College Football

A Tale of Two Coaches: Bohl, Albin to meet in today’s Arizona Bowl

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TUCSON, Ariz. – When the Wyoming Cowboys and Ohio Bobcats take the field this afternoon at Arizona Stadium in Tucson for the 2022 Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl, there will be a familiar feeling amongst both teams as they try to stop each other.

Tim Albin, Ohio’s head coach, and Wyoming’s Craig Bohl both served as assistant coaches together in Nebraska under head coach Frank Solich from 2000-2002. Bohl was the defensive coordinator then and Albin was a graduate assistant.

In 2003, Bohl was named head coach for North Dakota State while Albin was promoted to running backs coach. However, Solich was relieved of his duties and Albin was soon out of a job.

Bohl and Albin reunited in North Dakota State when Albin was offered the position of offensive coordinator and running backs coach under Bohl. Together, the Bison went 8-3 in 2004 and ranked 25th nationally in their first season in the FCS (then known as NCAA Division I-AA). The Bison were ineligible for post-season play during their first four seasons in the FCS.

Albin reunited with Solich the next year in Ohio, serving as offensive coordinator and running backs coach for the Bobcats from 2005 until 2018, adding assistant head coach to his responsibilities for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Solich retired after the 2020 season with an all-time record of 173-101 including 115-82 at Ohio. Albin was promoted to head coach beginning in 2021. In two seasons at the helm in Ohio, the Bobcats have a 12-13 overall record and are 10-6 in Mid-American Conference play. On November 30, Albin was named MAC Coach of the Year. This is the first Bowl appearance for Albin as a head coach in NCAA Division I play.

Bohl, meanwhile, led NDSU to a 104-32 record including 49-24 in conference play in 11 seasons in the Great West and Missouri Valley Football Conferences from 2003-2013. After the Bison won their third straight FCS national championship, he took over the head coaching duties at Wyoming. In nine seasons, he has guided the Cowboys to a 52-55 overall record and 32-38 record in the Mountain West Conference. The Cowboys are making their fifth Bowl appearance since Bohl took over the program (2016 – a 24-21 loss to BYU in the Poinsetta Bowl; 2017 – a 37-14 win over Central Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl; 2019 – a 38-17 win over Georgia State in the Arizona Bowl; and 2021 – a 52-38 win over Kent State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl).

Wyoming and Ohio have played only twice previously. In 2007, the Cowboys took a 34-33 win over the Bobcats in Athens, Ohio. A year later the Cowboys took another one-point victory, 21-20 in Laramie, Wyoming.

“I’ve been a head coach for twenty years, so there’s been a couple crossovers that I’ve had, but probably not as extensive,” said Bohl. “You sit in coaches meetings when you’re assistant coaches together, and then he and I worked together at North Dakota State when we were just starting that program. To have a dear friend do as well as he’s done as a head football coach, it’s encouraging, so it will be a pleasure to look across the field and see a great colleague.”

“We know that once the game gets started, the fur is going to fly. He’s a prince of a guy. [I’m] really happy for him. Hopefully I had a small part in some of the things that he learned as a head football coach,” Bohl added.

Albin described how impactful Bohl was after he was let go from Nebraska.

“My wife, two young children and I were at a crossroads. He came to see me multiple times in Lincoln (Nebraska) and literally got me up off the couch. He knocked on the door for the second or third time and I was on the couch. He said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get back on that horse,’ basically. He got me back upon that horse and so I’m forever grateful,” Albin explained.

“How he runs a program, working under him in Fargo, how he goes about practice schedules, the staff, I’ve said this before and I mean it wholeheartedly, he talks with you, not at you. I try to pattern myself as one of the characteristics and it produces great results,” he added.

In his game preparation for the Arizona Bowl, Albin notes the similarities between the Cowboys and the NDSU Bison.

“Especially offensively. As I called plays for Coach Bohl, and their approach as far as game planning, I think that it’s a proven winner. I’ve seen Fargo in Wyoming, just the mental piece of it, come off the football, getting vertical distortion, being tough, those two and three yard games, their style of offense in the second half turn into six, seven and eight yard gains due to the physicality of it,” Albin said. “It is very difficult to simulate without just going full speed scrimmage every practice. You just can’t do that these days. It presents challenges to the team but I think having the Bowl game a little bit later is helpful in preparation.”

Bohl noted that his team was beat up and licking their wounds after their last game against Fresno State and the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl is coming at the appropriate time.

“You’re licking your wounds in the short amount of time that you’re trying to do recruiting, trying to get these guys back to playing in a short amount of time when they just went through a rigorous season, so this span has really been good,” said Bohl. “It’s given our players a chance to decompress, work on their school work a little bit, and it’s given us a chance to recruit. We have had intermittent practices. My sense is that we have a really hungry football team that wants to go out and play in a game.”

Both teams will have to overcome offensive challenges today. Wyoming announced the dismissal of starting running back Titus Swen from the team on Nov. 28 with Bohl announcing in a news release that “Titus Swen’s personal conduct is below the standard necessary to be a member of Cowboys football.” No further comment on the Swen situation has been made, though Swen has since announced that he was going to declare for the upcoming NFL Draft after first considering entering the NCAA Transfer Portal for his final year of eligibility.

During Wednesday’s media availability, quarterback Andrew Peasley was asked about his rapport with the running backs, to which Bohl leaned over and whispered a friendly warning to “watch your step.” Peasley smiled and answered, “I think they’re all doing great!” It earned Peasley a polite slap on the back by his head coach and laughter from media members in the room.

When asked about how he can prepare against Wyoming without Swen and with Bohl’s silence on his plans, Albin said, “They’re going to have a quality guy back there. Again, working with Coach Bohl and his system, whoever they put out there is going to be a downhill bruiser and it will present challenges, again, just consistently getting the person they go with to the ground.”

For the Bobcats, junior quarterback Kurtis Rourke is out for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during their Nov. 15 win against Ball State. He has already had the surgery and is in rehabilitation, but that means the signal calling will revert to C.J. Harris, who will be starting for only his third time.

“[He’ll get] game experience,” said Albin. “This past offseason was his first opportunity to get a full year of training with Jake Miller and our strength staff, after he had broken the collar bone on his non-throwing shoulder in the COVID season. We only played three games. It was his third game, I think it was in the first half. He was on fire, I do remember that.”

“I think development wise – particularly in the lower body, philosophy of the ball, understanding of the offense, I mean he’s always had great work ethic as far as the playbook goes, but just the timing of it,” he added. “But for us to take bigger steps in the program, Kurtis needs to take steps and he’s done that.”

Albin is proud of his team’s success so far and knows that they will be ready when they hit the field today.

“We’re going to pride ourselves in wanting it as hard as possible. I know Coach Bohl’s team will do the same. It should be a hard knocking great football game,” said Albin. “As a head coach, you’re a little concerned about when the game’s a little bit later and having some time off since your last game, but with the help of the staff, we should be ready to go.”

Bohl agrees. “For our players, the things they have been able to experience in what we’ve done, we have a hungry, exciting football team and I know Ohio’s going to be hungry and exciting also,” he said.

The Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl kicks off at 3:30 p.m. CT between the Ohio Bobcats (9-4) and Wyoming Cowboys (7-5) from Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. The game will be televised on Barstool.tv

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