LARAMIE – The University of Wyoming football team is set to open Mountain West play Saturday on the road against an offense unlike any it will see all season.
UW will begin its pursuit of the program’s first MW title at Air Force, the nation’s unchallenged rushing leader with 1,837 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground in five games.
The Falcons are best known for their trademark triple-option attack, with just 34 pass attempts on the season and six in the past two games combined. However, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl knows he’s preparing for an opponent that’s far from a one-trick pony.
“The one thing about Air Force schematically through the years, I’ve seen how they’ve adapted to their personnel,” Bohl said. “They know who they are, but they always seem to have answers to what you present them. It’s beyond being a triple-option offense.
“There’s power within that offense. They’ll run the off-tackle power, some inside zone, there’s counter sweeps, there’s all kinds of things beyond the triple-option ... We need to be really disciplined and physical at the line of attack. We need to establish the line of scrimmage, we need to tackle well and we need to defend the pass well. There’s a lot on our plate.”
The Falcons’ rushing attack begins with junior quarterback Hazziq Daniels – the MW leader with eight rushing touchdowns – and classmate Brad Roberts, who’s rushed for a league-best 540 yards to go along with five scores.
It doesn’t stop there, though.
Sophomore standout Micah Davis has racked up 261 yards and four touchdowns from the receiver position, while junior fullback Emmanuel Michel has 206 rushing yards and two scores. Both are averaging more than seven yards per carry, with Omar Fattah and Deandre Hughes also above the century mark on the ground for the year.
“The biggest things in a week like this are just getting those looks and watching a lot of film,” senior linebacker Chad Muma said. “You’re going against an offense that runs something completely different from all the other teams the rest of the year. Getting those looks and staying extremely disciplined in our roles is going to be necessary this week.”
With a 4-2 record against Air Force since arriving at Wyoming, Bohl has a track record of finding ways to exploit the Falcons’ weaknesses. The physicality of this year’s group, however, presents a unique challenge.
“I think this is the most physical football team at Air Force that I’ve coached against,” Bohl said. “I know Coach Calhoun and those cadets pride themselves on being a really physical football team, and they certainly are. I’ve watched all the game tape on both sides of the ball, and special teams, as well. Offensively, they’re putting up almost 450 yards per game and 35 points per game. They always seem to have a quarterback. I don’t know how Coach Calhoun does it, but Hazziq Daniels is operating that offense really well.
“They’ve always had great fullbacks, and they have two of them in Brad Roberts and Emmanuel Michel. If you’re going to be effective against Air Force, you’re going to have to stop the fullback. Without question, they have two really hard-nosed guys there, and then they have some speed, as well. Micah Davis is an outstanding skill player that is able to get to the edges, and Hazziq also has the ability to throw the ball. (It’s) a really challenging offense to prepare for. They know what they’re doing, they have answers, and they have good players.”
While Air Force doesn’t throw the ball much, it tends to be explosive when it does.
The Falcons are averaging 11.3 yards per pass attempt – the second-highest rate in the country, albeit in a limited sample size. Their six pass attempts the last two weeks have gone for 103 yards, with a 182-yard passing performance through the air against Utah State on Sept. 18 showcasing their ability to keep up in a shootout, if necessary.
“You can’t fall asleep,” junior safety Rome Weber said. “They’ll try to lure you to sleep and keep running. Then there will be one play when you least expect it, so you have to be ready.”
Tasked with slowing down a run-heavy offense with a myriad of moving pieces, UW players and coaches have preached the importance of executing personal responsibilities.
With seven different Falcons having posted plays of 40 yards or more, it’s easy to understand why.
“Everybody knows they run a different offense than any other week,” sophomore linebacker Easton Gibbs said. “Everybody has a job to do, and we’ve honed into that as much as we can. There are so many moving parts in that offense, so everybody has to do their job. One slip-up could let something out the gate.”
Josh Criswell covers the University of Wyoming for WyoSports. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @criswell_sports.