Know Wyoming’s foe: CSU Rams
LARAMIE -- No pressure, kid.
Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi was tabbed Colorado State's starting quarterback in a Week-2 meeting with in-state rival Colorado. The redshirt freshman spelled an ineffective Clay Millen in the third quarter of the opener against Washington State, firing a pair of touchdown strikes and an interception.
He did just enough that afternoon in Fort Collins to earn the job.
"Brayden came in and played well," CSU head coach Jay Norvell said postgame. "The bottom line is we've got to score touchdowns and we've got to score points offensively. We're going to give Brayden an opportunity."
Millen was the most efficient passer in the country in 2022, completing 72.2% of his throws. The then true-freshman only tossed 10 touchdowns -- to go along with six picks -- in the same amount of games while operating Matt Mumme's famed air-raid offense.
The biggest issue, like Norvell alluded to, was in the scoring department. The Rams failed to reach 20 points in 13 consecutive outings.
Fowler-Nicolosi, with some help from a 75-yard kick return for a touchdown, courtesy of Justus Ross-Simmons, threw 21 on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter alone against the visiting Cougars.
Aside from a 13-point outing inside a snow-covered Canvas Stadium last Saturday, CSU's offense is now producing nearly 28 per game. Fowler-Nicolosi leads one of the top passing attacks in the nation, averaging 331.5 yards through the air. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Texas product has racked up 2,476 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. He has added another score on the ground.
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If there's one black mark on Fowler-Nicolosi's résumé it's the chances he takes down field. He has thrown 11 interceptions through seven-plus games, the second most of any starter in the Mountain West Conference, behind only Hawaii's Brayden Schager.
"I think he's a really good player," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said. "You know, I know they made a change and his numbers are impressive. I can appreciate you saying he's a gunslinger, I think he has a great deal of confidence. He's got a strong arm and he can make a lot of different throws.
"... The quarterback can make a big, big impact. We've got to get him out of his comfort zone, get him off his spot. Teams that do that have success and teams that don't have a hard time."
The Cowboys have just 14 team sacks this fall, led by DeVonne Harris, who has three. Wyoming has picked off five passes this season. Wrook Brown leads the team with three.
* Head coach: Jay Norvell (2nd year) 6-14 overall record, 4-8 in MW play
* Offensive coordinator: Matt Mumme (2nd season); Defensive coordinator: Freddie Banks (2nd season)
* Record in 2022: 3-9 overall, 3-5 in Mountain West Conference
* Offense in 2023: Average 27.8 ppg, 405.5 ypg (74 rush, 331.5 pass)
* Defense in 2023: Allow 33.1 ppg, 445 ypg (171.5 rush, 273.5 pass)
* Key Returners - Offense: Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi (QB - 210-330, 2,476 yds, 16 TD, 11 INT), Vann Schield (RB - 67 rush, 289 yds, 3 TD; 8 catch, 54 yds), Avery Morrow (RB - 54 rush, 149 yds, TD), Tory Horton (WR - 70 catch, 790 yds, 6 TD), Dallin Holker (TE - 48 catch, 620 yds, 6 TD), Justus Ross-Simmons (WR - 32 catch, 505 yds, 3 TD), Louis Brown (WR - 35 catch, 334 yds, 2 TD)
* Key Returners - Defense: Jack Howell (DB - 78 tackles, 2 PBU, INT, FF, FR), Chase Wilson (LB - 77 tackles, sack, 2 PBU, FR), Justin Sanchez (LB - 65 tackles, 2 PBU, FF), Henry Blackburn (DB - 50 tackles, sack, 2 INT, FR), Mo Kamara (DE - 38 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 2 FF, FR)
* Overview: CSU could be the most dangerous team in the Mountain West. That will happen when you have two of the top players at their position in the country: Tight end Dallin Holker and wide receiver Tory Horton. There's a whole cast of dynamic players on that roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi makes the entire operation hum. He has plenty of weapons on the outside, too, including Justus Ross-Simmons, Louis Brown and Dylan Goffney. CSU has five pass catchers with at least 200 yards receiving under their belts. Where the Rams have struggled on that side of the coin is running the ball. Vann Schield leads the way with just 289 yards on 67 carries. This team makes itself one-dimensional -- and it's been working. The Rams are a couple plays away from being a 5-3 football team. In fact, they jumped out to a 17-0 lead at Utah State only to watch the Aggies throw 44 on the board in what would become a lopsided loss. The defense, well, that has been shaky, at best. That unit is allowing more than 33 points per game and giving up 445 yards an outing. A matchup to watch out for, though, is CSU's dynamic edge rusher Mo Kamara, who will likely spend his evening dancing with 6-foot-8, 315-pound left tackle Frank Crum.
* Thoughts on Colorado State: "If we sit around have a big pity party and keep on commiserating, you know, we're going to get beat by this team we're playing. I know, they're 3-5. I'm perplexed about that. You know, they lost a couple of close games and they won a couple of close games. They're our biggest rival. That's not an overstatement. It's a big, big game for our program, for our fan base and for the state. Their offense is dynamic with the passing game, and Fowler-Nicolosi, I think, is an excellent quarterback. I know they changed quarterbacks, but they're averaging 310 yards per passing. They're one of the top passing teams in the country and they have a stable of receivers, you know, led by Horton and Holker, the tight end. They've got an imposing defensive front, led by No. 8, who's a pre-midseason All-American candidate, Kamara. He's really disruptive. And then Jack Howell, as you guys all know, he's been playing there for many years and is a good player on the backend. Coach Norvell does a nice job. I consider coach Norvell a friend. I know that doesn't sit well with probably people that think you have to despise and hate your enemy ... He is doing a good job leading that program. We're excited about playing him." -- Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl