You won’t be hearing any title talk from these Cowboys
LAS VEGAS, Nev., -- It took Craig Bohl nine seasons to win his first national title at North Dakota State. Wyoming's head coach offered up that tidbit followed with a grin and a knock on the table.
He also happens to be entering Year 9 on the sidelines in Laramie.
So, what does that mean?
"I'm not saying anything," Bohl said with a laugh.
That's as close as Bohl, or his two players at Mountain West Media Days -- Titus Swen and Easton Gibbs -- would get to mentioning the word championship. Earlier in the day, the league's media picked the Cowboys to finish fifth in the Mountain Division.
Humble pie? You bet.
UW also lost 16 players to the NCAA Transfer Portal this offseason, including both quarterbacks, its leading rusher and pass catcher and two veteran cornerbacks, among others.
Though Wyoming's trio is confident things will be just fine on the High Plains in 2022 despite the turmoil, it's a far cry from the narrative surrounding this program last summer.
The word title and championship was thrown around freely. Bohl mentioned "kicking the door down" in reference to claiming that elusive first Mountain West crown. Confidence oozed from the roster.
Those days are in the rear-view mirror after the Pokes stumbled to a 7-6 record, which did include a dominating Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory over Kent State, but also featured embarrassing home losses to New Mexico and Hawaii.
This year, that talk is non-existent.
"I'm optimistic this year," Bohl added. "I'm excited about working with this group."
That's about as racy as it gets from this group.
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"We're not trying to focus on that this year," said Gibbs, a junior linebacker from Temecula, Calif., who will slide to the middle and replace Chad Muma this fall. "Like, we want to win it, but like we said, it's a day-by-day, game-by-game approach. We're going about our business like that."
Swen, who will step into a starting role in the offensive backfield vacated by the program's second all-time leading rusher, Xazavian Valladay, called the mood around this team at this time last year "hectic."
That title talk just added undue pressure, according to the junior running back.
"It was like, we have to do this," he said. "All the seniors, all the super seniors, were like, 'this is our last chance, we have to go out on top.' But at the end of the day, it's not really like that. You've got to get the job done and take it one step at a time.
"We don't even break it down to Mountain West Championships no more. It's day-by-day. It's the next (game)."
Why has this title chase been such an elusive one?
Bohl was blunt -- It's not that easy.
"Well, first of all, this league," he said. "This league has challenged me more than ... you don't just come in and kick ass and take names. There's good coaches and really good players in this league."
Wyoming has had plenty of those during Bohl's tenure. Currently, a dozen former Cowboys litter NFL rosters, including Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, who is playing at an MVP level. Only Denver's Mike Purcell didn't play for Bohl.
Recruiting to Laramie was supposed to be the hard part, right?
"Sometimes the stars have to align, right?" he said. "OK, so you can say it's so elusive, but It's damn hard to do it."
Bohl joked that he attended a Cowboy Joe function during his first year on the job. He talked then about a five-year plan. One fan didn't like that plan very much.
"This lady goes, 'listen, sonny, I ain't going to be around here in five years, you better start winning now,'" he said with a laugh.
After winning just six games in his first two years at UW, Bohl's Cowboys nearly claimed a championship in Year 3. Allen led Wyoming to a 30-28 win over 13th-ranked Boise State and again in the regular-season home finale against No. 24 San Diego State.
Two weeks later War Memorial Stadium played host to the conference title game. UW fell to the visiting Aztecs, 27-24.
Can the Cowboys fly under the radar and stun the league the way they did in 2016? That is to be determined. Though no one is talking about hoisting trophies in December, don't think it's far from their minds.
"I'm not disputing what you're saying, and believe me, nobody wants to win the whole damn thing more than I do, OK?" Bohl said. "It ain't easy. If we're going to do it the Wyoming way, it's not going to be the shortcut way. It may not be on your timetable. So, I get it."
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