Year 15 Season: Coach Luke cowboys up for the first time in Wyoming
Many are questioning Coach Luke's decision to live a simpler life as he prepares to save another school
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Many are shocked and many are overjoyed about Coach Luke’s decision to move on to a new school. One thing is for sure as we enter the first year of Coach’s tenure with the Wyoming Cowboys: it ain’t gonna be easy, y’all.
What Happened In Akron?
When Coach Luke stepped into the locker room before the 2026 BCS National Championship Game, he had made up his mind weeks before. The players knew something hadn’t been right and he needed them to know why.
Coach gathered the team and told them that he was going to step down as head coach of the Zips after that game. He wanted the team to rally harder than ever because this would be their last time together on the football field.
The question still wasn’t answered about why he was leaving though.
Well, LeBron James, of course.
It always comes back to him, doesn’t it? When LeBron retired from basketball, Zips football became an obsession for him unlike any other. He moved from Los Angeles to be back in Akron. He wanted to keep a watchful eye on his new stadium and adopted university. Two championships were not good enough for LeBron’s Zips. He wanted more. He needed more.
Coach Luke would come to realize that three championships wouldn’t be enough for LeBron either. In fact, no amount of championships would ever be good enough for the King of Akron.
The frustrations started when the team went to the Big Ten. That was LeBron’s call. Coach Luke never wanted to be there. Getting the university to commit to being Independent was hard enough, but Coach Luke loved it and it gave him the freedom that he desired. LeBron wanted the bright lights and attention of a Power 5 conference and he made it happen behind-the-scenes. Coach Luke could do nothing but smile and go along with the journey. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” he’d think.
The last straw in their relationship was when LeBron started going on unprompted recruiting trips without Coach Luke. There would be times when Coach would meet a recruit for the first time, and the player would gush about his meeting with LeBron that he had already. It was angering because Coach Luke doubted that Lebron even wore a suit on those trips but, even worse, there was no way to guarantee that LeBron was even following NCAA recruiting guidelines.
Coach Luke needed to talk to LeBron about this and invited him over to discuss it. This meeting did not go well. LeBron was irate that Coach Luke would try to reign him in like that. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” he’d say.
There was shouting. There was pleading. There was tension. The discussion hit its boiling point though when LeBron kicked Coach Luke’s beloved cat in a show of frustration.
That’s all Coach Luke said to LeBron after that, and he meant it. This was not the Akron that he loved anymore. It wasn’t fun.
LeBron wasn’t having this though. He rushed into Coach Luke’s suit room and grabbed Coach Luke's magical recruiting suit and threatened to burn it right there.
“Do it. The suit never made me who I am, LeBron. I made me who I am.”
It was over. The Akron relationship and the LeBron James connection had been shattered and Coach Luke immediately made plans to step down and continue his coaching legacy elsewhere.
How Did We Get To Wyoming?
After the LeBron saga, Coach Luke wanted an escape from that drama. Coaching offers poured in from around the country but nothing was exciting the now suitless coach. When Wyoming came calling, it felt different.
The pitch was a phone call by a few real, honest people taking a wild shot at the biggest coaching prize in history. It was so calming to talk to some down-to-earth people instead of slick, pushy salesmen.
Coach Luke traveled out to Wyoming on his own to tour the state and think it over. He found that he could finally breathe peacefully there. He admired Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons.
Man, they were the most magical thing that Coach had ever seen.
When every other school would do their sales pitch to Coach Luke, he’d just think about the Tetons instead. He’d be polite and let them do their pitch, but he was imagining living in a tiny house and being able to take weekend trips to see those magical Tetons whenever he wanted. A range life sounded really nice.
Blame it on the Tetons. Coach Luke knew the whole time that he was going to go to Wyoming.
The administrators at Wyoming didn’t even know for a long, long time. In fact, they couldn’t really comprehend the news when Coach Luke said he was accepting their offer. To say they were delighted would be an understatement.
It’s now time to put Laramie on the map for the college football world. No suit anymore. Just coaching and recruiting like the early days.
Coach Luke is home.
Our Wyoming Cowboys team is full of mysteries this season. The team is likely filled with more ranch hands than cowboys, but that’s okay.
Coach Luke didn’t recruit any players on this team, but there may be gems in the making. One of our first Zips legends was a man named Cortez Haumiller that was on the team when we got there. Don’t discount the notion that we may end up loving some of these unknown players.
Our offense has a 75-overall rating. It’s not great, no. It’s also not terrible. It’s just fine.
The good news is that the team has a good quarterback and running back. The other good news is that there are only three senior starters on the offense. This is a team that has a lot of room to grow.
The same can be said for our defense, which also has a 75-overall rating.
Once again, there are three senior starters so this is a team that will grow into their own. There’s not one elite part of the defense here but there are some high-level players still.
