3 Quick takes: Isaiah Neyor is the real deal, folks
DEKALB, Ill., -- Wyoming's defensive backs have been trying to tell us.
So has the coaching staff. Sean Chambers' admiration is obvious, and the results are starting to show.
Isaiah Neyor is the real deal, folks.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound wide receiver from Fort Worth, Texas made light work of Northern Illinois' secondary Saturday afternoon in DeKalb, hauling in four passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
There could've been even more.
While those stats don't appear to be earth-shattering -- for this program -- they are. The last time a Wyoming pass catcher caught two touchdown passes in a game was 1,414 days ago. His name was Austin Fort. He had a guy named Josh Allen throwing to him. New Mexico was the victim.
Today, it was the Huskies.
Mid-way through the first quarter, Neyor blew past an NIU cornerback and Chambers delivered a perfect strike from 33 yards out. The redshirt freshman once again beat his man late in the second quarter. Chambers made the anticipatory heave and Neyor high-pointed the ball in the back of the end zone, tapping his shoe tips in the black paint.
It was NFL-looking stuff. Something we haven't seen around here in, well, probably 1,414 days.
For good measure, Neyor also took a handoff around the corner on a jet sweep and trotted into the end zone from five yards out to extend the Cowboys' lead to 35-16 mid-way through the third quarter.
Those were all nice plays.
He saved his best for last though.
With the Cowboys trailing 43-42 late in the fourth after the Huskies rattled off 27 unanswered points, Chambers heaved another one up to his big target. Neyor, stumbling backward, bobbled the ball before getting hit from behind by an incoming safety.
He held on, though the call was initially ruled incomplete on the field.
"Surprising that they challenged that," Neyor said of the officiating crew reviewing the play. "... I'm glad we got that play call. Sean gave me that signal to go deep and make a play. So, I'm really excited. I'm glad to make that play for my team."
Neyor also used his big frame to box out an NIU defender on the Cowboys' two-point conversion that made this a 50-43 game with just 1:33 remaining. It looked like a big brother not letting little bro near the hoop in the driveway. He just parked in the end zone and caught the ball with ease.
Chambers had a sly grin and nodded into the camera when talking about Neyor postgame. He warned you -- this Neyor kid is good.
"I put the ball up there and he goes up and gets it," he smiled. "I can put the ball up seven-and-a-half feet in the air and there's a good chance he's going to probably come down with it.
"I'm just really, really happy that he's on my squad."
Oh, by the way, Neyor maybe shouldn't even be playing right now.
Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said postgame that a high-ankle sprain Neyor suffered on Day 2 of fall camp was supposed to possibly limit him until the Ball State game.
That's next Saturday.
"I think he's a little bit ahead of the curve," Bohl said. "Today was a great showing of his ability. I think you're just going to see more and more plays that he just did, in the future."
Wyoming 50, Northern Illinois 43
Wyoming could've put this game on ice.
Bohl's boys were rolling, up 42-22 with just 14:18 remaining on the clock. They were on the Huskies' 14-yard line, facing a 4th-and-1. A chip-shot field goal off the right foot of John Hoyland would've made this a three-possession game -- a nearly insurmountable lead.
Bohl, instead, put faith in his veteran offensive line and workhorse, Xazavian Valladay, to pick up three feet.
It didn't happen.
To make matters worse, NIU's Harrison Waylee was in the end zone four plays later -- and again one play later after a Wyoming fumble that came off a muffed lateral pass.
This went from a potential 23-point Wyoming lead to a 42-36 contest in 1:37 of actual game time.
Bohl joked that he might add yet another cold sore to the one already holding court on his lower lip.
"I gnash my teeth and I think I bit my tongue," he said. "Such is life. I'm just glad we won."
Before that win though, Bohl spent the fourth quarter wondering if that mistake would come back to haunt his team. That ratcheted up a notch when the Huskies took a 43-42 lead with just 4:56 remaining in regulation,
"A couple things went into that at that time. We hadn't had a negative run at all and we'd been controlling the line of scrimmage," he said. "Quite frankly, I saw the snap the time before -- and we've been working like crazy on that. That was a low-trajectory kick. So, you know, you just kind of balance those things out. Nothing told me that we were not going to be able to at least advance and get a yard at that time."
"... In hindsight, boy, after that didn't happen did I second guess myself? Yeah. But that was the information that I went on. That was my call."
It was the wrong one.
Having faith in some of your best players is one thing, but not taking points right there could've led to one of the most embarrassing setbacks in program history.
Wyoming led 42-16 in the second half. It trailed after NIU reeled off four straight touchdown drives.
That can't happen.
"It was certainly a swing of momentum, then a whole cascade of negative plays," Bohl said. "It was one thing after another."
That first half of football is exactly what this offense under first-year offensive coordinator, Tim Polasek, is supposed to look like.
Wyoming ran the ball 20 times for 119 yards. Chambers completed 7-of-13 attempts for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Most importantly, the visitors were up 28-10.
"It is. We're supposed to run the ball well, throw the ball well and stay on the field," Chambers said. "That's what we're going to try to do over our next 10 games. That's what we need to look like."
Bohl was not impressed with the Cowboys' running game after rolling up just 151 yards last week against Montana State. He challenged his offensive line. They challenged themselves.
That message was obviously received loud and clear.
Wyoming bullied the Huskies up and down the field during an opening drive that took eight plays and chewed up 75 yards, culminating in a 22-yard dash to the end zone by sophomore running back Titus Swen.
The next possession didn't take near that long.
Swen rushed for 23 yards on three straight carries before Chambers hit Neyor from 33 yards out to make the score 14-0.
"I thought we were really able to create some seams and the running backs ran hard," Bohl said. "... The offensive line came off the ball and created some holes and our backs found those holes in there. It was a real real big impact and, Tim did a great job dovetailing the passing game with those runs.
"That's hard on defensive guys."
This was the re-engineering we've been hearing all about. It was definitely clicking early on Saturday.