To Brian Hill, the Wyoming running back, there was a chance. The Cowboys had watched film of Fresno State during the week, the problems it had with its run fits, its struggles in coverage and inability to down the football at times, all of that adding up to some big plays. The Bulldogs through eight games had allowed 44 explosive plays of 20 or more yards, 34 through the air and 10 on the ground.
But what transpired on Saturday, when Wyoming broke a four-game losing streak with an easy 45-17 victory at Fresno State … he did not see that coming. ‘’Uh, nah,’’ he said. ‘’Not for real …’’
Fresno State free safety Derron Smith did not either, and that and the final quarter of the loss did not sit well. The senior defensive captain said he would have to go to the videotape to find an answer that could prove very telling over the final three games of the regular season, after Hill and the Cowboys ran right over and through the Bulldogs racking up yards in large chunks.
‘’I have to go back and watch the film but late in the game like that it’s about playing for pride and if they’re busting runs like that play after play, something ain’t going right,’’ Smith said. ‘’Like coach said, I still have to watch the film but my initial sense is you have to start questioning some people’s heart out there. Are you giving it your all? Are you really trying to get off a block? Are you trying to make a tackle or not? But I’m not going to get too upset with the heart and effort part until I see the film.’’
With or without the video, not enough tackles were made.
Wyoming came in ranked last of 12 in the Mountain West Conference in total offense, averaging only 343.2 yards per game. They more doubled that, gaining 694 total yards. The Cowboys rushed for 374 yards, the most they have had in a game since gaining 382 yards against Texas State in 2011. They converted 10 of 15 third-down plays (66.7%). They had nine plays of 20 or more yards including runs of 89, 66, 48, 38, 32 and 23 yards. In their first 12 games, they had only 12 runs of 20 or more yards.
Fresno State had one sack and stopped just two other plays for a loss – Wyoming, which ran 71 plays, had come in allowing 7.1 tackles for loss this season, tied for 10th in the conference.
And Hill, a freshman who moved into the starting lineup after the Cowboys lost their top two running backs in Shaun Wick and D.J May last week to hand and knee injuries, ended up rushing for 281 yards and two touchdowns on just 23 plays (12.2 ypp), catching three passes for 106 yards (35.3 ypc) and setting a conference record for all-purpose yards.
He flew past New Mexico wide Deon Long, who had 378 all-purpose yards in a 2011 victory over Sam Houston State, on the last of his touches, an 89-yard run in the fourth quarter.
‘’We knew we’d have our chances,’’ Hill said. ‘’Sometimes we’d see holes in the defense, sometimes the defense would be perfect, so even if we had a two-yarder we had a chance to have a 15-yarder. I just trusted my o-line and ran hard and things just happened.’’
What has to be most troubling – and central to Smith’s question – is the Cowboys did not do much of anything they hadn’t shown on film or that the Bulldogs hadn’t practiced against.
‘’I don’t know if they ran more than two or three plays that we didn’t see in practice,’’ Smith said. ‘’They executed well. We didn’t fit it right all the time. Like coach said, missed tackles again. My perspective is a little different having my eyes in certain spots so I can’t see exactly what happened every time so, again, still have to get to the film to really find out what went wrong.‘’
‘’If we feel like guys are giving up, we’re going to say, ‘Next,’’ Coach Tim DeRuyter said. ‘’You can’t tolerate that. But I think when you have young guys giving effort, but maybe not being good enough and they get discouraged, it can translate as, ‘Hey, they’re not giving effort,’ so we have to determine what’s going on there. When you play a team that makes you pack in, if it busts out, they have big plays on people. But we have people that practice, too, and we have to be able to get guys down. If those guys that are playing can’t get guys down we have to go to the next guys.’’