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Wyoming Football 2015

Wyoming assistant coach Steve Stanard on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015 at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

Steve Stanard provides a clear window into the Wyoming football program — a program that will visit Memorial Stadium on Sept. 10.

The current Cowboy way, if you will, is somewhat predictable considering both Stanard, the defensive coordinator, and head coach Craig Bohl played and coached at Nebraska under the legendary Tom Osborne.

The Cowboys emphasize the development of players both academically and athletically, Stanard says.

They want to build a sturdy walk-on program.

And, yeah, they want to beat you up physically with their style of play, the way Osborne's best teams typically did.

"That's the hallmark of what we're building here at Wyoming, and that was big at Nebraska and North Dakota State," said Stanard, who coached linebackers under Bohl at NDSU in 2012 and 2013, when the Bison won the second and third of five straight Football Championship Subdivision titles.

Stanard followed Bohl to Wyoming following the 2013 season.

"We want to play great defense and a physical brand of offense. We truly believe in running the football," said Stanard, the Journal-Star Super-State defensive player of the year in 1983 after starring as a linebacker at Lincoln Southeast.

Although Wyoming finished 2-10 last season — including 2-6 in the Mountain West Conference — Bohl's crew could test Nebraska's inexperienced interior defensive line with a ground game led by a veteran offensive line and 6-foot-1, 220-pound junior running back Brian Hill. According to Bohl, Hill plays "with a tremendous amount of aggression," which helps explain his 1,631 rushing yards last season.

Meanwhile, Stanard's young defense struggled mightily, allowing 422.1 yards per game (91st nationally) and 34.0 points (102nd). Thing is, Stanard believes Wyoming's physical running game is helping develop toughness in his defense — which this season may still start as few as three seniors.

"In our opinion, philosophically, those two things go hand-in-hand," Stanard said. "If you have a physical offense that's going to stay on the field, it allows you defensively to have time to make adjustments on the sideline.

"If it's a matter of only a couple minutes before you're right back out there as a defense, that becomes a challenge to adjust and to play, in my opinion, solid defense. Bottom line, we can run extremely hard to the football because our guys aren't pacing themselves for a no-huddle offense."

Stanard essentially has known no other way during an FBS coaching career that has included stops at Tulane (2009-11), Ohio (2008), Colorado State (2003-07) and New Mexico State (1997-2002).

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He spent 1994-95 as Nebraska Wesleyan's head coach and defensive coordinator, taking over the program at age 27.

"Time goes fast, doesn't it?" Stanard recently told me with a chuckle.

An obvious question arises in our conversation: Can the style Bohl implemented so successfully at North Dakota State produce conference championships for Wyoming?

In at least one regard, the Bison have an advantage over the Cowboys.

"You have to understand that at North Dakota State, you're in Scandinavian country," Stanard said. "You're close to Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas. That meant we were an extremely big team. We had giant people.

"When my wife and I initially got to Fargo (North Dakota), after about the third day of dropping our son off at kindergarten, she said, 'Is it me or are the kids big around here?' I told her, 'Baby, we're in the land of Vikings. There are big people here.'"

Wyoming, however, must have a broader recruiting scope, he said. The key, Stanard said, remains understanding exactly how you want to go about winning. The Cowboy way is evident. And Stanard hopes a planned $44 million upgrade of the school's football facilities eventually will pay dividends.

"What it should allow us to do is be who we are — and that is a developmental football program that recruits young men who don't want a lot of distractions and are focused on developing in the classroom and on the field," he said.

Bohl emphasized to his assistant coaches that the expansion is designed to enhance the players' experience.

"We may get a new chair in our offices — that's probably about it," Stanard said. "But hey, we wouldn't have it any other way."

Stanard looks forward to returning to Memorial Stadium, where he lettered as a Husker defensive end in 1987. His college playing career was cut short the following spring by a calf injury. He went on to serve one year as a student assistant coach under Osborne, followed by two years as a graduate assistant.

He retains fond memories.

"It'll be different Sept. 10, certainly, being on the other sideline," he said. "But it's definitely a great opportunity for our players as they continue to emerge."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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