Words from the Enemy: Deciphering the latest iteration of the Border War

Luke Zahlmann

On Friday night, the Border War will go about its most recent edition, returning to the campus of Colorado State University for the 110th meeting between the CSU and the University of Wyoming. 

Prior to the game, I sought information from a voice inside the program, speaking with Joel Moline, Sports Editor of the Branding Iron. Here’s a snapshot of our conversation:

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LZ: How has the offense adjusted following the loss of Josh Allen to the NFL?

JM: The offense has tried to fall back to its roots and establish the run game. Wyoming is trying to be a more balanced offense compared to a year ago when they dropped back to pass more. Nico Evans has been a huge influence in that by rushing the ball extremely well. The two freshmen running backs have also shown promise and can relive Evans during the game. The passing offense has had its struggles this year and inconsistent play has lead to the Cowboys difficulties.

Q: How much has Tyler Vander Waal grown since the beginning of the year, and how has the team facilitated a positive atmosphere for the young signal caller?

A: Vander Waal has definitely gotten used to the speed of the college game more, but his accuracy has not improved throughout the season. Last week in the second half true freshman Sean Chambers came into the game to replace Vander Waal. He provided a nice spark for the Wyoming offense and they were able to move the ball much better than they have in the past few weeks. Vander Waal and Chambers will compete for the starting spot this week. Bohl has given no indication of who will start or if they will use a two QB system. All he has said is to show up Friday night at 8 in Fort Collins to find out.

Q: What has been the biggest factor that has held the Cowboys back this year? 

A: The biggest factor would definitely be the lack of offensive production and short drives. Wyoming has gone three and out too many times this year allowing the defense to be on the field far too long. Also, Wyoming has lost the field position battle from this causing the defense to defend a short field and be in a bad situation.

Collin Hill throws a pass during a drill at practice on August 2. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

 

Q: With Collin Hill taking over as the starter for CSU, who do the Cowboys have that can apply pressure on the youngster coming off of two torn ACL’s? 

A: Wyoming has returned all-conference defensive linemen Carl Granderson and Youhanna Ghaifan. Both have had quite years compared to last year but still, they have tremendous skill and ability. Both are NFL draft prospects. Opposite of Granderson at the defensive end position is Garrette Crall who has been able to get to the quarterback at different times this year. 

Q: Izzy Matthews is coming off of a three-game streak off averaging over 100 yards, how do the Cowboys make sure that spree ends?

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A: Wyoming has a very solid defense with a lot of experience throughout. The defensive line force teams to double team Granderson and Ghaifan allowing linebackers Logan Wilson or Cassh Maluia to come in and finish the play. If teams do not get a solid block Ghaifan has been able to stuff the run game all on his own. Also safety Andrew Wingard is once again a solid tackler for Wyoming. He does a good job identifying where the run is going and coming up to support the run defense. Last year he was able to stop outside runs for no gains against CSU despite coming from his safety position.

Q: The CSU defense has been anemic for most of the year, while the Cowboys offense has been much of the same. Which unit wins out on Friday? 

CSU line backer Josh Watson (55) makes a tackle at Hughes Stadium during the boarder war against Wyoming. CSU lost 38-17 on October 1st, 2016 (Luke Walker | Collegian).

A: I believe Sean Chambers will win the starting job this week. With the spark he provided last week I believe you will see a re-energized Cowboy offense that will be able to move the ball and allow cooper Rothe to get points on the board or score. Chambers was able to bring some energy and competitiveness that had not been seen in these last few weeks. There was just something about him that I think allows the offense to play better. It was a similar feeling a younger Josh Allen or Brett Smith had that allowed them to be successful early on and win the support of his teammates. This will allow the Wyoming defense to remain fresh and aggressive, which should hopefully lead to a turnover or two. I think Wyoming will retain possession of the boot for a third year in a tightly contested game.

Q: Prediction?

A: Wyoming 31- CSU 24

Collegian Sports Director Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.