(UW Athletics release)
LARAMIE, Wyo. – The Mountain West Conference released its 2017 All-Conference Football Team on Wednesday and seven Wyoming Cowboys were honored. For the first time since Wyoming has been a member of the Mountain West Conference, three Cowboys were named to the First Team defensive unit. Junior strong safety Andrew Wingard earned First Team honors for the second consecutive season. He was joined on the All-Mountain West First Team by junior defensive end Carl Granderson and sophomore defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan. It was the first All-Conference honor for both Granderson and Ghaifan.
Two other Cowboy defenders were named to the All-MW Second Team. Those two were sophomore linebacker Logan Wilson and senior cornerback Rico Gafford. Wilson was recognized by the Mountain West for the second straight season. He was honored a year ago as the MW Freshman of the Year. Gafford received the first All-Conference recognition of his career.
The final two Cowboys to be recognized were junior quarterback Josh Allen and sophomore kick return specialist Tyler Hall, who both earned Honorable Mention honors. Allen was honored for the second straight year. He was a Second Team choice last year. Hall earned his first All-Conference honor.
The All-Conference Team was selected in a vote of the 12 Mountain West head football coaches and media members from across the Mountain West.
Wyoming First Team Selections
Andrew Wingard (Junior, Strong Safety, Arvada, Colo.)
– Wingard was named to the All-Mountain West First Team for the second consecutive season, and he received All-Conference recognition for the third straight year (Second Team selection as a freshman in 2015). Wingard led all Mountain West defensive backs in tackles in 2017, averaging 9.3 tackles per game (111 total tackles). That tied him for No. 5 in the conference and No. 29 in the nation in tackles among all players at all positions. He also led the Cowboys in tackles for the third straight season. Wingard tied for No. 3 in the MW and No. 41 in the NCAA in interceptions, with four. He ranked No. 5 in the league and No. 21 in the country in solo tackles, averaging 5.6 per game (67 solo tackles). Wingard helped lead the Cowboys to a No. 1 ranking in the conference and No. 5 ranking in the NCAA in pass defense, allowing opponents only 160.7 passing yards per game. Wingard was twice named MW Defensive Player of the Week in 2017 for his performances versus Hawai’i and New Mexico. He had one interception and nine tackles versus Hawai’i and two interceptions and five tackles vs. New Mexico. Wingard had five double-figure tackles games in 2017 (15 vs. Boise State and Utah State, 14 vs. Oregon, 12 vs. Fresno State and 10 at San Jose State).
Carl Granderson (Junior, Defensive End, Sacramento, Calif.)
– Granderson earned the first All-Mountain West Conference recognition of his career by leading the Mountain West and ranking No. 18 in the nation in sacks, averaging 0.71 sacks per game (8.5 total sacks). He also was No. 1 in the MW and No. 29 nationally in tackles for loss (1.3 TFLs per game, 15.0 total TFLs). Granderson led all Mountain West defensive linemen in tackles, averaging 6.0 per game (72 total tackles). He also helped the Cowboys rank No. 1 in the conference and No. 36 in the nation in sacks as a team. The Cowboys sacked opposing quarterbacks 28 times in 2017 for an average of 2.33 per game. Granderson was named MW Defensive Player of the Week for his performance vs. Utah State when he had six tackles, intercepted a pass and recorded a safety to seal the win for the Cowboys. He also had 12 tackles at Boise State, including 3.0 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. He intercepted the second pass of his career versus New Mexico.
– Youhanna Ghaifan (Sophomore, Defensive Tackle, Grand Island, Neb.)
Ghaifan was named First Team All-Mountain West as a sophomore. He ranked second among all MW defensive linemen in tackles (5.8 tackles per game), trailing only his teammate Granderson. Ghaifan had 13.0 tackles for loss to rank No. 3 in the league, and he recorded 5.0 sacks to rank No. 6 in the Mountain West. He helped the Cowboys rank No. 1 in the MW and No. 36 in the nation in sacks, averaging 2.33 sacks per game as a team, and rank No. 2 in the conference and No. 34 nationally in tackles for loss, averaging 6.80 tackles for loss per game. His best game of the season came in a road win at Air Force when he recorded 11 tackles, 1.0 sack and 2.0 tackles for loss.
