Throughout the rest of the month leading up to the 2008 season, I'll be looking at key storylines for each Mountain West Conference program. Today I am looking at Wyoming under Joe Glenn and what could be his make-or-break season.
It wasn't supposed to be like this for Joe Glenn, not by a long shot. When he took the reigns of Wyoming football in the winter of 2002, he had built a solid resume of success at Montana and Northern Colorado, turning both into dominant powers at their respective levels. Glenn's hire was supposed to signal a resurgence in a once solid football program, yet entering his sixth season, Glenn finds himself on the brink of losing his job. How he got here, though, seems somewhat artificial when you take into account what Glenn had accomplished as a head coach prior to Wyoming.
Before leading the Cowboys, Glenn took a struggling Northern Colorado program to new heights, winning two championships at the DII level. At Montana, it wasn't much different, as Glenn, in 3 seasons, only managed to lose 6 games and won a championship there, too. His choice as Wyoming's new head coach appeared to be a no-brainer, since Glenn had coached in the region for the past 13 years and had solid success at stops along the way.
Yet success did not come early, as Wyoming was still rebuilding from the disastrous Vic Koenning era. By 2004, though, heads were turned as Wyoming posted its first winning season in five years and then managed to win their first bowl game since 1966, by knocking off UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. Just like that, the era of Koenning was pushed out and the Joe Glenn Age had dawned.
Or so they thought.
The buildup to the 2005 season was stunning for the Cowboy faithful, who thought the rebuilding process would surely take longer than one year. However, compared to Glenn's past successes, it seemed logical in retrospect -- the man knew how to coach, right? Well entering that season, many had Wyoming pegged to contend for the Mountain West and even crack the top-25. Early on, this prediction looked solid, as the Cowboys rolled to a 4-1 start with their lone loss coming at Florida. Then it all fell apart. A loss to TCU, at home, set in motion a catastrophic losing streak, crushing any bowl hopes and reversing all the good created from the 2004 season. Wyoming, who many thought could push 10-wins in 2005, ended the year with a 4-7 record.
The plummet in Glenn's third season, at the time, seemed to be a fluke, but as his career would continue, and the losses mounted, it proved to be a nightmarish trend, as the Cowboys failed to finish above .500 in the two subsequent seasons. That lack of success leaves Glenn in a position not many thought he would be in after the improbable 2004 run, but can he do enough to change it?
The good news for the Cowboys is that they are better than last year. The bad news is that even last year they should have been better than their final record indicated. Football is far more than just a talent sport, especially when the advantage of your talent isn't colossal compared to your opponent. The fact is, Wyoming is not head & shoulders above any Mountain West team in terms of talent, but on paper they are better than UNLV, Colorado State, San Diego State and they should not be worse than Air Force and New Mexico. Yet they consistently lose to many of these teams and that has kept them from regrouping and getting back to the level of play they saw in 2004. If Wyoming can figure out how to stop this nasty habit of losing to awful programs, they should be in contention for a bowl game, but if they don't, Glenn will almost certainly be on his way out.
The Cowboys have changed things up on offense this season, bringing in Bob Cole to replace Bill Cockhill, who was fired by Glenn after Wyoming's offense stagnated the past few seasons. But don't expect any radical changes in Wyoming's offense, especially with a solid ground game anchored by seniors Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon and the continued troubles at quarterback. Those two will have to shoulder most of the offensive load, unless Karsten Sween steps up, which he hasn't done in his career at Wyoming. With that said, unless they can get more production through the air, Wyoming will be hard-pressed to succeed on offense, which means they most likely will rely on their strong defense.
That defense holds the cards to Glenn's future at Wyoming. If it underperforms again, like at times last year, he will have a mighty difficult time winning enough games to keep his job. However, the talent is there and they should be more consistent this year. The Cowboys will have a solid defensive line, with John Fletcher being the star there and maybe one of the best secondaries in the conference. This should lessen the blow of a weakened offense, especially if Wyoming has issues at quarterback, which seems fairly probable, but who knows. Their reliable defense will put them in position to win games, but victory very well could come down to Seldon and Moore.
Wyoming's 2008 schedule:
Aug. 30 Ohio
Sept. 6 Air Force
Sept. 13 North Dakota State
Sept. 20 at BYU
Sept. 27 Bowling Green
Oct. 4 at New Mexico
Oct. 11 Utah
Oct. 25 at TCU
Nov. 1 San Diego State
Nov. 8 at Tennessee
Nov. 13 at UNLV
Nov. 22 Colorado State
Wyoming has a very winnable home schedule, with their toughest game coming on October 11th against the Utes. Outside of that, there is no excuse for not winning every home game. If they manage that, they are looking at a 7-win season and a sure spot in a bowl game. That is without any wins on the road and they could easily bump their win total up to 8 with a victory at UNLV. If all goes well, Wyoming will be playing in a bowl game this season, but it's impossible to expect it, since the Cowboys have had the talent the past three seasons to make a bowl game and each year they came up short. If that happens again this season, Wyoming will be searching for another man to lead their army.
Colonel Glenn's Last Stand? Maybe...