Wyoming's defense prepares for another triple-option offense
LARAMIE, Wyo. -- Since head coach Bob Davie and offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse came to New Mexico in 2012, there has been a reality for defensive coordinators in the Mountain West's Mountain Division, whether they like it or not:
"When you're looking at building your defense, you're looking at everybody else, and then you look at New Mexico and then you look at Air Force," first-year Wyoming defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton said. "So it's almost like you have to have three different plans. One for everybody that's normal or whatever, college football, and then your plans for the two option teams."
Wyoming faced the first of those two option teams two weeks ago, blowing out New Mexico 42-3 at War Memorial Stadium. Now, after a return to preparing for a pro style offense last week in Colorado State, the Cowboys are back to defending the option. Wyoming plays Saturday at Air Force.
"A couple weeks ago, (with) all the schematical assignments for those players on defense, we played well (against New Mexico)," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said. "But then flipping and going into a traditional pro-style offense made it a challenge. And now flipping back. The good thing is I think we've got some experienced players. Staff is pretty experienced."
That's not to say New Mexico and Air Force's option offenses are identical.
"(New Mexico) is almost strictly shotgun, and Air Force is more of a Wing T," Wyoming linebacker Adam Pilapil told the Casper Star-Tribune . "So, yeah, I think the confidence with knowing the defense that we're going to run, we've obviously practiced not too long ago. There's obviously going to be some variations, but I think that dudes will be confident."
"You've got three phases of the option, and what they also have done is a great deal of diversity within a triple option," Bohl said of Air Force. "There are two-way options, they're pulling an onside guard, there's reverses, there's all kinds of things. So while there are some similarities to New Mexico, I think it's pretty significantly different."
While Wyoming's defense struggled mightily against the Lobos last season under defensive coordinator Steve Stanard, they played the Falcons well, winning 35-26 at home. Air Force's 337 total yards of offense in that game were their second fewest all season. This year, Air Force is averaging 432.9 yards per game, third in the Mountain West, and leads the conference with 34.0 points per game.
"I think that the guys, they've played pretty well against Air Force the last couple years, too," Hazelton said. "... Knowing that, 'Hey, listen, as long as we trust and have discipline in what we're keying and what we're doing, that helps you.' And then also having the past says, 'Hey, we can play these guys, and as long as we do what we're told, then . you can have a chance at success.'"
There are more differences to the matchup than just the fact that Hazelton is now coaching Wyoming. Quarterback Arion Worthman did not take over Air Force's offense in 2016 until three games after the Falcons' loss in Laramie. They then finished the season on a six-game winning streak. Worthman needs just 75 rushing yards to reach 1,000 this season.
"It seems like he's got a little bit of juice," Pilapil said of Worthman. "It seems like he brings a little bit more speed. Obviously, they do throw the ball a little bit. . He seems like a really good player.
"He seems like he has a really good control of their offense, and obviously any time that a triple option quarterback has really good control like that, it means that the defense has to play really well. We'll be ready for the challenge."
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com