BILLINGS - Only three games into your college football season, the Wyoming Cowboys are navigating one heck of a roller coaster ride.
The whiplash started a couple weeks ago at home against Montana State, a game the Bobcats mostly controlled. But Wyoming secured a touchdown with 47 seconds left to escape with a 19-16 season opening win.
A week later, the Cowboys were on their way to a blowout win up 42-16 at Northern Illinois. Then a meltdown as NIU stormed back for a 43-42 lead with under 6:00 to play. Once again, the Cowboys built a game-winning touchdown drive, this time with 1:35 left escaping with a 50-43 win.
Fresh off those two carnival rides, the Pokes left no doubt Saturday at home against Ball State in a 45-12 win. It was Wyoming's best defensive effort yet capped by not one, but two pick sixes, including linebacker Chad Muma's for the game's final points.
"His productivity if you just look at productivity points, he's off the charts," said Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl afterward. "He's having one heck of a year.
"I was definitely impressed with our cover skills and also fitting up the run," Muma said, passing around the credit. "I think our defensive line played tremendous. They were all over."
Defense buckling down lifted enormous weight off the offensive guys.
"We ended on our own terms this game which is not something we can say about the last two," said Frank Krum. "I mean, we were in two-minute drives (then), so it felt nice to win it with that kind of margin."
As the Cowboys prepare for another trip east, this time to Connecticut for a 1:30 MDT kickoff Saturday, Bohl says he and his coaching staff are stressing a build a lead and don't back off philosophy, especially to the defense.
"They were disappointed in how they finished the game off last week," Bohl said referencing the Northern Illinois breakdown. "They knew they could play well but kind of took their foot off the gas. So, that was a point of emphasis."
"Tuesday was a grinder with full pads," Muma said of a more taxing than usual week of practice. "Thursday was a grinder and we were thudding, and usually we don't thud."
Defensive guys feel like they hit the stride Saturday that they've been chasing through the season's first few weeks. And they're counting on more of it.
"Kind of just shows that last week (at NIU) was a fluke for us, and this is the Cowboy defense you should be looking for."