While it may be a bit jarring to see a team with lower ratings than our dominant Zips teams, this team is actually better than the teams from our early years. There is reason for hope here. The Cowboys are rated 75 overall and are filled with younger talent. In comparison, here are our first four Akron teams:
Year 1: 61 overall and went 1-11
Year 2: 70 overall and went 5-7
Year 3: 74 overall and went 9-5
Year 4: 77 overall and went 9-4
With a more run-focused attack in these early years, we might actually be able to surprise some teams and sneak our way to a winning record like the Year 3 and Year 4 Zips teams. Coach Luke certainly learned how to maximize lesser talent in those early years.
We’re not rated higher than most teams on our schedule but I still think a good run is possible here.
On the recruiting front, there isn’t one specific need that we’re going after. This is a team with lots of holes to fill. We are trying to get their previous 4-3 defensive roster converted into a 3-4 defense but, mostly, it’s a time to get whatever talent we can get and build around it. Our initial recruiting board looks like this:
Year 15 (2027-28)
This season will be a bit different than the recent seasons of this newsletter. I’m going to highlight a couple of our key games but we’re mostly going through this season to get recruits and get ready for a big year next year.
0-0 | Week 2 vs Kent State
When Coach Luke relocated to Wyoming, teams from his past were demanding to get on the out-of-conference schedule. It’s no shock that the first game of his Cowboys career comes against a familiar foe: the Kent State Golden Flashes. The former rival school has been a punching bag for Coach Luke’s Zips and they are eager to actually get the best of their old nemesis for once.
Can QB Gene Coley, HB James Carter, and company cowboy up for this one and surprise the Flashes in Coach Luke’s debut?
Check out this short highlight reel of the opening game to find out:
Well, we dueled them and we lost 34-24.
There were many firsts in this one. Dan Goins got the first interception of this era and James Carter rushed in the first touchdown of this era. At the end of the day, it still resulted in the first loss of this era though.
So it goes.
There’s no rest for these cowpokes though as the next game is against an even more familiar foe.
0-1 | Week 3 vs # 1 Akron
Coach Luke returns to LeBron James Stadium but enters the visitor’s locker room this time. During this trip back to Ohio, he doesn’t even have a conversation with LeBron himself. He catches up with his old players like Johnny McNeil and Mickey Palmer as they are flourishing under Coach Cortez there now.
There’s very little reason to think that Wyoming can hang in this game and oddsmakers have put a -61.5 spread on it as a result.
You can still watch a short clip to see how the game went here:
It pretty much goes like you’d expect it to go. We lost 52-7. It seems like Cortez is running a more run-heavy game than I did at Akron as they only passed 24 times in the game but they also broke out a big lead and then could relax.
It was nice to see our old team but the past is the past and it’s time to focus on the future and the MWC in-conference games that are coming up on the schedule.
The recruiting trail is a major part of this season too. To ensure that our recruits are coming out for a good win, we are scheduling most of our visits for our FCS Midwest game on our schedule. At this point, this is what our board looks like:
Weeks 4 through 6
Over the next three weeks, the Cowboys two games and Coach Luke looks to make progress with recruiting. The games? They go okay:
It took four games but Coach Luke finally got the team on track and they were able to get their first win once we got to conference play.
There seem to be some tough teams on the schedule in-conference as both San Diego State and Fresno State are ranked in the top ten. The hope is that the Cowboys can get rolling now and stay competitive in all of these conference games.
As for recruiting, it takes until Week 5 but Coach Luke finally gets his first player to come to Wyoming. That man is punter Xavier Smith (76 OVR). Punt team is back, baby!
The main goal for recruiting now is to get WRs, LBs, and linemen on both sides of the ball at this point to build this team up to be competitive sooner than later. The upcoming game against FCS Midwest is when we hope to get a lot of players to commit.
1-3 | Week 7 vs #6 San Diego State
We return home after three road games to play our second in-conference game. This one looks to be a tough one as it is against the #6 San Diego State Aztecs. They are rated 90 overall compared to our 75 overall. Coach Luke is hoping to get a winning streak going though and has his boys hyper-focused on this game. The plan will be to employ a rush-heavy attack and hope to control the clock and tire out the Aztec defense.
Does it work?
It actually does! Wow! Coach Luke shocks the world with a big upset here as Wyoming takes down the #6 team in the nation.
With a heavy dose of 45 rushes compared to 22 passes, the team grinds out a season-changing win here. The team was 0-3 to start the year but they can now celebrate an epic win under Coach Luke.
It’s time to believe that something special could happen in Wyoming.
Weeks 8 through 14
In the latter parts of the season, the focus is just on trying to grind out a few more wins and trying to get some big-name recruits to commit. The next game on the schedule is a big one for both of those reasons. It is against a lowly FCS Midwest team and we have over a dozen recruits coming to see it.
