Naysayers’ noise falling on deaf ears in Wyoming locker room
LARAMIE -- No one is giving the Cowboys much of a chance in the season opener Saturday at Illinois.
In fact, belief in Wyoming -- or lack thereof -- is shared by the league's media, the gambling experts Las Vegas and even the more apathetic in the fanbase.
Craig Bohl's team was picked to finish fifth in the Mountain Division, just ahead of New Mexico, a program that has won just seven games over the previous three seasons. The oddsmakers at Caesars are predicting five wins for the Pokes this fall.
The Fighting Illini open as an 11-point favorite to top UW in Zero Week.
There are glaring reasons why the doubters are out in full force.
Wyoming has just three seniors on its roster, one of which is cornerback Deron Harrell, who still technically has two seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to a medical redshirt. Offensive tackle Eric Abojei and safety Miles Williams round out this microscopic group.
According to ESPN, this program is the third youngest in all of the FBS, just ahead of Mountain West foes Nevada and Hawaii. The NCAA Transfer Portal, along with graduation, is to blame for that.
"We have an excited football team," Bohl said during his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon in Laramie. "I'm convinced we have a talented football team ... There's a lot of question marks."
Those can be found all over the field, none more so than under center -- the most important position in the sport. Andrew Peasley has appeared in 19 career games -- two starts -- at Utah State before transferring to Laramie last winter. He's the lone signal caller on the depth chart with any experience at this level.
The team's leading rusher, receiver and tackler are all gone.
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Another thing that isn't helping in the faith department is the hangover from the 2021 season and the lofty expectations that weren't met. UW was picked to finish second in the division during the preseason, even receiving first-place votes over Boise State. A four-game losing streak, including an unforgivable loss to that lowly Lobos squad -- in Laramie, no less -- aided in a 7-6 finish.
Bohl's run-first -- then run more -- approach is also wearing thin for some who want to see the passing game become more of a threat once again on the High Plains.
So, what does this new group of Cowboys think about the outside noise?
"Not at all," Peasley said when asked if it bothers him that people don't believe in this group, heading into Illinois. "I think if we do our job, I think we'll come out with a W."
Free safety Isaac White echoed those same sentiments.
"Motivation," the sophomore said bluntly. "We're not really listening to what anybody is saying right now, we're just focused on ourselves. We're going to go out and win some games."
After it was announced that the Cowboys were picked near the cellar of the conference during July's Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas, sophomore linebacker Easton Gibbs actually said he welcomes the doubt.
"I love it, to be honest," he said. "It just adds to it, you know? It just adds to the drive. I think for our team, we're young and we know not a lot of people believe in us. I think we're better off for it because it makes you go out and play harder.
"I think being picked fifth, I wouldn't want to be any place else. Maybe sixth. Pick us last."
Running back Titus Swen blew off the entire voting process all together.
"I don't really think anything about that," the junior from Fort Worth said. "We can just let the cards lay where they lie. At the end of the day, we're going to see."
Harrell, who spent the first five years of his career at Wisconsin before transferring to Wyoming in the offseason, said belief needs to come from within.
"We can't listen to what the naysayers have to say," he said. "It's believing in ourselves, pretty much. We've seen what we've done day in and day out. We just need to believe in ourselves and just have that confidence of believing in our reads and our keys. I think we'll be fine."
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