Boise State Football

Underrated? Overrated? Somehow both? Wyoming quarterback is under NFL microscope

Josh Allen did not go seeking the attention.

A small-town guy who did not have an offer out of high school, Wyoming’s junior quarterback was put in a unique situation in the offseason — he was suddenly a hot commodity.

Because of Allen’s NFL-ready 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame, strong arm and ability to run the ball, national media and draftniks all turned their eyes toward Laramie seeking to know more about the draft’s next gem.

But almost as quickly as he appeared on the radar, with some even floating his name as a potential No. 1 overall pick next year, the criticism came after he struggled early this season. He was 32-of-64 passing for 238 yards and threw three interceptions in nonconference games against Iowa and Oregon.

“I couldn’t really care less about that stuff,” Allen said Monday.

Allen tries to keep it in perspective, best he can.

“It was frustrating at times, but I understand the bigger picture here at what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said, referring to winning the Mountain West. “That had nothing to do with the first couple games we played.”

Hype is a funny thing. Unless Allen was incredible against those Power Five opponents, it reinforced what some believed. Or, as a raw prospect, no matter what he did, it was all about potential.

Todd McShay’s recent rankings on ESPN have him as the No. 3 overall draft prospect, but The Sporting News said Allen “failed to live up to hype” after facing Iowa, and CBS Sports said “it’s probably time we pump the brakes on the Josh Allen hype train.”

“How do you control all that, that position in particular?” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Josh Allen is a really good football player ... Any player that has that type of attention, you’ve got to be able to manage it, you’ve got to know what got you to where you are.

“On the flip side, it takes only one game and you’re right back at the bottom, and people are saying the opposite. That’s the world we live in.”

Wyoming coach Craig Bohl also oversaw the early development of Carson Wentz at North Dakota State before Wentz became the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 by the Philadelphia Eagles. He said of Allen this summer, “He hasn’t forgotten where he’s from.”

Those intangibles played a major role in Wentz becoming a legit prospect. But Allen’s physical tools are enticing. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller recently wrote that “his arm is the strongest I’ve ever seen.”

“You don’t really see that too much. We haven’t played too many guys like that who can throw it that far while he’s moving like that,” Boise State safety Kekoa Nawahine said.

For the season, Allen has completed 95-of-165 passes (57.6 percent) for 1,085 yards, with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has 80 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

His completion percentage is slightly up from last season’s 56 percent and he likely won’t throw 15 interceptions like in 2016, but he’s well off in his passing and rushing production (3,203 and 512 yards, respectively).

Part of that can be attributed to the fact that Allen lost running back Brian Hill, receiver Tanner Gentry, tight end Jacob Hollister and center Chase Roullier after last season. All four are in the NFL. But that’s part of what can make a good quarterback great, overcoming those losses.

“There’s another level of play he needs to get to,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Brent Vigen told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle before last week’s win over Utah State. “Expectations for him were raised extremely high this year, and that’s OK, he deserves that. But over the next seven games, he has to live up to some higher expectations.”

Allen is just a junior, so his entry into the NFL ranks could still be two years away. But being a likely top 10 pick would make it an easier decision to leave school early. And he does want certain folks to know a few things about him, regardless of the unimpressive stats.

“I hope people see that I’m going to be battle-tested,” Allen told The Associated Press last month. “I’m going to be put through the ringer. Mentally, physically, whatever the case may be, it’s going to make me a better quarterback.”

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @davesouthorn

Wyoming at a glance

Nickname: Cowboys

Location: Laramie, Wyo.

Head coach: Craig Bohl (18-26, fourth year; 122-58 overall in 15 years)

This year: 4-2 overall, 2-0 Mountain West; won 28-23 at Utah State on Saturday

TEAM RUNDOWN

Last season’s Mountain Division champions, by virtue of their win over Boise State last October, have won three straight. Offensively, quarterback Josh Allen is the marquee name, but it’s evident he doesn’t have the same sort of weapons this season. Allen’s two rushing touchdowns lead the team. Top rusher Trey Woods has 285 yards and top receiver Austin Conway has 252. Wyoming’s pro-style offense is 126th in total yards (284 per game) and tied for 94th in scoring (24 points per game) in FBS.

The Cowboys’ 4-3 defensive scheme has been solid, minus a tough nonconference matchup with Oregon. They’re 15th in the nation against the pass (172.8 ypg) but tied for 84th against the run (175.7 ypg). Wyoming used five turnovers to beat Utah State in Logan last week, and the 17 turnovers created this season is tied for No. 3 nationally. Cornerback Rico Gafford has four interceptions.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Andrew Wingard, S: The Mountain West Preseason Defensive Player of the Year is on his way to another 100-tackle season with 57 stops thus far (4.5 for loss). He also has two interceptions and a fumble recovery. A 6-foot, 209-pound Colorado native, he has 310 tackles in his career, good for ninth-best among active FBS players, and he’s the only junior in the top 10.

“He’s a stud,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “He’s a very savvy player, always in the right spot, he’s got a good feel for the game. ... You can tell he understands offenses and schemes. He plays fast and you can tell he knows what’s going on.”

Wyoming at Boise State

When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday

Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf); fans are asked to wear orange in sections 27-30, 101-104, 127-130, North End Zone and Stueckle Sky Club; blue in all other sections

TV: ESPN2 (Roy Philpott, Tom Ramsey)

Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)

Records: BSU 4-2, 2-0 (beat San Diego State 31-14); Wyoming 4-2, 2-0 (beat Utah State 28-23)

Series: Boise State leads 10-1 (Wyoming won 30-28 on Oct. 29, 2016 in last meeting)

Vegas line: Boise State by 13 1/2

Kickoff weather: Upper 40s, cloudy, 20 percent chance of rain

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