We win the game 42-10.
As for the recruits?
We clean up! We get ten recruits to commit after this game. Coach Luke never needed the suit after all. He just needed to believe in himself.
FS Ahmad Benson (77 OVR) | ★★★★
MLB Brandon Campbell (71 OVR) | ★★★
CB Justin McGill (71 OVR) | ★★★
T Brandon Anderson (69 OVR, JUCO) | ★★
C Anton McDonald (68 OVR) | ★★★
OLB Nick Bozeman (67 OVR) | ★★★
OLB Nick Osborne (67 OVR) | ★★★
C Tremayne Anderson (67 OVR) | ★★★
OLB Jeff Burke (66 OVR) | ★★★
C Eric Ross (64 OVR) | ★★
This solves a lot of needs at the secondary, offensive line, and linebacker positions! We’ll still have some work to do to get some receivers on board but this feels like the start to something big.
The last big game on our schedule will come in Week 15 against a top-five Fresno State team. There are five conference games prior to that though. Those games go better than expected:
vs UNLV: L 41-21 (Box Score)
at Utah State: W 33-21 (Box Score)
vs New Mexico: W 42-21 (Box Score)
at Boise State: W 45-21 (Box Score)
at Hawai’i: W 41-38 (Box Score)
Wow! We got hot and suddenly became bowl-eligible. The offense woke up and started putting up 40+ points with ease. We now stand at 7-4 with one big game left on the season.
7-4 | Week 15 vs #2 Fresno State
Despite a hot streak, we’re not in the running for a MWC championship because Fresno State is undefeated. They’re having an epic season and are ranked #2 in the country. We’ve got a chance to play spoiler here and ruin a chance for them to make the BCS National Championship Game. They are rated 91 overall. Can we shock the world one more time this year?
Almost! We lose 48-41 but had a chance to tie it on the last possession. QB Gene Coley had over 450 yards passing, and Zac Spencer looks like a WR to watch in the future.
That means that the BCS National Championship Game will have a representative from our conference. Their opponent will be… none other than Coach Cortez’s Akron Zips! What a world.
As for us? We get invited to the Poinsettia Bowl!
7-5 | Poinsettia Bowl vs Washington
Look, the fact that we were able to ride into a bowl game in our first season is cause for celebration. We’re going to end the season with a winning record and I couldn’t be more proud of that.
We’re playing a Washington Huskies team that is rated 95 overall so they will be a very tough test for us but let’s see what happens.
We lose 52-28.
Look, that’s fine. We had a great year and it feels like we’re already ready for a big season next year. Coach Luke’s first rodeo in Wyoming is deemed a success in my book.
As for Akron?
Well… they actually got destroyed 45-17 in the BCS National Championship Game by Fresno State. Yes, the same Fresno State that we almost beat. You can probably assume that Coach Luke gave them a lot of tips about how to take down the Zips juggernaut.
The offseason is actually fairly anti-climactic in some ways. In the late weeks of the season, Coach Luke was able to do so much recruiting that the recruiting class was secured before the offseason. We end up putting together a really good class:
This is a deep class that ended up being ranked #17 in the nation. I’m impressed with what we were able to build here. There’s even a few potential stars like MLB Tavares McBride, FS Ahmad Benson, and WR Joe Thomas.
Our old friends at Akron ended up with the #16 recruiting class. Just one above us. Things are getting interesting for these two schools.
One of the bigger surprises in the offseason is that Wyoming does not hire a defensive coordinator. I honestly can’t tell you if this is some weird game glitch or what but it seems like Wyoming is deciding to run a defense without a coordinator in charge. Let’s ride!
If you’re curious about end-of-season stats and info for the series, I will now be tracking this era of the dynasty in a new spreadsheet: Laramie City Lights Tracker
The first year in Wyoming was exciting and the pieces are already in place for this team to be competitive next year. I’m hyped.
Year 16 Scheduling
I will be publishing a season preview tomorrow for the upcoming Wyoming season. It will introduce you to our roster and show you the season schedule. I hope you’re ready to cowboy up with this team in the years ahead. As always, I’ll be doing Twitch streams on Tuesdays and Fridays to watch how this unfolds. Even though I got through an entire season in one stream last week, that was just to get this part of the dynasty going. The plan for this year is to do the season in two streams:
Hop on over to my Twitch channel to follow me so you can ride with us this season!
IN ZIPS NEWS: Reader Matt has created a Madden series that is following the Zips players that have gone on to the NFL. He relocated the Washington Football Team to Dublin and used a first-round pick on QB Kenneth “K-Dubs” Washington. He plans to import Zips players into the universe as they got drafted in this series here. Check out his Substack, Twitch channel and read our Discord to see more info about it.