LINCOLN — The last time Craig Bohl exited Memorial Stadium in Lincoln he was perhaps the most-maligned defensive coordinator in Nebraska football history.
Bohl’s defense had come unraveled at times, leading the fan base to call for his firing.
For three quarters Saturday against Nebraska in Lincoln, the Wyoming head coach saw his young team fighting tooth and nail against his former team.
Nebraska led just 24-17 heading into the fourth quarter, leaving open the possibility the Lincoln native Bohl’s return would be triumphant.
Bohl is probably best remembered in Husker lore as the guy who’s defense gave up points in bunches in 2002 when he was an assistant to Frank Solich.
Bohl’s firing from Nebraska opened the door for Bo Pelini’s hire as the next defensive coordinator in 2003.
Ironically, it was a 28-point Nebraska fourth quarter that saw the Husker defense force turnovers against a Wyoming offense that shot itself in the foot too much to stay in the game.
“I thought Nebraska played well,” Bohl said stoically. “There was a tipping point in the game and sometimes games can get out of hand. This one certainly did. For us to win, we were going to need to play error free, create some turnovers and certainly take care of the football.”
At one point in the second half, Nebraska safety Nate Gerry intercepted a Josh Allen pass, handed the ball back to the quarterback, who threw it back at Gerry who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Allen, a sophomore from California, was visibly frustrated by the Husker secondary.
“I don’t think we lost our composure,” Bohl said. “Nebraska’s guys played well. Certainly our depth came into play, but I want to credit Nebraska. I thought they responded well. Obviously, we need to run the ball well. We’re not made to be a pass-happy football team.”
Wyoming finished the game with 320 total yards, including 189 through the air.
The Cowboys managed 131 yards rushing on 31 carries — a stat Bohl said wasn’t good enough.
“They played really good technique,” he said about the play of the Nebraska defensive line. “I know they lost (Mick) Stoltenberg, but I thought their defensive line really established the line of scrimmage. I’m sure they made improvement. We showed we had the ability to run the ball pretty well, so I am sure they worked hard on our running game and they defended it well.”
Bohl was asked about the emotions involved in entering and exiting Memorial Stadium through the visitor’s tunnel.
“There is a lot of family here, but I have been asked that question a lot,” he said. “This is about the University of Wyoming and about our football team. So coaches are typically really good at compartmentalizing. So you look and it was a football team, Coach Riley and I are on the board together and all these other things.
“We got beat by a good football team, so it really didn’t have a lot to do with emotion.”