Where Do We Go From Here?

As the dust from the hooves of entirely too many victorious blue and orange Broncos settles on the early stages of what we all hope will be a bounce-back week for the Cowboys, you have to wonder just how good this year's Wyoming team will be. What should we all make of the Pokes' most recent loss? At this point, I really can't decide.

It's funny how one loss can make you reevaluate everything you thought about a team, especially in football, where every game counts for so much.

After the Cowboys routed Virginia in their opener, I had visions of an undefeated season, a MWC championship and a BCS bowl bid…Okay, maybe not a BCS bowl bid, but Wyoming's win was so dominating—and it came against such a highly touted defense—I just didn't see how we could possibly lose if we played that well the rest of the season.

If…that was the key. We definitely didn't do it a week later, and the narrow victory over Utah State shook my confidence a bit. Joe Glenn said it shook the team's as well. Still, a win is a win, and Wyoming was 2-0 for the first time in the Glenn era. Meanwhile, Boise State, BYU and TCU all lost in Week Two, and it seemed the conference trophy and an extended winning streak were ours for the taking.

Fast forward approximately 172 hours, and I'm pacing my living room early in the fourth quarter of the Boise State game wondering how we played almost 50 minutes without making a single dent in the scoreboard. Karsten Sween had looked rattled to that point, and our defense gave up more touchdowns against the Broncos in three quarters than it had against its first two opponents combined.

We got it going down the stretch and put up two TDs in the final 10 minutes, but time became our enemy and a double-digit loss seemed almost merciful considering the way the team looked for the first three quarters. All in all, it seemed to me a lengthy step backward for a program off to its fastest start since before I can remember.

Now I'm sitting here wondering if we are really as good as we looked Sept. 1 against the Cavaliers. To the rest of the country, the Virginia win seemed like a surprisingly impressive upset, and I think many Cowboys fans agreed. To the rest of America, a Podunk school like Wyoming should never beat a respected ACC program like Virginia—ever. I even heard a couple TV guys compare the win to Appalachian State beating Michigan (which I think is ridiculous). It's another reason why preseason polling always screws us over in the minds of college football voters and analysts. If, after everything we've accomplished in the past five years, a win over Virginia is such a David-beating-Goliath moment, how will we ever get enough respect for the games we do win to earn a place in the postseason party?

In my opinion, anything less than a dominant victory over the Hoos in Week One would have been a disappointment. Look at what they've done as a program the past few seasons. Last year they finished with a 5-7 record, and their premier wins came against us (a one-point victory in overtime, and we started Jacob Doss, not Sween), Duke (which finished the season 0-12), North Carolina State (3-9), North Carolina (3-9) and Miami (a team that finished 7-5 and consistently shot itself in the foot from an egregious lack of discipline).

So how impressive is a home victory against the Cavaliers on opening day? It's definitely not something to scoff at, but it's also far from the signature win that beating Boise State on the "Smurf Turf" would have been. Add that to the less-than-stellar performance against Utah State and the three quarters of offensive comatose we displayed on Saturday, and I'm starting to doubt whether we'll actually be able to compete for a league title this year.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying the Cowboys don't have talent or that they won't win six or seven more games in '07. I am a huge fan, and I want nothing more than for Wyoming to blow out everybody on its schedule. I'm just trying to be honest, and right now, honestly, I have my doubts about this team. I hope they get laid to rest when we travel to Ohio this weekend.

The thing that bothers me the most about all of it is this: I know so many Boise State fans that talked about slitting their wrists if the Broncos lost to the Cowboys this season. They expect a winner, and they expect one year in and year out—no matter how many players they have to replace or how bad their recruiting class was the season before. The '07 BSU squad is far from the team that ran the table and won the Fiesta Bowl a season ago (a team which we played far more competitively in 2006 than we did this year, by the way). They were depleted on both sides of the ball, and there is no way they should have put up 24 points against the 10th-ranked defense in the country. They lost all three starting receivers, a tight end, two offensive linemen and a quarterback after last season, and their offense didn't miss a beat on Saturday.

Why do Boise State fans always seem to get what they want out of their team even when their personnel problems say they shouldn't? And how can we look absolutely invincible on opening week and look so vulnerable 14 days later? It makes me sad. Maybe we just need to expect our team to win 99 percent of its games, and it will—kind of like BSU.

If ever in the past decade there was a Wyoming team that has the talent and potential to win every conference game on its schedule, this year's squad is it. We've already seen that all three of the preseason MWC favorites (TCU, BYU, Utah) have chinks in their armor, and when we play the way we played against Virginia, we are as good as anybody, in my opinion.

Whether this will be the long-awaited year in which Wyoming reels off conference win after conference win and takes the league title, or just another 6-6, middle of the pack, barely-bowl-eligible season remains to be seen. Right now, I simply don't know what to expect. More than likely, we'll have the answer within three weeks, however; after facing a solid Ohio squad this weekend, we'll take on TCU at home two weeks later.

In the meantime, I've got to get the taste of another orange and blue loss out of my mouth. Saturday can't come fast enough for me.

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