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Cowboys get creative on offense with Josh Allen sidelined

November 21, 2017

LARAMIE — It takes more than one player to replace a quarterback like Josh Allen. So with Wyoming’s junior starter sidelined Saturday for the first time since 2015, the Cowboys dialed up some new plays offensively to lend a hand to backup Nick Smith.

Wyoming used a wildcat formation at times in the 13-7 loss to Fresno State, snapping the ball directly to receiver Austin Conway or tight end Austin Fort.

“Well, we looked at the makeup if we did not have Josh,” head coach Craig Bohl said. “We looked at how we were going to manufacture and generate some offense. You only have X number of times to carry the ball with your quarterback, and so to spread some of those carries out either with Austin Conway or Austin Fort, I thought it was pretty creative.

“I thought it was fairly effective. I wouldn’t say it was tremendously effective, but it was pretty effective, and I thought some of the other plays that we did generate were good.”

Fort wound up with 13 yards on two carries, and Conway, who also handed the ball off out of the wildcat, had 10 yards on three carries. Both players are converted quarterbacks.

“Right now, I can tell you, we’re doing everything we can with this football team to take the next step to try to win a game,” Bohl said. “The fact that they played quarterback certainly gave us some confidence. They’re used to operating back from the quarterback position. They both have the ability to throw. And so we looked at diversifying our offense a little bit today.”

Said running back Nico Evans: “It was a different week of preparation, seeing some different guys out at the quarterback position like Austin and Austin.”

Conway played quarterback for Overland (Colorado) High School, and had wanted to continue playing the position in college, but few schools recruited him at that position. Conway came to Wyoming to play basketball and ended up moving over to football instead.

“That’s basically what I did in high school,” Conway said of Saturday’s formations. “Me and (offensive coordinator Brent) Vigen just all week were talking about things kind of relating back to high school and how we wanted to execute in the game today.”

One of the few schools that did recruit Conway to play quarterback was Air Force. Last week at Air Force, when Allen suffered his shoulder injury, Conway was called upon to throw. He had one pass to Fort for 20 yards and he also threw the ball back to Allen on a double pass, on one of the plays Allen appeared to get hurt.

“You know, it was actually pretty fun,” Conway said after the game. “It was kind of like last week, didn’t know we were going to run the plays, and then we finally ran them. So I’m excited. You’re the only one who knows your number’s called. No one knows. So when you get that opportunity, it’s always fun.”

Conway was referring to the previous game against Colorado State, when Wyoming used a trick play that had Conway hide behind the offensive line before taking a hand-off for 40 yards.

Fort played quarterback for Gillette’s Campbell County High School and initially came to Wyoming as a quarterback before being moved to tight end. He then transferred to Chabot (California) College to play quarterback before returning to Wyoming as a walk-on tight end. He has since earned back his scholarship.

“Fort did it all on his own, and he did a great job of doing it all,” Conway said. “That was the thing this week where we were both practicing, because we knew we were going to have to have an impact on the game to give ourselves a chance to win. Fort did a great job.”

Perhaps the Cowboys should call it the Austin formation.