Wy­oming’s Bohl has turned slo­gan into win­ning re­al­ity

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Scott Nulph

laramie» hose who stay will be cham­pi­ons.”

It’s a catchy phrase first coined by the late leg­endary Michi­gan foot­ball coach Bo Schem­bech­ler, who is­sued the chal­lenge to his team after nearly half of a squad of 140 play­ers quit fol­low­ing a gru­el­ing camp in­sti­tuted by the new Wolver­ines coach in 1969.

Since then, coaches of all sports have used the fa­mous say­ing as mo­ti­va­tion for their pro­grams, none more so than third-year Wy­oming foot­ball coach Craig Bohl.

He plas­tered it on the doors of the Far­godome when he took over a struggling North Dakota State foot­ball pro­gram and pro­ceeded to lead the Bi­son to three con­sec­u­tive Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion ti­tles be­fore head­ing to the high plains to res­ur­rect Wy­oming foot­ball.

One of the first things Bohl did upon ar­riv­ing in Laramie was have the slo­gan in­stalled on the locker room doors in­side the Rochelle Ath­letic Com­plex. Yeah, it looked good. Yeah, it sounded good. But for those Cow­boys in the pro­gram dur­ing the time of the coach­ing change — see­ing Dave Chris­tensen, the guy who brought them to Laramie, booted out those same doors — there prob­a­bly wasn’t a lot of phi­los­o­phiz­ing go­ing on at that point.

“I don’t think I truly un­der­stood what he meant,” Wy­oming se­nior wide re­ceiver Tan­ner Gen­try said. “I was a sopho­more and was go­ing to go with what­ever he said.”

And dur­ing the next two years, the slo­gan prob­a­bly didn’t mean much to the team, ei­ther.

Wy­oming went 4-8 in Bohl’s first sea­son and slipped to 2-10 last fall. It was a sea­son some called one of the worst in pro­gram his­tory. The Pokes weren’t even com­pet­i­tive in most games.

Be­ing a cham­pion was prob­a­bly the last thing on the minds of the Cow­boys play­ers.

“You’re not re­ally wor­ried about a slo­gan at that point,” Wy­oming se­nior cen­ter Chase Roul­lier said. “It was a hard time in all of our lives. But I don’t know that we lost faith in that.” Think about that for a se­cond. Here you are an un­der­class­man on a Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion team and you just went 2-10. And you didn’t lose faith.

Just for that alone, Bohl should be named Moun­tain West coach of the year.

Still, no­body thought the Cow­boys were cham­pi­onship ma­te­rial at the start of the sea­son. No­body. Bohl this week re­mem­bered vividly the Moun­tain West me­dia day last sum­mer in Las Ve­gas.

“We were picked to fin­ish last, and it was a unan­i­mous last,” he said, with par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on the word unan­i­mous.

But some­where along the way, be­tween that July day and now, things around the pro­gram started to change. Wy­oming’s play­ers phys­i­cally looked big­ger and stronger and faster.

Then came the triple-over­time win against North­ern Illi­nois in the sea­son opener. That was dif­fer­ent from last sea­son.

Then came a five-game win­ning streak in con­fer­ence play, one that in­cluded a blowout win over Border War ri­val Colorado State, a late cliffhanger against Air Force and a win for the ages against then-No. 13 Boise State.

That’s when Roul­lier said — at least for him — the slo­gan started to come into sharp fo­cus.

“You start look­ing at ev­ery­thing dif­fer­ently,” he said.

And it’s more than amaz­ing that this group of se­niors — from the Tan­ner Gen­trys, Lu­cas Wachas, Jake Maul­hardts and Shaun Wicks to the Bren­dan Turel­lis and Justin Martins — will get a chance to be MW cham­pi­ons Satur­day at War Memo­rial Sta­dium against San Diego State.

You think Schem­bech­ler might be look­ing down on the Cow­boys right now with a smile on his face?

Yeah, I do too.

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