Wyoming Second Team Selections
Logan Wilson (Sophomore, Linebacker, Casper, Wyo.)
– Wilson earned Second Team All-Mountain West recognition as a sophomore. Wilson tied for the team lead in tackles with teammate Wingard, both had 111 tackles during the regular season. Among MW linebackers, Wilson ranked fifth in tackles, averaging 9.2 tackles per game. He ranked No. 29 in the nation in total tackles. Wilson also ranked No. 2 in the conference and No. 9 in the NCAA in solo tackles, averaging 5.9 per game. He led the Cowboys in solo tackles with 71. He scored the third defensive touchdown of his career versus Texas State earlier this season. Wilson helped the Cowboys rank No. 2 in the Mountain West and No. 17 in the nation in defensive touchdowns, with three on the season.
Rico Gafford (Senior, Cornerback, West Des Moines, Iowa)
– Gafford joined teammate Wilson on the All-Mountain West Second Team. Gafford shared the team lead in interceptions with Wingard, picking off four passes as a senior. That ranked Gafford No. 3 in the conference and No. 41 in the nation in interceptions. He led the Cowboys in passes defended (interceptions + pass breakups), and ranked No. 8 in the conference in that category. Gafford ended the regular season with 10 total passes defended (4 interceptions and 6 PBUs). Gafford’s play helped the Cowboys rank No. 1 in the MW and No. 10 nationally as a team in interceptions. UW intercepted a total of 16 passes in 2017.
The Cowboy defense ranked No. 1 in the conference and No. 5 in the nation in pass defense, allowing opponents only 160.7 passing yards per game. Wyoming was also No. 1 in the MW and No. 18 in the NCAA in pass defense efficiency, with a rating of 112.01. The Cowboys ranked No. 2 in the conference and No. 13 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 17.8 points per game, and were No. 3 in the MW and No. 22 in the nation in total defense, giving up an average of only 332.8 yards per game. UW’s defense also led the Mountain West and ranked No. 2 nationally in takeaways, with 30. Those 30 takeaways included 16 interceptions (No. 1 in the MW and No. 10 in the NCAA) and 14 fumble recoveries (No. 2 in the MW and No. 4 in the NCAA)
Wyoming Honorable Mention Selections
Josh Allen (Junior, Quarterback, Firebaugh, Calif.)
– Allen led a very young Cowboy offense in 2017. The junior engineered three game-winning scoring drives late in games this season versus Hawai’i (in overtime), at Utah State (with 3:45 remaining in the 4th quarter) and versus Colorado State (with 4:21 left in the 4th quarter). The leadership the two-year team captain showed throughout the season in leading Wyoming to a 7-5 record and a second-place finish in the Mountain Division at 5-3 was immeasurable. Allen ranked No. 5 in the league in points responsible for (10.8 points per game) and No. 5 in pass completions per game (14.10 completions per game). Allen threw 13 touchdown passes this season and only six interceptions, while rushing for another five TDs. He has helped lead the Cowboys to back-to-back winning seasons and back-to-back bowl appearances the past two seasons. He was unable to play the final two games of the regular season after suffering a shoulder injury in a road win at Air Force.
Tyler Hall (Sophomore, Return Specialist, Hawthorne, Calif.)
– Hall accomplished something in 2017 that no player in the history of Wyoming Football had ever accomplished — he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season. Hall returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against Hawai’i and the very next week returned one 95 yards for a TD against Texas State. Hall tied for No. 1 in the Mountain West and No. 4 in the nation in kickoff return TDs. He averaged 34.5 yards per return, which would have led the MW in kickoff returns and would have ranked him No. 4 nationally, but he fell just under the NCAA minimum of 1.2 returns per game in order to be ranked. He returned 13 kickoffs in 12 games this season (1.08 returns per game) for 448 yards. Hall helped lead Wyoming as a team to rank No. 1 in the MW and No. 1 in the nation in kickoff returns (29.50 yards per return).