Making the grade: UW vs. Air Force
LARAMIE — We all get graded, right?
Whether it’s in school, at work or your significant other, we are always under some sort of pressure to learn and produce results.
So, let’s see what Wyoming’s final grades were after a 20-6 setback against Air Force Saturday afternoon in Colorado Springs.
The quarterback rotation worked against Colorado State. Tyler Vander Waal tossed a few downfield while true freshman Levi Williams punished Rams' linebackers and safeties. That combo didn't work Saturday in Colorado Springs. In fact, it seemed out of sync from the word go. Vander Waal got hurt in the second quarter and Williams took the reins until late in regulation. It was clunky, weird and, at times, a brutal showcase of offensive football. Both signal callers combined to throw for 111 yards on 10-of-18 passing. Vander Waal, who was still nursing an ankle injury after the Border War win over Colorado State, added a couple more dings to the armor at Falcon Stadium. He appeared to hit his head on the frozen turf and was removed from the game. He also had his hand stepped on late. It was a rough effort for the quarterbacks. But, it wasn't all their faults ...
RUNNING BACKS: D
Xazavian Valladay saw his streak of five straight 100-yard games come to an screeching halt Saturday. The sophomore, who has been nothing short of spectacular this season, amassed just 38 yards on 14 carries. He ran into a brick wall all afternoon long. Remember, Air Force practices against the run non-stop. You think they weren't ready for Valladay? As always, Valladay's effort was there. He just couldn't get it going. The biggest rush of the day came from Williams, who went for 38 to give the Pokes their first legit threat of the afternoon. Vander Waal threw an interception two plays later. It was just that kind of day for the visitors.
WIDE RECEIVERS/ TIGHT ENDS: D
Seven Wyoming pass catchers snagged a reception Saturday in Colorado Springs. Heck, even Vander Waal got in on the action. He had a pass rejected right back into his face, which he caught and was tackled behind the line. Once again, the Cowboys didn't do much through the air. Raghib Ismail led all receivers with three catches for 41 yards. Austin Conway had a pair of grabs for 22 yards. Everyone else had just one catch. These guys didn't even get to run block like normal. Most Wyoming rushing plays were thwarted right at the line of scrimmage. Air Force was dominant there all day long. True freshman tight end, Treyton Welch, caught his first pass in a Wyoming uniform. It was a beauty, too. He reached down and snagged one of the turf for a big first down. Unfortunately for him, a penalty wiped that one off the board. A few untimely drops and batted balls didn't help this unit much either.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D
Are you starting to see a pattern yet? This "D" average doesn't rest on any one unit -- it was a bad outing all around. Of course, that all starts in the trenches, where Wyoming's front five failed to create holes or get much of a push all afternoon. Air Force even picked up a couple of sacks and five tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys rushed for just 114 yards on 33 carries. That's just 3.5 yards per attempt. That won't get it done, especially against the Falcons. Wyoming scored a season-low six points and failed to reach the end zone. There was zero rhythm offensively.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A
This loss certainly can't be pinned on the Cowboys defense. Wyoming held Air Force to just 162 yards on the ground, a season-low for the Falcons. They average 304 per outing. That's second best in the nation. Wyoming's front four contained DJ Hammond and Co. for a majority of the game. Garrett Crall finished with a career-high 10 tackles and forced a fumble. Victor Jones and Javaree Jackson each had four tackles, and Cole Godbout added three. These guys were solid in the Cowboys regular-season finale.
Breaking news: The Cowboys linebackers were awesome once again Saturday. That's no surprise to anyone who follows this team. Cassh Maluia led the Cowboys with three tackles for loss and Logan Wilson racked up another 10 tackles in the loss. Chad Muma was good, too, recording eight stops. These guys did a nice job in pass coverage, too. This game is always about who is more disciplined. That was the Cowboys for most of the afternoon. One play changed all of that ...
... And that was a 75-yard scoring strike over the middle to Ben Waters to all but officially end the game Saturday. A play earlier, safety Alijah Halliburton was helped off the field with an injury and replaced by Braden Smith. The Falcons took advantage. Halliburton led the team with 13 tackles and a pass breakup. Fellow safety Esaias Gandy scooped up a fumble recovery, too. Azizi Hearn had three tackles and Tyler Hall and Keyon Blankenbaker added two. The Falcons completed 6-of-7 passes for 143 yards and a score. Now, that's efficient.