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University of Wyoming defense plays like it has something to prove

After struggling during the second half at Northern Illinois, the defense played like it had something to prove when the Ball State Cardinals came to Laramie.
University of Wyoming Defensive End Jaylen Pate dives to make a tackle against Ball State on...
University of Wyoming Defensive End Jaylen Pate dives to make a tackle against Ball State on September 18, 2021.(David Graf)
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 11:31 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 11:35 PM CDT
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LARAMIE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The University of Wyoming football defense has been the team’s calling card for the last few seasons. The team ranked 16th in FBS in total defense in 2020 and returned most of that group.

The defense helped keep the Cowboys in the first game against Montana State, but it had an uncharacteristic second half on the road against Northern Illinois.

The unit allowed 33 points in the second half in a wild 50-43 victory for the Pokes. After a half like that, the defense played like it had something to prove when it welcomed the 2020 MAC Champions Ball State to Laramie.

During the first half, the Cardinals struggled to move the ball on defense and were unable to score any points. The Pokes defense shut them out and added a pick-six of their own to get the touchdown party going for Wyoming.

Chad Muma added another pick-six in the second half, and the Cowboys were able to finish the game having only allowed 12 points.

“More than anything else, you’ve got guys with high character and have set a high bar for themselves and so inside, internally, they were disappointed with how they finished the game off last week,” said University of Wyoming Head Football Coach Craig Bohl. “They knew that they could play well, but they kinda took their foot off the gas, so that was a point of emphasis. I thought our guys responded well and some people are gonna say ‘Well I don’t know, it seemed like Ball State maybe move the ball a little bit in the second half.’ But Ball State’s a good offense, and so that’s no small feat. I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made.”

The box score did justice for the Cowboy defense to demonstrate how dominant it was. Chad Muma and Keyon Blankenbaker had pick-sixes, and the defense tallied seven tackles for loss.

Another key play made by the defense was the forced fumble it created by getting pressure on Ball State Quarterback Drew Plitt before the first half ended. That resulted in a 1-yard touchdown from Quarterback Sean Chambers.

“We [were] getting after the quarterback, and that’s something we need to come and do week in week out, you know what I’m saying,” said UW Cornerback Azizi Hearn. “That’s going to make a difference in a lot of games if we can get to the quarterback.”

“We need to cover, so they (defensive lineman) can get back there. They need to get back there, so we can get interceptions and stuff. Let quarterbacks throw it up, so it all works together. We need to make those types of plays every week if we want to have the success we want.”

Next up for the Pokes, they’ll take on a UCONN football team that shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the defense. The Huskies have already been shut out twice this season.

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