3 Quick takes: Welcome back rushing attack
LARAMIE -- The Cowboys haven't been able to throw the ball with any consistency this season.
When you can't complete that task, the defense has a sole focus -- stop Wyoming's running game.
Texas State sold out, limiting the Cowboys to just 190 yards on a season-high 49 carries.
Idaho held Wyoming to 237 yards on 47 carries. That seems like a solid rushing day, but keep in mind Trey Smith broke a 75-yard touchdown run. The following week in Tulsa, the Golden Hurricane stacked the box all afternoon. They held the Pokes to 143 yards on 34 carries.
Wyoming's offensive strategy was not a surprise to UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez. In fact, he pounded into his players' heads for two solid weeks.
Then, Wyoming hammered the point home, racking up a season-best 387 rushing yards on 48 carries in a 53-17 blowout win over the Rebels in front of 23,000-plus at War Memorial Stadium.
They gave the Rebels a little visual evidence.
"The hard thing about that is there is no mystery about what they were going to do," Sanchez said in his post-game press conference. "They were a little banged up, we knew they were going to try and use (Sean) Chambers, get the ball downhill and shorten the game ...
"Again, it comes down to a toughness issue. They were tougher than we were tonight. A lot tougher."
With no Smith in the lineup and Xazavian Valladay still nursing a sore ankle, the starting job fell on true freshman Titus Swen tonight.
All he did was rush for 143 yards on 14 carries, recording his first 100-yard rushing day in a Wyoming uniform. For good measure, he busted a 44-yard touchdown jaunt in the fourth quarter.
Valladay carried the ball 13 times for 58 yards, but got the Cowboys on the board in the first quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run. He capped the scoring from four yards out with 9:26 remaining in the fourth.
Heck, even walk-on Brett Brenton got in on the action tonight. The Casper product had seven totes and nearly broke away for a 42-yard touchdown run. His jog ended a yard short.
For the fifth time in his young career, Chambers eclipsed the century mark in rushing. He finished with 104 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
What is maybe the most impressive stat that you won't see is the fact that the offensive line was a mishmash of youth and inexperience. From left to right, the new-look offensive line goes like this: redshirt freshman, sophomore, sophomore, sophomore, sophomore.
These guys bullied UNLV all night long. Frank Crum, a Laramie native, was making his first career start tonight. Wyoming didn't shy away from running in his direction. Patrick Arnold replaced Logan Harris at the right guard spot. He was excellent.
Let's not get too carried away here -- UNLV is still UNLV. They were giving up chunks all season on the ground. In fact, statistically, they are the 96th worst rush defense in the nation, giving up 178.8 yards per game.
That ranking will drop -- a lot.
But the fact that Wyoming was able to impose its will, dictate the tempo and the clock, when the Rebels knew exactly what was coming their way on nearly every snap is impressive.
A big takeaway -- or three
Wyoming thrived on turnovers in its first three wins of the season. Without them, they don't knock of Missouri. They probably don't win in San Marcos, either.
Over the last two weeks, the Cowboys were unable to take the ball away from FCS Idaho and forced just one fumble in the loss at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane were gifted a return fumble from Chambers on the Pokes' final offensive play of the game.
I don't need to remind you about that one.
It didn't matter whether Armani Rogers or Kenyon Oblad was running the Rebels offense Saturday night, Wyoming was ball hawking. Logan Wilson picked off Rogers. That was the seventh of his UW career. Cassh Maluia snagged one from Oblad. So did Rome Weber.
Wyoming turned those three interceptions into just 10 points, but they kept momentum on the side of the home team, ate clock and kept the Cowboys in great field position all night long.
Turnovers equal wins. Craig Bohl stands at the pulpit and preaches that daily.
Wyoming is now plus-8 in that category.
Taking out some frustration
Bohl is now 10-4 at Wyoming when his team is coming off a loss.
You think they play a little pissed off?
"We overcame some adversity," Bohl said. "That's a sign of a team that really pulls together. Were 1-0 in the conference and that's a great start."
That Tulsa game didn't damage this teams psyche, it made them mad. They were three yards away from completing a perfect 4-0 non-conference season. They got physically beat up in Oklahoma. They watched a teammate get loaded into an ambulance at midfield.
Saturday, they saw a new depth chart that didn't include Alonzo Velazquez, Logan Harris, Tyler Hall or Trey Smith.
None of that mattered when the whistle blew.
This team can be fun -- or frustrating -- to watch, but once again, their desire to win shinned through.
Nowhere was that more apparent than in the secondary.
This group has been beaten down -- literally and figuratively.
There was no Hall, Antonio Hull or CJ Coldon. Even with those guys in the lineup, the Cowboys' pass defense has been one of the worst in the nation through four games. They are 126th out of 130 FBS teams. They give up 345 yards per game.
Saturday, they held the Rebels to just 263 and one touchdown. Most of those yards came in garbage time, too.
This crew stepped up when the team needed them most tonight. Jordan Murry, a true freshman, played like a seasoned vet all night long. It was his vicious hit that sidelined UNLV's all-world running back, Charles Williams.
That was a big blow to the Rebels offense. Sanchez admitted as much.
Tip of the hat to those guys on the back end.