LARAMIE, Wyoming — Sometimes, you just can't answer fast enough.
During his weekly press conference, Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl was asked about his team's zero interceptions through five games this season. Before the question concluded, the former defensive back seemed to recognize and welcome the topic, nodding his head and waiting for the appropriate moment to jump in.
"I'm glad you brought that up, because I failed to mention that. We don't have an interception," Bohl said with a hint of disbelief, pausing to allow the statement to sink in.
"We don't have an interception. We've been OK in creating fumbles, but we have got to get some interceptions. We're going to work on that."
It would be difficult for any coach to stomach the reality that, through nearly half a season, his team has yet to nab its first interception — one of the game's most devastating tools in swinging field position and momentum.
It's probably all the more unsettling for Bohl, considering how often his defenses have excelled in that category in the past.
During North Dakota State's back-to-back-to-back national championship run from 2011 to 2013, the Bison intercepted a total of 51 passes, or an average of 17 per season. And of those 51 interceptions, 11 were returned for touchdowns.
So Bohl, of all people, understands the value of an interception, as well as how it can affect a team.
Not only the Cowboys, but also their opponents.
"We've had opportunities. We just have not brought that ball in," Bohl said. "One thing that you'll find, if you pick a quarterback off, that gets a lot of them out of their comfort zone. And if you ever get a pick-six on a guy, that's a dagger to the heart. We have not done that yet."
Though the Cowboys are 3-2 heading into their bye week, turnovers have rarely sided in their favor, winning the turnover battle only against Florida Atlantic and Air Force. While both Wyoming and its opponent have recovered five fumbles this season, redshirt senior quarterback Colby Kirkegaard has also thrown four interceptions.
In all, Wyoming's opponents have scored 88 points off of turnovers.
The Cowboys, comparatively, have only managed 18 points on possessions following a turnover.
It isn't simply an interception problem, either. In five games, Wyoming has only accumulated three sacks, 19 fewer than its opponents. The Cowboys have been rendered sack-less in each of their last three games, two of them being losses.
Whether discussing interceptions or sacks, junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough said both areas can be revitalized by re-committing to the basics.
"If you take the right first step in a pass rush, that in turn determines if you're going to beat him to the spot," explained Yarbrough, who has yet to record a sack this season after notching 6.5 of them in 2013. "If you get down to the little things — footwork, being in position to make an interception — those other steps will come."
Defensive coordinator Steve Stanard also emphasized the importance of the situation in sacking the quarterback or forcing a takeaway.
Against Hawaii on Oct. 11, Wyoming's defense needs to first put itself in a position to be successful.
"The key against Hawaii is going to be stopping the run game," Stanard said. "They run the ball well. We need to get them into third-down situations, which we weren't able to do against Michigan State.
"You're not sacking anybody if you don't get to third down. And you're not going to intercept them if you don't make them throw."
At times, Wyoming's defense has been stout — limiting Montana, Air Force and Florida Atlantic to fewer than 20 points in each of its first three wins.
But there's a difference between not allowing the big play, and making one.
Bohl knows this from experience. And when the interceptions and sacks come, so will different questions.
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com
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