‘That’s part of college football’
LARAMIE -- Every college football player has a "welcome to college football moment."
Former Wyoming linebacker Logan Wilson said his came against Nebraska in 2016, the second game he ever played in. He got smoked on kick coverage.
An older UW lineman drove another former Cowboy linebacker, Charles Hicks, back 15 yards and buried him into the turf during a team practice his freshman season.
Solomon Byrd had one, too.
"The guy bent him over and his ankles touched the back of his head," former UW defensive ends coach AJ Cooper said about the then-freshman. "He came back to the sideline and I was laughing and just said, 'I told you.'"
That moment came in Week 3 of the 2018 season at Missouri. That was Byrd's first game in a Wyoming uniform.
Saturday afternoon in muggy DeKalb, Easton Gibbs received his unofficial baptism.
Facing a 3rd-and-2 from their own 44-yard line, Northern Illinois running back Clint Ratkovich took a direct snap out of the "Wildcat." The 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back went right as his offensive line drove left.
That's when he met Gibbs in the hole.
The first play in this video is what happened next:
The hit drew audible oohs and ahhs from the crowd and the press box inside Huskie Stadium. Ratkovich rumbled 52 yards down field before eventually getting knocked out of bounds at the Cowboys' 4-yard line. Two plays later, he bulldozed his way into the end zone to cut the visitors' lead to 21-10.
"I didn't really move my feet on that one, so he definitely caught me," Gibbs said.
His teammates have to be razzing him, right?
"No, not too much," he said. "I mean, here and there, but not a ton."
The redshirt freshman from Temecula, Calif., smiled and added that he has never taken the brunt of a hit like that from a running back before.
Gibbs burst on to the scene last fall when he registered 42 tackles -- the third most on the team -- in a reserve role at the outside linebacker spot. When Hicks went down in Week 5, the 6-foot-2, 227-pound former high school quarterback stepped in, tallying a team-high 13 tackles in the season finale against Boise State.
In fall camp, he won the starting job outright.
Through two games this season, Gibbs is once again sitting third overall in tackles with 14. Ten of those came in that wild come-from-behind victory that was once a commanding 42-16 third-quarter lead for the Cowboys before turning into a 43-42 deficit after four straight Huskies touchdowns. Gibbs also added a pass deflection, which landed in the arms of teammate Miles Williams. The interception thwarted a nine-play, 47-yard drive that had the Huskies just outside the red zone in the first quarter.
The soft-spoke Gibbs said he still sees plenty of room for improvement -- more mentally than physically, he added. Fatigue, Gibbs said, was a factor late in the Cowboys' 50-43 win. That word "complacency" rolled off his tongue just like it did with Chad Muma, Keyon Blankenbaker and Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl when describing the team's fourth-quarter woes in DeKalb.
Bohl said he has been impressed with his young linebacker. That started last season and has carried over to now. He liked Gibbs' tackling Saturday. He loved the tipped pass.
As far as the blast from Ratkovich -- those things happen.
"He got trucked on the one play," Bohl said. "That's part of college football."