Cowboys vs. Lobos: How we see this shaking out
LARAMIE -- Today we break down the 73rd meeting between Wyoming (2-2) and New Mexico (0-5). Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Saturday from Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
When the Pokes have the pigskin: How does a breakout game from Levi Williams and the Wyoming receivers sound? If they were ever going to do it, now is the time. New Mexico gives up passing yards in bunches. They are not just ranked dead last in the Mountain West in passing yards allowed, but in the nation. That's 308 per game. Yikes. Williams didn't need to throw the ball much in the Cowboys' last outing. Xazavian Valladay and Trey Smith took care of UNLV. The UW rushing attack racked up 399 yards in a lopsided 45-14 victory. Valladay might not be available. Craig Bohl listed him as "day-to-day" midweek with a leg injury. Smith, along with Dawaiian McNeeley and Brett Brenton, should be just fine running behind the Pokes' big veteran offensive line, but the Lobos will leave plenty of open passing lanes if Bohl and Co. want to feature Ayden Eberhardt, Dontae Crow, Isaiah Neyor or even the Pokes' tight ends. New Mexico has just five sacks through five games, also last in the conference. Williams should have plenty of time to dissect.
When New Mexico is on offense: New Mexico has to try and establish the rushing game, right? Danny Gonzales is on his fourth quarterback of the season already. Saturday, redshirt freshman walk-on Connor Genal gets the nod. He has attempted just 10 passes in a college football game. Those came in a loss to Utah State last week. He completed five of those and threw a pick. New Mexico does have a pair of talented running backs in Bobby Cole and Nathaniel Jones. Those two were dynamic in the first three games. The last two -- the opposite of dynamic. Air Force and Utah State forced the Lobos into a one-dimensional offense. Cole and Jones rushed for just 58 yards against the Falcons and 43 against the Aggies. The Cowboys received a huge boost last week with the return of senior defensive end Garrett Crall. He registered five tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss. He also swatted down a pass. Middle linebacker Chad Muma led the team with 10 tackles and three sacks. Expect the Cowboys to zero in on the Lobos' tailbacks and challenge Genal to beat them through the air. Wyoming won't have Cole Godbout or Victor Jones for the second straight week. That shouldn't matter too much with the play of Braden Smith, Jaylen Pate, Jordan Bertagnole and others. The Lobos do have a trio of playmakers on the outside in Andrew Erickson, Jordan Kress and Emmanuel Logan-Greene. Those three have all caught more than 200 yards worth of balls. Can Genal get it to them is the main question. Will he have time? CJ Coldon and Azizi Hearn have to love their chances Saturday night.
Special teams edge: Donovan Murphree and George Steinkamp have combined to go 8-of-14 on field goals this season for the Lobos. Steinkamp is 3-of-5 from beyond 40 yards. New Mexico's kick returns haven't been very dynamic, either, averaging just 17 yards per return. Only Wyoming is worse than them in that category, though Dontae Crow has been solid since the season opener. John Hoyland has been steady for the Cowboys, nailing 7-of-8 field goals this season. Nick Null has improved by the week. UW's punter is averaging 38.5 yards per kick. That's good enough for sixth in the conference.
Historically speaking: This series, which dates all the way back to 1930, has been close. Wyoming leads, 38-34. The Cowboys are currently on a three-game winning streak against the Lobos. In those games, the Pokes have outscored New Mexico, 96-16. It's been ugly. Speaking of ugly, the last time Wyoming fell to this team came back in 2016. New Mexico rushed for 568 yards in a 53-35 win in Albuquerque. Yes, you read that right. It was the most rushing yards ever allowed in school history. Wyoming already had its ticket punched to the Mountain West title game, but that was still an unforgettable -- or unforgivable -- outing for the Cowboys.
The score. Oh, the score: Let's not beat around the bush here -- New Mexico is a bad team right now. Just ask the coach. He fully agrees. The Lobos are starting a rookie under center, haven't been in their native state since late October and have the nation's second-longest losing streak in the nation at 14. They have also lost 20 straight MWC games, including 25 of the last 26. Things can't get much worse for a once-proud program. That's the scary part about this game if you're the Cowboys. The Lobos have absolutely nothing to lose. New Mexico has hung tough with the likes of San Jose State, Nevada and Hawaii. They even had a lead at halftime against the Rainbow Warriors and Wolf Pack. The second halves haven't been pretty. In the last two games -- losses to Air Force and Utah State -- New Mexico has been outscored, 42-14. Depth and inexperience, coupled with the extended losing streak, played a major part in that. The Lobos aren't going to lie down and die for the visitors Saturday night, but Wyoming has too much fire power on both sides of the ball to not leave Las Vegas for the second straight week with a lopsided victory.
New Mexico 20