LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Driving a pickup and wearing cowboy boots, Craig Bohl fits in well with the state of Wyoming's western culture.
Bohl believes his style of coaching college football will fit the Wyoming Cowboys just as well.
"There's only so many places in the country for me to be a head football coach, that the program that we have is going to fit, it's going to mesh," he said as the Cowboys prepared for their season opener Saturday afternoon in Laramie against Montana.
Bohl was hired last December to replace the fired Dave Christensen, whose spread offense brought some high-scoring games but not many victories.
Bohl brings to Wyoming a more traditional style of play based on hard work and physical and mental toughness that resulted in North Dakota State winning three consecutive Football Championship Subdivision national titles over the last three seasons.
His teams at North Dakota State found success with a ball-control offense and stout defense — a template he believes will succeed at Wyoming, where many small towns are more likely to have a rodeo arena than a football field.
"I long believed that a football program, when successful, will mirror the fabric, the values and how the people of the state of Wyoming are," Bohl said. "This model, if you took it to some other place, say Southern California or south Florida, would fail. I would fail."
Bohl's ideal team features an offense that takes its time in grinding out a 12-play scoring drive and a defense that gets off the field after three plays. Under Christensen, Wyoming's defense was more likely to be on the field for 12 plays a series and give up points, while the offense would more likely be off the field in three plays after a quick score or three-and-out.
"To get this ship turned around in the right direction, we're going to need to look and play differently," Bohl said. "We're going to need to make sure that when we get in the fourth quarter that we're not in a position where we got to beat somebody 51-49."
The change in philosophy can be seen in even the uniforms the Cowboys will don this season. Under Christensen, Wyoming had multiple combinations of uniform styles and colors, while under Bohl, the Cowboys will return to the more traditional brown and gold.
But Bohl realizes the change in direction could take time to bring results. He has to find a quarterback who can bring control to an offense stocked with players recruited more on agility than brawn. And he's changing the defense from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3.
"To do things right, this is going to be a process, and so it's not a quick fix," he said. "We're going to roll up our sleeves and get to know our state, and build a program that can be sustained for a long time."
But he's also not one to quickly jump to another coaching opportunity; he's in it for the long haul at Wyoming.
"I understand some coaches come and go for various reasons because of success or because of not success," Bohl said. "But I can tell you our staff are builders. We chose to come to the University of Wyoming when this opportunity opened up because we want to build."