have Bohl. He knows a thing or two about stopping good quarterbacks as the former defensive coordinator at perennial powerhouse Nebraska.

“I wouldn’t anticipate them doing anything differently than when they won three national championships,” UM coach Mick Delaney said, referring to Bohl’s FCS career. “That is to be a very, very disciplined, hard-nosed football team that’s going to play from start to finish.

“I think they have the right guy there to bring that program back to some really good things. We’re looking forward to a real, real challenge but our guys are excited about it.”

Both coaches believe it’s imperative to stop the run, which is like saying it’s important to have gas in your car when you back out of the driveway. Wyoming will take an FBS swagger into the game, confident it can bully the lower-level Griz on both sides up front.

“They’ve got a stable of running backs that will pose a great challenge and a wide-open passing attack,” Bohl said of the Grizzlies. “It’s going to be important that we establish the line of scrimmage, do everything we can to make the Griz one-dimensional. That’s going to be a challenge.”

Montana struggled at times to run the football against its own defense in preseason camp. But senior running back and co-captain Jordan Canada has seen signs of life lately.

“I’m not going to lie, the first couple padded practices in camp were a little rough, especially when we have such a dominant D-line,” he said. “It was definitely a learning experience for our line.

“It progressed as camp went on and I’m actually excited to see what they’re going to do come Saturday. We’ve got a lot of potential up front. The runs got there. I mean, a couple scrimmages we had some running.”

Montana will be fighting an uphill battle against a hostile crowd and history. War Memorial Stadium, which has a listed capacity of 29,181, will be close to full. Since the inception of the Mountain West Conference in 1999, the Cowboys are 9-0 in home openers.

When you add the facts Montana is 0-13 all-time against Wyoming and the game is being played at 7,220 feet, it seems like an awful lot for the Griz to overcome.

Yet if Montana can get its ground attack going against a Wyoming defense that ranked ninth in the Mountain West against the run last season, the Griz can take the crowd out of the game and set up their passing game.

“In football anymore you have to have explosives,” Delaney said. “We’ve got to have big plays. Let’s face it, we’re a big-play team.

“We’ve got running backs, especially Jordan (Canada) and Travon (Van), who can create a big play at the drop of a hat. We’ll keep pounding away and establish the run. You break one tackle and they’re off. Then obviously our vertical passing game has always been pretty good.”

Despite all the yardage the Cowboys surrendered on the ground last season, Bohl likes his personnel on the defensive front. It all starts with defensive ends Eddie Yarbrough, who had a team-high 12 tackles for loss in 2013, and senior Sonny Puletasi, who had 10.

“Eddie Yarbrough played really well last year, (senior) Patrick Mertens has developed into a great defensive tackle ...,” Bohl said. “To make our defense go, you’ve got to have a good push.”

Delaney had some good and bad news Tuesday regarding offensive personnel. Preseason all-Big Sky Conference wide receiver Ellis Henderson, unable to scrimmage since last winter because of a bacterial infection, may play “a little” on Saturday. The bad news is junior Chase Naccarato, who had a great camp working as a slot receiver, probably won’t see the field this week because of an ankle injury.

Quick kicks: Wyoming is reportedly paying UM $400,000 to play in Laramie. The Griz were given 2,000 tickets to sell but turned back 1,000, according to the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle newspaper. That means 2,400 tickets were still available as of Tuesday afternoon ... Wyoming went 5-7 using a spread offense last season ... The game can be seen on Direct TV channels 687 (ROOT Sports Northwest) and 683 (ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain) and Dish channels 426 (ROOT Sports Northwest) and 414 ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain). For cable channels check local listings ... The Mountain West Network will simulcast the ROOT production. The live stream will be available for free for viewers outside the ROOT footprint at http://www.themw.com/#!/watch-live.

Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or bill.speltz@lee.net

Reporter ​Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or bill.speltz@lee.net.

(6) comments

justafan
justafan

I do not see beating Wyo as an upset. I expect it. Playing up a notch is a good move as it puts UM on the map for more then the bad rap it has gotten for other things. Funny thing is we beat Wyoming and instead of giving credit to Coach D people will just say that Wyoming is a crappy team.

glacierdude
glacierdude

I agree with you 100% !!!!!!!!

Pistol
Pistol

Good move? We play up for 400000? We play a poor "up" team! What is good about this game? We could play Carroll College at home and make more then 400000. The Griz because of it's fan support doesn't need to play up. Only reason teams do is revenue. Plus if you're going to play up play a big time program for a lot of money in an area we recruit, or where there is a lot of UM Alumni.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

We do not have the experience on offensive Line to beat anyone in FBS. Maybe a few teams but not a disciplined coach like Bohl. Our defense ( if the secondary is better this year) should help keep us in the game for a while but line play is where the game is won and lost. All that being said..we will hope for the best and hope as well that people that schedule Griz games will try to keep us away from these FBS matchups. Playing good teams in our own division does not pay as much but also is great experience and the chance of injury is reduced somewhat. Will hope for the best...like the year Dave Dickenson took the Griz in to Washington St and almost pulled off an upset. In this case, I see no upset...just hope to get out of there without any injuries. We have enough people hurt as it is right now.

glacierdude
glacierdude

Got to admit that it would be sweet to see our boys kick booty this Saturday. I don't think there is any reason at all to fear the Cowboys. They have been way down on their luck now for a good, long time and having a first year, new coach shouldn't make anybody afraid. there is only ONE reason that any head coach lands in Laramie, Wyoming....it's because they are really not all that or they make a serious mistake like Joe Glenn did back in the early 2K's. This guy is really not all that. He'll be three and out just like every Cowboy coach. Get 'em Griz. Make this game be a starting point for a super year.

The Truth
The Truth

Bohl is no dummy. Perhaps the greatest FCS coach in history…The cowboys will be punchin the Griz in the mouth…so the Griz need to be ready for a fight. Jordan Canada will not get 40 yards so the line better protect Johnson or it will be ugly. My guess is we will quote John Adams after all is said and done "Our generals were out-generalled generally speaking."

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