Bad night for Bouknight: Weddle makes Cowboy star a nonfactor

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All week long, the Utes couldn’t stop talking about Jovon Bouknight.

Facing the most dangerous receiver in the conference with an oft-criticized secondary that had struggled for much of the season, the Utes’ biggest objective was shutting down Bouknight.

Mission accomplished.

Wyoming quarterback Casey Bramlet looked Bouknight’s way early and often but to no avail, as the U secondary, in particular Eric Weddle, shut him down for the length of the game, holding the All-Conference senior to just four catches for 43 yards.

“I thought Eric Weddle on Jovon Bouknight was the difference in the game,” U head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “(Weddle) being able to shut him down and take him completely out of the game.”

Weddle, the U’s strong safety who usually lines up against the slot receiver, had a different role Saturday as the U defense made a concerted effort to control Bouknight’s effectiveness, thereby slowing the Wyoming offense. “Once I got into him and got a couple of (pass break-ups) here and there, then I think I got him a little frustrated because he’s used to making plays like that,” Weddle said.

Bouknight came into the game with 56 catches for 886 yards and an MWC-high 11 touchdown receptions.

But Saturday was not his day. Weddle knocked down the first two passes that went his way and finished with three break-ups on the day.

Bouknight was neutralized to such an extent that Bramlet threw his way just once the entire second half.

“(Weddle) just gets in our face, and we can’t get him off us,” Wyoming head coach Joe Glenn said. “He did a great job. He took away our ace, and that was a problem. Usually when we need a big play, we go to Jovon, but we couldn’t get him into the flow of the game today.”

The dominant performance on Bouknight was unprecedented this year for the U defense, which got torched by San Diego State wideout Jeff Webb in a loss at Rice-Eccles Stadium earlier this season.

After that loss, Weddle suggested that he might see some time at cornerback after the Utes suffered from poor performances from their younger defensive backs.

While Weddle stayed at safety in the team’s win at UNLV, Saturday was a different story, as he lined up on the outside in what might be the most impressive performance of his career.

“(Bouknight) is a great wide receiver. The game plan was any man zone, I’ll be on him, and I was on him probably 90 percent of the game,” Weddle said. “I just really took pride in it, going against a great wide receiver like that. I practiced hard and watched a lot of film on him, and we contained him enough to give us the edge.”

With Bouknight blanketed practically all day, the entire Cowboy offense faltered.

Bramlet, who came into the game averaging more than 236 passing yards per game, finished with just 133, completing just 15 of 30 passes.

“I thought we ran the ball well,” Wyoming running back Wynel Seldon said. “We couldn’t get anything going passing, though.”

In coming weeks, the U’s defensive backfield will have to contend with the likes of New Mexico’s Hank Baskett and BYU’s tandem Jonny Harline and Todd Watkins.

After Saturday’s showing, Weddle figures to be prominently involved in the pass defense for the rest of the season.

“Any time when, against a great wide receiver, you can make plays on him early on, it frustrates them and it kind of got them out of their offense the rest of the game,” Weddle said. “This game was just a starter for what’s to come.

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